Why the Queen must not be tempted by a need for spin

It is, I can assure you, distressing to be woken up by a telephone call just before midnight to be asked to comment on the Queen’s idea of appointing a pounds 150,000-a-year spindoctor. It is even more distressing when your disturber fails to report your main point - that the world would be a better place without spindoctors.

It is, I can assure you, distressing to be woken up by a telephone

call just before midnight to be asked to comment on the Queen’s idea of

appointing a pounds 150,000-a-year spindoctor. It is even more

distressing when your disturber fails to report your main point - that

the world would be a better place without spindoctors.



I suppose he ignored my curmudgeonly remark because it was at odds with

the spirit of the story. Alternatively, he might have thought that I was

being hypocritical since people seem to regard me as having been the

first British spindoctor. The time has therefore come to put the nation

- or at least its PR industry - right on spindoctors.



The term’s origins lie, as you would expect, in America. It seems that

it was coined by a New York Times journalist appropriately, you may

think, circa 1984. It was slow to cross the Atlantic but before I

retired in 1990 we were being asked in No 10 for the ’spin’ on this or

that story - that is, the Government’s line. At first we were mildly

amused by this intrusion of transatlantic jargon into the serious

business of Government/media relations. But then things took a sinister

turn.



PROs and press and information officers quickly became

’spindoctors’.



It is, after all, a much more expressive term. Inevitably, they also

acquired the bad reputation for manipulation and skulduggery which goes

with the title. The world of communications is now populated by a

monstrous regiment of Machiavellis. Yet most communicators find that,

however much they share in common with spindoctors in trying to put the

best gloss on their organisation’s or principal’s policies, they can

only do so successfully if they remain credible.



Spindoctors are in a different game. They are not concerned with

reality.



Indeed, they seek to fashion a new reality - New Clinton, New Labour -

out of an old one. And the only credibility which interests them is the

credibility of the new product they have created with assorted

cosmetics.



The Queen would thus do well to steer clear of spindoctors, especially

at pounds 150,000 a time (which is a ridiculous salary in Palace

terms).



Instead, what she needs is a single, integrated strategy for putting

over the monarchy’s role, how its members do their job, how much they

cost, the benefits they bring to the nation and their relevance to the

21st century. The Queen should by all means employ a strategist if she

hasn’t got one. That may well be all that is intended. But, for God’s

sake, she must not taint herself by hiring a spindoctor. There is no

point in her stretching the truth until it twangs. Only insecure

politicians do that.



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