OPINION: There's no escaping spin doctors

Last week, the BBC broadcast a programme, presented by myself,

entitled 'Why People Hate Spin Doctors'. Even I was surprised at the

amount of media coverage it generated.

I shouldn't have been, because as has been pointed out many times, the

media are obsessed with writing about anything to do with the media.

The previous week's programme was 'Why People Hate the Disabled' and was

presented by a wheelchair-bound BBC political producer.

Of course, no-one hates the disabled but for the disabled it seems that

way as their needs are so often forgotten - especially by some at the

BBC. Last year's BBC Sports Personality of the Year will be remembered

mainly because of the athlete in a wheelchair who had to be presented

with her award where she was sitting in the audience because someone had

designed the set preventing wheelchair access.

Ironically, the party that BBC political staff organised to celebrate

the end of the election was held in a building without wheelchair

access, therefore preventing the producer of Election Call and the

presenter of Why People Hate the Disabled from attending.

The reasons why people hate spin doctors are, of course, entirely

different and seem to have more to do with perceptions than reality, or,

as I maintained in the programme, a hatred of politicians. It is not

spin doctors that people hate but political spin doctors.

Camilla Nicholls, head of press, PR and corporate affairs for The

Guardian and The Observer, and one of Britain's most successful spin

doctors, hung up her top this week, and I was lucky enough to be invited

to her leaving party. The Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger told

partygoers that she was every bit as good as Alastair Campbell. The

Observer editor Roger Alton was equally effusive. Another, the editor of

The Mirror, sent her a large bouquet of flowers.

Although all these papers regularly attack spin doctors, that did not

stop them employing Camilla as their very own - they know that even

newspapers need spin doctors to look after their interests in dealing

with the rest of the media.

One person I interviewed for the spin doctors programme was Tory MP John

Redwood. He is someone who I have always admired for his ability as an

opposition spokesman, particularly because he causes trouble for his own


Redwood was one of the most vociferous haters of spin doctors. That is,

other people's spinners, for he is one of the few backbench politicians

to employ a full-time spin doctor all of his own.

Another interviewee was author Ken Follett, who also hates spin doctors

- though how many he has to promote his book is anyone's guess.

The biggest opponent of spin doctors, however, was my old sparing

partner, BBC political correspondent Nick Jones. He hates spin doctors

so much that he has written four books about them - and has, no doubt,

made a tidy profit, too.

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