EDITORIAL: Short's resignation made valid point

Clare Short had her 'hand of history' moment this week. Five years ago at Stormont, Tony Blair told the world now was not 'the time for soundbites', since he felt 'the hand of history' upon his shoulder.

Exhibiting a similar gift for elegant phraseology, and a similarly brass neck, the politician most closely identified as a foe of media manipulation peppered her resignation speech with dramatic language. Blair, she said, was 'increasingly obsessed with his place in history'.

Despite the obvious irony in this, at the heart of Short's criticism is the sincere feeling of alienation among public servants at the ugly nature of non-attributable briefing used by those in power.

Being able to talk on background terms to journalists is a cherished and useful convention within the PR world. But to use it as a cloak for personal attacks on individuals is both unethical and unreliable practice.

If people who are paid out of the public purse engage in it slightly less as a result of Short's explosive resignation speech, her departure will not have been in vain.

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