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IT'S A BLACK DAY FOR WHITE BOOK.

Byline: Nigel Nelson

EVERY six months political journalists would get a phone directory from the Government called the White Book.

It gives the direct line and email address of everyone in Whitehall whose job it is to provide information, which helped me tell you what was going on.

David Cameron has been in power for nearly 14 months now and despite promises a new White Book is on its way not one copy has been seen.

Now Paymaster General Francis Maude is closing the Central Office of Information, which produced it, to "further improve the efficiency of government communications."

The last time such doublespeak was common currency was when Joseph Stalin ruled Soviet Russia.

A quarter of Whitehall's information staff have been made redundant and the budget for open government has been halved.

It's being done, we are told, to save money. And in part that's true. But I detect something more sinister going on.

For all Cameron's talk of transparency I've never come across a more secretive or less informative government in my 25 years of working in Parliament.

Initiatives fly out of nowhere and decisions are made before the public knows they're even being considered.

The PM would no doubt demand examples.

But I need only point to his own grid of future announcements - which I'm not allowed access to anymore.

I'm told by the guardians of these things the reason for keeping it under wraps is to deny the Opposition time to rubbish government plans.

That's a cowardly way to run a democratic country. If Cabinet policy is so lightweight that it could be blown out of the water by a bit of Labour hot air, then there is something wrong with it.

No PM can tell us everything.

But getting off his chest some of what's on his mind is healthier for the body politic.

CAPTION(S):

DOUBLE-SPEAK: Joseph Stalin
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The People (London, England)
Date:Jul 3, 2011
Words:314
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