Labour’s presentation is starting to look ragged round the edges

The No 10 PR rebuke machine has just had a splendid week. Foreign secretary Robin Cook (leave your mistress at home), Social Services secretary Harriet Harman (don’t think aloud about affluence tests) and Chancellor Gordon Brown (stop coveting the top job publicly) have all had their heads washed.

The No 10 PR rebuke machine has just had a splendid week. Foreign

secretary Robin Cook (leave your mistress at home), Social Services

secretary Harriet Harman (don’t think aloud about affluence tests) and

Chancellor Gordon Brown (stop coveting the top job publicly) have all

had their heads washed.



I can well understand why. But for Tony Blair to feed the media with the

vindictive details was extremely unwise. Take it from me - as one who

wrongly acquired a reputation for rubbishing Margaret Thatcher’s

ministers - it does nothing for brotherly love and personnel management.

Mr Blair will come to regret this demonic urge to show the nation who’s

in charge.



Indeed, a Government which came to office as a presentational legend in

its own lifetime is now looking rather ragged. Worse still, those

primarily responsible are supposed to be its presentational geniuses.

Peter Mandelson’s Millennium Dome is a shambles. And between them, Mr

Blair and his press secretary, Alastair Campbell, are giving every

impression that they haven’t a clue how to reform the welfare state.



But the sheer awfulness of current government was revealed in the rising

Sun. Reviewing the papers on BBC Breakfast News, I was hit between the

eyes by an article signed by Japanese prime minister Ryutaro

Hashimoto.



Its objective was clearly to persuade Britain’s old soldiers that Japan

is full of ’deep remorse and heartfelt apology for the tremendous damage

and suffering’ inflicted during World War II.



But it was also obvious Mr Hashimoto had been put up to it. Mr Campbell

cheerfully pleaded guilty in a letter to the Daily Telegraph to advising

the Japanese about its style and expression. The result reeked of

artificiality from intro to final para. Starting with ’Tony Blair and I

are both determined to achieve a more compassionate yet efficient

society and to take the tough decisions required’ was bad enough. but to

sign off calling our PM ’Tony’ not once but thrice made me puke.



This was a stunt too many. It is one thing to feed the monumental

arrogance of ’the Sun wot won it’. Yes, it actually led with ’Japan says

sorry to the Sun’ - as if that made it all right. But it is entirely

another matter to hijack a foreign prime minister to deliver a party

political broadcast on behalf of New Labour in the course of which he

eventually gets round merely to repeating an old apology for acts which

still hurt.



I am extremely sceptical about all this apologetic diplomacy. But I see

even less point in wrapping it up in humbug. If Mr Campbell believes

this is good PR and, as he claims, it has had ’a positive effect on

Anglo-Japanese relations’, he will clearly believe anything. Such men

are dangerous.



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