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
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
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
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