Nicholas Jones - Blog and Archive Website

After another a week which began with the Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne trailing his own Parliamentary announcements – this time on the future of the banking industry – a Conservative MP close to the Prime Minister has defended the practice of government by leaking.

Nick Boles, a founder member of the Notting Hill Set of Conservative activists who backed David Cameron’s bid for the Tory leadership, told fellow MPs that the “public’s right to know” was more important than giving the House of Commons “a monopoly on first communication of the government’s decisions.”

He readily acknowledged – and defended – the fact that modern government had become “a leaky sieve”.  But it was, for example, because George Osborne’s proposals in the autumn statement had been trailed so effectively in advance, that the public’s “awareness and understanding” of the difficulties of the current economic situation was “far higher” than if nothing had been released in advance.

Looking back on nearly fifty years as a political journalist, there is no doubt in my mind that the power and influence of the British news media has shaped the politics of the UK – far more so, I would say, than in other European countries.

 

While the argument continues about the validity of Kelvin Mackenzie’s infamous 1992 general election headline, “It’s the Sun Wot Won it”, I do believe that favourable media coverage has in the past helped turn the certainty of victory into a landslide.

Tony Blair’s disturbing hold over the political and media elites of America can be traced back to 9/11 and the way he catapulted himself to the forefront of world attention.

To British audiences his tribute to the “People’s Princess” might be regarded as one of the defining soundbites of his Premiership but in the USA he gained the accolade of being the first western leader to make sense of the unfolding drama surrounding the attack on the twin towers of the World Trade Centre.

In the face of an unrelenting flow of fresh accusations about telephone hacking at the News of the World, it was inevitable that Andy Coulson would have to stand down from his job as the Downing Street communications chief. But after nearly four years as the Prime Minister’s right-hand man in managing the news media, Coulson has demonstrated time and again his ability to connect David Cameron to the agenda of the popular press. 

Senior Metropolitan Police officers were not alone in their failure to get to grips with the scale of the student protests against higher tuition fees. David Cameron’s public relations team were similarly at fault for a lamentable performance in presenting the government’s case.