As a ground offensive looms, MoD information officer Jonathan
Spencer begins to grapple with the growing band of military strategists
among the news media.
Monday 22 October
The press is full of stories on US ground troops in Afghanistan - with
scenes written in for our own forces. It makes good copy but some facts
are questionable. We have meetings to discuss facts and communication
planning. The MoD is a huge organisation and there are key messages to
straighten out and signals to send down the chains of command. Our
military staff overseas need to know their roles from us before they
read it in The Mirror.
Tuesday 23 October
The BBC's Today programme seems to know more than most. Exercise Saif
Sareea, a training scheme in the Omani desert, ends before Ramadan and
they want to set the agenda for what happens next.
Everyone's a military strategist, but the decision rests with the
Secretary of State, who gets his advice from the military chiefs - not
Sky and News 24. Later at a press conference we push the line for our
own headline - all nine of al-Qa'ida's training camps have been
destroyed - and we update the press on military action.
A soldier is killed in Oman. Here it's also a local story but until next
of kin have been informed we won't give the PA further details. We
always respect family wishes, but take the view that releasable details
can help to dispel the concerns of others.
Wednesday 24 October
There's a single media focus on troops and assets to remain in the
A definitive account in The Times raises a few eyebrows. Their sources
appear to be well-informed. We are not discussing leaks, though - an
announcement will be made shortly and there is little we can add for
now. The TV anchors suggest it's hours before troops go in, but days is
more likely. The expectation intensifies but this is our call, not
I am surprised to see Peter Snow appear at the MoD - and not a
swingometer in sight. He's in to see the Army and cram up on detail for
Sunday's War Report. He doesn't recognise me from our overlapping
Newsnight days four years ago.
Thursday 25 October
Defence secretary Geoff Hoon is off to the Gulf. Armed Forces press
officer Paul Sykes flies out on Saturday, cast as media adviser to the
chiefs - more than a walk-on part in the war.
Friday 26 October
Was expecting a day off, but there is no chance of that. Defence
minister Adam Ingram is making a statement to Parliament. We have to
rush copies across to the lobby and we have to run a press
Ingram announces the UK force contribution, fields questions and does
interviews from our media suite. We include BFBS (British Forces
Broadcasting Services) because it is crucial to reach British forces in
theatre. That's why the Secretary of State is out there.