westminsterese


The man who wrote the words for the great communicator was answering questions before the Iraq Inquiry yesterday and gave nothing away. Well Alistair Campbell did reveal that PM Tony Blair had written to President Bush before the invasion of Iraq to pledge his country’s support, militarily and diplomatically, to ensure the removal of Saddam Hussein. Well talk about a shock revelation. Who’da thunk it? How surprising that the former Director of Communications to the PM’s office was able to answer questions for hours on end without saying anything which could be regarded as even remotely incriminating. What were they expecting – that Campbell would speak with complete honesty and openness? What is it about politicians and their advisers that prevents them from every answering a question directly?

Yesterday I listened to a interview with Lord Adonis, the Transport Secretary, talking about his directive to local authorities and the Highways agency to reduce their use of gritting by 50% (on top of a 25% reduction demanded last week) in order to preserve stocks. Now this was on the eve of an expected further heavy downfall of snow. And sure enough we woke up this morning to a fresh white blanket of snow/ice over virtually all of the southern half of the country causing further widespread school closures, flight cancellations, accidents, impassable roads and more days off work. Nevertheless the Transport Secretary was defending his decision by refering to it as a ‘positive’ step. Eh? The interviewer pressed him further by saying that surely a reduction in salting/gritting could only be viewed as an unhelpful development especially with more bleak weather expected. No Lord Adonis replied he’d acted positively by making a decision on dwindling stocks. So here’s the spin – present the making of the decision (ie what they are paid and expected to do) as the positive outcome and ignore the fact that the basis of the decision was to act negatively. Unbelievable.

On this basis the Chancellor could say that he’s responded to the challenge of a huge budget deficit by taking the positive decision to raise income tax for all to 80p in the £. And presumably expect us to applaud his decisiveness. And why stop there? I’m confidently expecting PM Gordon Brown to announce that he’s taken the positive decision to save huge amounts of public expenditure by cancelling general elections and declaring himself First Minister for life. Oh how the nation would rejoice – such assertiveness, real resoluteness and Prime Ministerial purpose.

It couldn’t happen….could it?

pp

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