Judge and Jury: GIS saves Blair Government from slipping on pay banana skin - Tony Blair and his Cabinet managed to salvage their reputations from the pay rise debacle, thanks in no small part to the Government Information Service, says public affairs con

Such are the complexities of spin and journalistic interpretation that we may never know whether or not Tony Blair ever intended to take a 43 per cent pay rise next May.

Such are the complexities of spin and journalistic interpretation

that we may never know whether or not Tony Blair ever intended to take a

43 per cent pay rise next May.



What is clear is that even this control-conscious Labour Government is

finding it tough to keep a handle on the message.



If we take the media version of events it ’emerged’ last week that the

Prime Minister was expected to take the pay rise - having shown some

restraint in the past. Downing Street ’believed’ that the PM and his

Cabinet colleagues would take the award set by the Pay Review Body.



This was ’confirmed’ by some source, and a few departmental briefers

even thought the PM was saying his colleagues ’should’ take their pay

rise.



Tony Blair was immediately accused of being an aspiring ’fat cat’ and in

the twinkling of an eye - well by the end of the same day anyway - he

was confounding his senior team by making it clear he had ’no intention’

of taking his ’entitlement’.



What are we to make of this?



First, no matter what folk may claim, this was a foul up. The Government

was caught off guard, the message was unclear, the policy was in

disarray and the Opposition was given an opportunity to score some

points - they must have thought some murmuring of Christmas had come at

last.



What is important is how the Government emerged from the confusion. And

that is interesting. Remember that the Chancellor is keen to hold pay

rises in the public sector to ’no more than inflation’.



What has the Government established? First that Tony Blair and his

colleagues were somehow ’entitled’ to the pay rise because a Pay Review

Body said so. Second that the Leader of the Opposition had taken his

full increase this year whereas Tony Blair had not and third the

Government’s top team has set a conspicuous standard in pay restraint

which without the furore might have gone unnoticed.



Not a bad recovery really. At a time of inevitable teething troubles in

the relationship between a new administration and the Government

Information Service, ministers would do well to remember that above

everything else, the GIS is good at getting politicians out of holes.

They’ve had a lot of practice.



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