ANALYSIS: Five short steps to seal Moore's fate

You don't need to be loved in this business, but you need to be respected. And in the end, Moore was neither. The resignation last week of Jo Moore and Martin Sixsmith contains important lessons for political PROs, says former Tory director of media Amanda Platell

A few months after taking over as William Hague's press secretary, I had lunch with a predecessor of mine at Conservative Central Office.

When I asked what his best advice was in what many considered to be the most impossible job in British politics, he said, rather bitterly: 'Work out your escape route long before you need it, because spin doctors always get shafted in the end.'

And some just shaft themselves. Special adviser Jo Moore and director of comms Martin Sixsmith both resigned last Friday after a farce in which it was alleged she had repeated her attempt to bury bad news - she came to fame by seeking to do just that in the coverage of 11 September - a suggestion she denied. When the dust settled both she and the civil servant whose staff appeared to undermine her had been squeezed out.

The story of Jo Moore is a morality play for modern politics. In the end, it was partly the conflict between public relations and politics that was to be her undoing. It is also a warning to all PROs on how not to do the job.

While it is easy to be wise after the event, one could do worse than study the Moore case to discover some fairly eternal truths about the world of PR and media manipulation. PROs, press officers, whatever one calls them - Moore made five classic mistakes.

The first was to go public. Like good children, PROs should be seen but not heard. She was lost the moment she gave voice and face to her 11 September crime, enabling people and the media to demonise her. Unused to the cameras, Moore looked shifty and insincere. And confessing on TV is almost always an error - Princess Diana's minders regarded the Panorama confessional as a disaster.

Her second error was a failure to secure any allies, except the hapless Stephen Byers - which is a bit like having your only friend in the world on Death Row. The more senior the job - whether it is in politics or business - the more important the power base.

Everyone makes mistakes and everyone needs friends to pull them out of the mire when they do. Moore has reaped what she sowed - her bullyboy tactics, so favoured by New Labour, left her isolated. You don't need to be loved in this business, but you need to be respected. And in the end, Moore was neither.

The third error was a strategic one. Through poor man-management, she lost the confidence of the three groups of people she needed to do business with - the media, her political colleagues and civil servants.

I have sympathy for Sixsmith who, despite everything, was trying to maintain the distinction between party politics and government in Whitehall.

A question mark hangs over Moore's commitment to such distinctions, as was shown when she allegedly tried to use the DTLR press office in a campaign against transport commissioner Bob Kiley.

It became increasingly difficult to find journalists who rated or trusted Moore, so her use as a spin doctor was over long before last week's events.

Compare her situation to that of a commercial operative, say, the head of PR for British Airways, and it becomes clear how untenable her situation was: a company with a difficult message to sell, in troubled times, with the head of the PR operation unable to do business with specialist media, and unable to rely upon the support of their own colleagues at BA.

So it wasn't just paranoia - everyone was out to get her. And I'm afraid she only had herself to blame.

Blunder number four was perhaps the most serious and certainly the most obvious. The first rule of engagement for adulterers and spin doctors is - don't put anything in writing.

For some reason, many do not regard e-mails as formal correspondence.

But if it's enough to get you sacked, that makes it pretty formal. Anything that can be used in evidence against you should never be committed to paper or screen. In my Hague years, I only once committed anything sensitive to paper, and that was hand-written and faxed on a secure line to his home.

Above and beyond that, the original e-mail Moore sent encouraging colleagues to bury bad news under 11 September displayed such monumental lack of judgement that she should have been sacked on the spot. Leaving her in place only ended up damaging both her boss Byers, and his boss Tony Blair.

The final lesson to learn comes when one knows the game is up - and we now know, Moore recognised this last Friday morning. This is to think of the pictures. Handing the tabloids headlines such as 'On your bike Jo' and TV reporters the line 'many will be glad to see the back of her' as she cycled from home to work on the last day, demonstrated she shouldn't have been in the job in the first place.

The equivalent would have been Peter Mandelson announcing either of his resignations in his pyjamas. And that's no exit strategy.

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