You can have too many Spin doctors

When I wrote my piece for today’s Sunday Express on how to cut public spending in a popular way, I should have made more of the need to cut the number of Spin Doctors and allied trades employed at the public expense.

One of the ironies of the present government’s difficulties, is that the Spin doctors are now briefing against each other. Gordon Brown will not know who to trust.

Is Mandelson right, or should he still listen to Ed Balls? Is Charlie Whelan on side now he is in a new role? Would Campbell do for Gordon what he did for Tony? How did McBride go so wrong? Who can the PM trust?

Those who live by spin will die politically by spin. The public is being pillaged to pay for the most complex advisory and spin structure ever. Now it is turning on itself.

The stories today about how No 10 works and who steers the spin machine are gripping reading. Those of us who have known all was not well and sometimes been on the wrong end of these black arts are delighted to see it start to come out. The problem is, so much of it is public money that is being abused to produce all these unpleasant nonsenses and needless power struggles.

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13 Comments

  1. Demetrius
    Posted April 19, 2009 at 9:54 am | Permalink

    Versailles, 1788. A host of courtiers engaged in unremitting self destructive intrique. A King with the mind of a watchmaker endlessly tinkering and fiddling. An agricultural crisis. The tax farmers out of control. The revenues falling far short of expenditures. Peasants flooding into the capital seeking work or bread or both. Confidence in the public services, central and local utterly gone.

    What happened next?

  2. James
    Posted April 19, 2009 at 10:19 am | Permalink

    Can you introduce an EDM for a vote of no confidence in this government. Surely there has never been a more appropriate time than now. If you don’t succeed at least the public will realise the lack of moral decency in those who vote against it. We just cannot bear the thought of another year of Brown and Co. and it would give this country a much needed uplift if there was a change in government or at least an Opposition willing to try and put an end to this vile excuse of a government.

  3. Mr Ecks
    Posted April 19, 2009 at 10:25 am | Permalink

    That is a careful statement Mr Redwood. You know as well as the rest of us that Brown is the number one spin/smear merchant however many hoods advise him now or in the past. The ZaNuLab line that poor little Gordon is ill-served by all these nasty men he has been working with for years will not wash.He has been working with them for years but had no idea of the true characters?. Pull the other one. He picked ’em BECAUSE of he knew exactly what kind of people they were.

    • mikestallard
      Posted April 20, 2009 at 8:59 am | Permalink

      cp Nicholas II, when it was the tsar’s advisers who were the crooks, not the sacred tsar.

  4. Denis Cooper
    Posted April 19, 2009 at 11:00 am | Permalink

    It is public money, which is being used for party political purposes.

    If I wanted to help the Labour party financially, I’d make a donation – I don’t expect or accept that I should be forced to pay for their activities through my taxes.

    Exactly the same, I would emphasise, if it was any other party dipping its sticky fingers into the public purse.

    It really is time for the police to investigate this blatant abuse of public resources, aka “theft of taxpayers’ money”, with a view to bringing charges of “misconduct in public office”.

    An example needs to be set, or we’ll never cleanse our system of this kind of low-level, continuous, corruption; instead it will grow and spread into all areas of public administration.

  5. Brigham
    Posted April 19, 2009 at 11:05 am | Permalink

    It appear that any old fool can be a Prime Minister. It seems that it is acceptable to have advisers and/or spin doctors to tell them what to do. No wonder the calibre of the incumbents is in serious decline. I know that PM’s always had advisers but the only one I knew said that Maggie Thatcher listened to the advice and then did exactly what she intended to do in the first place. It looks to me as if this present incompetent has never had an original thought.

  6. John Bowman
    Posted April 19, 2009 at 1:17 pm | Permalink

    What is the procedure for impeachment of Dear Leader Brown and his wrecking crew? Even at a cursory glance there is surely enough to hang ’em with.

    It is no longer government, but a leaderless pack of feral dogs rounding on each other fighting for supremacy.

    What exactly is the Queen doing – it is supposed to be her Government and she acts as trustee of good governance of the People? It is time she fired them.

  7. Hawkeye
    Posted April 19, 2009 at 2:01 pm | Permalink

    John Redwood said: “Who can the PM trust?”

    To a normal individual I would say “Trust your own judgement” but Gordon seems to lack empathy and social understanding so that method is out for him.

    If your policies are so poor that you have to “spin” them then you need to go away and think more about what you are doing. Good, properly thought out and clearly presented policies require no spin.

    The number of spin doctors in No.10 merely demonstrates how shoddily put together Labour’s policies really are.

  8. ManicBeancounter
    Posted April 19, 2009 at 2:03 pm | Permalink

    The problem with spin doctors is that they filter and re-package the messages and the reality coming out. When you have a clear and consistent vision, then this is manageable. But when that vision is lost and when the only sense of direction is to do anything to divert attention from their lack of ideas and from their failings; or when many are trying to save their own careers; or keep past indiscretions hidden; then the messages conflict and the whole charade falls apart.

  9. Brian Tomkinson
    Posted April 19, 2009 at 7:11 pm | Permalink

    If politicians are as clever as they would have us believe, why do they need armies of spin doctors to convey their messages? Don’t forget this started with Blair. I have been concerned that too many leading Conservatives were enthralled by that charlatan and his spin machine. I hope that they have now cleansed themselves of any thought of emulating him, which I am sure they were at one time planning. We are, hopefully, approaching the end of one of the worst periods of government in this country. If the Conservatives win a majority at the next general election and don’t clean up the mess and eliminate the politicisation of the civil service and other public services then our parliamentary democracy may cease to exist.

  10. oldrightie
    Posted April 19, 2009 at 7:57 pm | Permalink

    Given my new word “spinspeak” are spin doctors spinspeak quacks?

  11. mikestallard
    Posted April 20, 2009 at 9:04 am | Permalink

    I think myself that the spin doctors have done an excellent job. the BBC speaks their truth unto the nation. The Times of London does too. Then there is the truthful Guardian. And even the Independent speaks the truth.
    Mrs Thatcher had her own (excellent) press officer, Bernard Ingham.
    By taking care of the press, and, yes, the gutter press too, this government has managed to get its own socialist way for over ten years. Any untruthful paper – like the Mail – is rubbished by the other media, including their hilarious comedians on Radio 4, or else it sidelined like the Telegraph on Newsnight.
    David Cameron must have press officers, too, who can communicate, in good English, what the government is doing. So must the Lib Dems.
    The problem, as always, is that “Gordon” has chosen such rubbish people to do the job. That way, he can still be in control of them (he reckons).

  • About John Redwood


    John Redwood won a free place at Kent College, Canterbury, and graduated from Magdalen College Oxford. He is a Distinguished fellow of All Souls, Oxford. A businessman by background, he has set up an investment management business, was both executive and non executive chairman of a quoted industrial PLC, and chaired a manufacturing company with factories in Birmingham, Chicago, India and China. He is the MP for Wokingham, first elected in 1987.

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