Tuesday 20 February 2018

Burying bad news is an insult to the electorate

Marc Coleman hopes the Government won't use the visits of the Queen and US president to distract from tax rises

BIN Laden may be dead, but the ghost of 9/11 lives on. The coming week might remind us of a lesser known but still sordid event that took place that day: at 2.55pm GMT or 9.55pm Eastern Standard Time, a clever spin doctor -- too clever for her own good, it turned out -- showed all the ruthlessness of her craft. Barely an hour after the second plane crashed into the World Trade Center's South Tower, Jo Moore reacted with reptilian speed.

An adviser to Stephen Byers, Britain's Transport and Local Government Secretary of the time, she shot off the following words in an email: "It is now a very good day to get out anything we want to bury. Councillors' expenses?" Machiavelli would have been proud. And although she later apologised, her advice is a cautionary tale for supremos of spin.

Months later, British government spin merchants were still at it: on February 13, 2002, when Queen Elizabeth's sister Margaret was being buried with all the pomp and circumstance, attempts were made to bury unfavourable statistics on rail safety.

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