The Control Freaks
The Control Freaks Author Nicholas Jones Published by Politico's Publishing 2001 harback ISBN 1 902301 76 5 paperback 2002 (updated) ISBN 1 902301 83 8
Nicholas Jones has never toed the Westminster line. After nearly three decades on the front line of British politics he has built a formidable reputation as a journalist prepared to break ranks with fellow lobby correspondents and reveal the reality of the New Labour media manipulation. The Control Freaks provides an audit of the unprecedented powers and resources acquired by Tony Blair and his media advisers as the obsession with control - born of a determination that Labour should never repeat the chaos of the 1980s - became ever more ingrained.
This is an unsettling book, for behind the day-to-day diet of spin and gossip lurk uncomfortable questions. How far has the civil service been politicised? And - most important of all - how far has the democratic process itself been compromised?
Nicholas Jones has been a thorn in the flesh of New Labour's coterie of spin doctors. His previous book Sultans of Spin was ridiculed for containing "utter bollocks" by Gordon Brown's former spin doctor Charlie Whelan. But Gerald Kaufman MP, a Labour media strategist from an earlier era, who held an equally jaundiced opinion, agreed that Jones had a job to do: "Pain in the neck though he may be, Jones constitutes a persuasive argument for the role of journalist as a useful nuisance. Long may he and his tape recorder flourish - but, if he doesn't mind, as far away as possible from me."
It takes an unusual journalist to provoke such reactions from leading political figures:
Sympathetic concern from Tony Blair: "Look, it must be very sad being a labour correspondent, reporting all those meaningless resolutions."
Indignation from a wounded Peter Mandelson: "I feel such hurt...What an incredibly clever, tendentious and distorted piece of writing...You have abused trust and friendship, all because you want to make yourself a media star...You have done a hatchet job...It's pathetic...I hope I never have any contact with you ever again."
A plea from an embattled Robin Cook to: "Remember, this conversation didn't take place."
A regular torrent of scorn from Alastair Campbell over his "mischievous and unprofessional conduct."
Fully updated for paperback version to include the repercussions of Jo Moore's infamous "bury bad news" e-mail after the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Centre:
"Alun, It's now a very good day to get out anything we want to bury. Councillors' expenses? Jo."
The infamous Jo Moore e-mail, sent on 11 September 2001 within an hour of the second plane hitting the World Trade Centre, provided the ultimate evidence that New Labour's obsession with spin had itself spun out of control.
Then early in 2002, just as the outrage was subsiding, Ms Moore found herself at the epicentre of another political earthquake at the Department of Transport - one which led to the departure not only of herself and communications director Martin Sixsmith, but also of Secretary of State Stephen Byers. The Department's Permanent Secretary Sir Richard Mottram observed memorably:
"We're all f*****. I'm f*****. You're f*****. The whole department's f*****. It's been the biggest cock-up ever and we're all completely f*****."
In this new and substantially expanded paperback version of his acclaimed book, veteran BBC political correspondent Nicholas Jones provides for the first time the full, unspun account of the Jo Moore affairs and their fall-out, and brings up to date the bizarre, disturbing yet hugely entertaining chronicle of the culture of control freakery.
"The abuse Jones's book has attracted from those he has fingered testifies convincingly to the importance of what he has written. More power to his taperecorder." Ian MacIntyre, The Times.