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A game of spinners and losers; Commons Man.

Byline: Chris Moncrieff's week at Westminster

THERE is nothing that causes more glee among media folk than when a spin doctor skids on a banana skin and falls flat on her face.

Witnessing the humiliation of those who try to bully reporters into writing political stories in a way politicians would like them to be written is immensely pleasurable.

Take the case of Jo Moore, who showed she was trying to exploit the horrors of September 11 for her own and her ministers' political advantage. She has underlined what Fleet Street has known for years - the spin doctoring industry is all about distortion and half-truths.

The naive Moore was caught out because she was daft enough to put her thoughts in writing. But she was merely making a hash of what spin doctors, usually with a little more finesse, are trying to do most of the time.

So instead of putting the Government in the best possible light, Moore has done just the opposite - and that she has not been sacked is as serious as her own foolhardiness.

All this leaves the impression that ministers do not care how their underlings conduct themselves to get the message across or, as in this case, try to conceal it.

When in the face of questions about this scandal Downing Street says "it is now time to move on", what they mean is: "Could we please forget this shambles?"

But even we do move on, we will not forget. The failure to boot Miss Moore into oblivion is what damages the Government more than the offence itself.

So Iain Duncan Smith has appointed a former high-flying civil servant as his chief of staff, arguably the most important figure in Conservative Central Office.

Jenny Ungless is said to be "very bright. . . and full of energy". But why did a party spokesman feel the need to insist there was no "tokenism" in this appointment?

Too many organisations these days believe they have to apologise for or explain everything they do to pacify those who might otherwise accuse them of racism, sexism, ageism, sizeism or even tokenism (all ugly words to be avoided if at all possible).

Pathetic, if you ask me.

Lord Hailsham, who has just died aged 94, was a political giant in any company. But one feature that stood out was his detestation of sloppy English and vitriolic hatred of Whitehallese.

That was all summed up in this historic comment of his: "Off the Roneos and printing presses - many, alas, owned by HM Government - there rolls a steady stream of viscous verbiage couched in what purports to be the language of Shakespeare and the Authorised Version but is, in fact, the hideous, flaccid, indigestible, swag-bellied offspring of decay."

Another time, at an open-air election meeting in Cornwall, he was interrupted by a heckler at the back, shouting: "You're just here vote-catching!"

Hailsham retorted: "Of course I am, you bloody fool.

Why else do you think I should be here?"

Splendid stuff.
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Wales On Sunday (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Oct 21, 2001
Words:498
Previous Article:We do have the right to assert our own culture.
Next Article:Robocop lays down Law!; The Spin Doctor.

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