To spin your way into the media's bad books once may be considered
an accident. To do so repeatedly, as Oscar Wilde's PR man might have
said, begins to look like carelessness.
Allegations that Stephen Byers attempted to override civil service
procedures when it came to appointing a departmental news head are
damaging to the reputation of the minister. More importantly - since
Byers is already widely reviled due to the state of public transport -
it will impact on the reputation of the PROs involved.
The stock of Martin Sixsmith, the former BBC journalist and DTLR head of
comms, is up. He seems to have triumphed over Byers to secure the job
for the well-qualified Ian Jones. But special adviser Jo Moore appears
to have been caught out again, fighting for her friend and former
Westminster Strategy colleague Anne Wallis to get the job.
Despite Sixsmith's success over the elected official, it is primarily
Downing Street - with its speedy, firm intervention - that emerges
smelling of roses. When Moore was condemned for sending her offensive
e-mail on 11 September, there were rumours that despite her mix of
bluster and contrition, she had offered her resignation. Byers had
accepted it, the whisperers said, but Number 10 intervened to keep her
in post as a useful point of media ire while Byers shafted Railtrack
Any more slip-ups from Byers and even this cynical double-think will
begin to look like an indulgence to the minister.