Charlie Whelan makes his exit, leaving a trail of PR rubble behind

Behold a fallen idol. They call him Charlie Whelan, the Chancellor’s 44-year-old ex-Communist personal spin doctor whose basic Anglo-Saxon briefing has in 20 months wreaked havoc on this Government.

Behold a fallen idol. They call him Charlie Whelan, the

Chancellor’s 44-year-old ex-Communist personal spin doctor whose basic

Anglo-Saxon briefing has in 20 months wreaked havoc on this

Government.



In this time he has driven Alastair Campbell, Mr Blair’s press

secretary, to distraction even to the point where No 10 was until last

weekend curiously calling for his head rather than chopping it off. He

raised a tremendous furore over the Government’s approach to European

economic and monetary union before it became transparently enthusiastic

about it. He allowed himself to be seen on television cheerfully

admitting to misleading journalists. He is presumed to be the author of

a vicious, unattributable attack on Peter Mandelson’s

worst-of-all-worlds compromise over Post Office privatisation.



And then he became prime suspect in the leaking of details of Mr

Mandelson’s extraordinary appetite for borrowed money, which has ensured

not only that he became the ex-DTI Secretary but that Geoffrey Robinson,

his rich benefactor, became the ex-Paymaster General. Mr Whelan has

protested his innocence and we are told No 10 believes him.



So why is he going as soon as it is convenient ? The answer is that he

has long since reached the end of his useful life. Indeed, he tacitly

recognised this in his announcement by saying it was becoming very

difficult for him to do his job. Whenever the Government got into a

scrape which went anywhere near the Treasury he came under suspicion. He

was seen to be louche, indiscreet and accident-prone. He was doing

nobody any good, least of all his boss Gordon Brown to whom he seemed to

owe sole allegiance.



Worse still, his efforts - along, it must be said, with other political

advisers and Mr Mandelson who led by example - have reduced New Labour

to a quivering mass of bitter personal recriminations. The holiday

papers entertained us with Ministerial rogues gallery features showing

who is, or was, spitting blood about Charlie - at least seven Cabinet

Ministers - and who for the moment tolerate him.



Against this background, Mr Whelan, as the most notorious political

adviser on the block, was living on borrowed time. It is a matter for

serious rejoicing by serious communicators that it has now run out. No

institution can for long put up with someone who obviously operates

against its wider corporate interests. Mr Whelan’s surrender to this

reality makes a powerful case for the quiet, effective professionalism

of the Government Information and Communications Service, as it is now

described. Indeed, the Government would not be in this presentational

New Year mess if it had not at the outset set out to destroy the GICS

and rely on hooligans like Mr Whelan. It has only itself to blame.



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