Nicholas Jones - Blog and Archive Website

Corporate public relations executives for the likes of Starbucks, Amazon and Google are waiting anxiously to discover what fresh humiliation might be in store in the backlash which has followed the revelations about off-shore schemes used to limit their liability to UK corporation tax.

Ever since top directors suffered the indignity last November of being pilloried as tax avoiders at a hearing of the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee, the tax affairs of leading US multi-nationals have become a hot topic for debate.

An indication of the government’s course of action is unlikely before the Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne delivers his Budget next month (20.3.2013) but MPs have the ability to sustain their assault rather than rest of their laurels.

A chance encounter with Margaret Hodge, the fiery chairman of the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee, did not suggest the corporate pr world has much to be concerned about.  To my surprise she seemed to be indicating that the committee had adopted a wait-and-see position rather than keeping up the momentum by recalling the directors for another parliamentary grilling.

By “that tick Nick Jones” *

Political spin doctors rarely miss the chance to denigrate those who dare to question their authority, a compulsion which remains as strong as ever in the psyche of Alastair Campbell.

 

When the Chilcot Inquiry released the letter from Major General Michael Laurie which challenged Campbell’s evidence about the purpose of the Iraqi weapons dossier, Tony Blair’s former director of communications did not miss a trick when responding via his Twitter account:

 

“Nothing to add to evidence to inquiry. Dossier not the case for war. Set out why govt more concerned re Iraq WMD. Never met General Laurie.”

Despite denying repeatedly that he played a ‘sexing up game’ when working on the government’s much-criticised dossier on Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction, Alastair Campbell acknowledged in his evidence to the Chilcot Inquiry (12.1.2010) that his role had been unprecedented.

Perhaps without realising the implications of what he was saying Damian McBride has pinpointed the real reason behind the distrust of the Labour government’s spin machine and Gordon Brown’s failure to stamp his authority on the party. In interviews apologising for the lurid emails that led to his resignation in April, McBride insists that it was his responsibility to respond to what he considered were “vitriolic” attacks on Brown by former ministers.

Will the fall-out from the scandal over MPs’ expenses – and the probable election of a Conservative government – lead to a clean-up in the spin culture of Downing Street and Whitehall?   Greater transparency has become the mantra across the public sector and the government’s spin machine is unlikely to escape unscathed.

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