EDITORIAL: Such slip-ups will cost Byers dearly

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

shareholders.



Any more slip-ups from Byers and even this cynical double-think will

begin to look like an indulgence to the minister.



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