OPINION: All of this euro spin is much ado about nothing

Gordon Brown has established one of the most formidable PR machines in government, but even he struggled to 'sell' his latest euro statement to the media.

The problem that the Chancellor faced was one created by his bitterest enemy Peter Mandelson, who confessed at a private dinner with female lobby hacks - now known as 'girliegate' - that Brown had 'outmanoeuvred' the Prime Minister over the euro. This meant that the Treasury was forced to go out of its way to make it look like he hadn't. Brown clearly scored a victory over his old chum, who has been too embroiled in war controversy to keep a close eye on what his neighbour was up to. But Brown is aware, however, that rubbing the PM's nose in defeat is not a wise political practice.

It was against this background that Ed Balls delivered his 'off the record' briefing to the lobby immediately after the Chancellor had sat down. With a straight face he told journalists that it would be possible to hold a euro referendum in the autumn. Music to the ears of pro-euro Blairites, but I have a different view - Balls. Such was Brown's victory over Blair, Balls was actually spinning Number 10's line for them.

The PR men and women in the Treasury had, in fact, all been spinning pro-euro garbage for weeks. This was part of the deal with Blair. The Chancellor would be pro-euro and agree to look at it all again come the Budget, but he would remain in charge of the decision. For weeks we were told that Brown would make the most pro-euro speech ever. He didn't. He said almost exactly what he said in his 1997 euro statement, which people forget was just as pro.

The best spin was reserved for the Sunday papers. I don't know where The Observer's political editor has been for the last six years, but his lead story was the revelation that Brown was to announce a euro 'changeover plan'. I must have spun that story at least twice myself. The Treasury did everything it possibly could to talk up the euro in advance, and Brown did not let them down in his statement. The Prime Minister beamed as Brown delivered his pro-euro lines. Brown had no problem with this because it's what he thinks. What he doesn't think, though, is that Britain is ready to join the euro now, and he had a million-word Treasury dossier to back him up. The Treasury spinners even briefed all the journalists on how many lorry loads would be delivered to MPs, a PR coup in itself. How could such a weighty tome be challenged? It wasn't of course, which is partly why Brown won the day.

You can normally judge the success or failure of the political PR by the next morning's papers. The tabloids, however, had a much better story to report - the apparent suicide bid of Ian Huntley. This meant that The Sun only devoted two pages to their favourite political story. They also took their eye off the political ball with the remarkable assertion that Brown had been forced to dance to Blair's tune. They obviously fell for all the Treasury spin - not surprising though, considering that they printed Blair's anti-euro statement before the 1997 election, believed it, and then recommended that the country vote for him.

The fact is, there is as much chance of Brown's football team Raith Rovers signing David Beckham, as there is of Britain joining the euro this side of an election. Blair needed Brown to appear to give in to his demands for an early referendum, but the former knows he wouldn't win it, so he is quite happy for nothing to happen.

That, as they say, is politics.

Have you registered with us yet?

Register now to enjoy more articles and free email bulletins

Already registered?
Sign in