Opinion: The vicious circle of political party spin

Politicians have only been back in their offices a few days yet stories about spin are already dominating the national media.

On Wednesday, The Daily Tele­graph led with the Tories attacking the Government for ‘supporting an army of more than 3,200 press officers' and trebling spend on advertising, marketing and PR since 1997. This followed the weekend's revelation that John Prescott obtained a Commons pass for his son, David, a Geronimo Communications account director - and revelations that some Lib Dems hid Charles Kennedy's drinking problem for many years.

The irony is that it is partly this media obsession with ‘spin' - laid bare in such stories - that drives demand for more press office staff to answer allegations.

The Tories would argue though, with some justification, that the growth in government comms is due to this administration's determination to tell us how to live our lives. But they surely cannot fail to see that with the proliferation of media - and the relentless pace of news - the requirement for organisations to communicate continues to grow. One doubts a future Tory government would reverse this trend, especially considering David Cameron's spell in PR.

Prescott's encouragement of his son's PR career is part of this phenomenon. Like Tony Blair, whose son Euan has undertaken work experience at agency Finsbury, the deputy PM clearly recognises the future power of the comms business. No, arguably the most damaging story for the industry is the smear on Kennedy's long-time press secretary Jackie Rowley, who is accused of covering up her boss's alcoholism for years. How many excuses did she have to give journalists for Kennedy missing appointments, ask the media? How intricate a web did her team weave to hide the issue as he stood for party leadership?

These allegations, if true, pull another rug from under the feet of those in the industry who rightly talk of their mission as encouraging ‘transparency'.

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