Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The first commandment of spin

Monday's Guardian cartoon was spot on. It had Alistair Campbell handing out the ten commandments of spin, a cowed Brown and McBride before him, a shadowy Blair behind him. And the first commandment? "Don't get fucking caught". I doubt if anyone in politics is quite as shocked by the McBride/Draper affair as they affect to be; there is a certain amount of thespian artfice to the parade of outraged Tories we have seen over the last few days. Politics is a hard old game and no party is quite innocent of dirty tricks. Guido - a Tory outrider - and Dale (a Tory candidate) are not exactly strangers to gossip. Guido's blog - and even more so the comments of his band of faithful public school interlocutors - are so scurrilous and so vulgar as to beggar belief, and the sight of Guido heading for the moral high ground is a little incredulous. You can't be a "louche libertarian" (as he styles himself) and the Vicar of Dibley at the same time. You can bet your life that if it were rumoured that a Labour politician had taken cocaine in the past Guido would be after him like a bloodhound. I have no doubt McPoison is a nasty piece of work and Dolly Draper a social-climbing catastrophe-prone dimwit (whom no sane person would touch with a bargepole); but it isn't as if the Tories don't have a few nasties and dimwits of their own. Remember Bernard Ingham? Aitken's "shiny sword of truth"? Brown envelopes? Jeffrey Archer? And as for Andy Coulson (formerly of that guardian of the moral high ground, The News of the Screws) his past form does not suggest he is a choir boy.
Running the McBride/Draper operation out of Downing Street and inviting Draper to Chequers (I mean, why?) was, apart from anything else, inept. Leaving an electronic paper-trail is a bit daft (what happened to quiet off-the-record chats over a few beers?). But there are other questions. Just how did Guido get hold of the e-mails? It seems clear the Tories have a mole or two inside the government machine (and - aided by friends in the media - they have just neatly dispatched the copper who tried to look into this, his replacement being - apparently -"one of us"). The Tories are certainly determined to milk this for what's its worth; but, as I say, I doubt if the average voter is quite so shocked as the parade of outraged Tories touring the TV and radio studios purport to be. We know a performance when we see one.


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