OPINION: With such leaks no wonder BMW kept quiet

This is a history-making column: for PR reasons, I must confess to a certain sympathy for both Alastair Campbell and BMW. Curiously, this is because one of them told the truth about the rise of spending as a proportion of national income under the Blair Government, and BMW, according to ministers, quite simply lied to them about its plans to break up Rover.

This is a history-making column: for PR reasons, I must confess to

a certain sympathy for both Alastair Campbell and BMW. Curiously, this

is because one of them told the truth about the rise of spending as a

proportion of national income under the Blair Government, and BMW,

according to ministers, quite simply lied to them about its plans to

break up Rover.



Let’s deal first with Mr Campbell who is dangerously over-exposed as No

10 press secretary. According to the Lobby, Chancellor Gordon Brown has

had a tremendous row with Tony Blair because Mr Campbell, without

consulting the Treasury, unilaterally changed the Government’s strategy

by admitting that the tax burden was rising and would be higher at the

end of this Parliament than that inherited from the Tories. I will pass

over what this says about Mr Campbell’s power to invent - or perhaps

reinvent - the message under siege from Labour’s heartlands which think

that the Government is altogether too chummy with ’middle England’ and

altogether too neglectful of its core supporters.



Instead, since this is Budget week, what light does it cast on the

Chancellor?



I take with a pinch of salt Treasury allegations that Mr Campbell was

out of his depth in commenting on the economy. The Treasury always says

that. It said I was when I sent the pound plummeting towards 1:1 parity

with the US dollar by accurately stating that the Government would not

throw good money after bad defending the pound. Instead, it raised

interest rates again after the Treasury’s failure to hoist them

decisively enough first time round. The Treasury is frequently out of

its depth on the economy.



Mr Brown’s outrage shows he has lost contact with the truth. This will

not surprise many since he once employed as his press secretary Charlie

Whelan, who admitted on TV that he fed journalists with porkies. Nor

will it startle all those institutions which have found double and

treble counting in Mr Brown’s spending plans, reducing his programme of

pounds 57 billion extra spending over three years to well under half

that amount. So, my tip is that this week’s Budget will look entirely

different from Mr Brown’s smoke-and-mirrors presentation after a week or

so.



BMW’s reason for lying to ministers was even more revealing about the

Government. It said it could not tell them the truth for commercial

reasons.



In other words, it was afraid that the Government would leak its

intentions.



This seems a reasonable fear, given that leaking is a way of life for Mr

Blair’s style of governance. Nothing is sacred. Anything from the

Queen’s honours list to the latest policy development is routinely

leaked for political advantage. This breeds distrust. It is this

combination of general incontinence and brass-necked presentation which

is dragging the Government down. Let it be a lesson to all of us in the

communications business.



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