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.