Category: Political Spin
Having been at the sharp end of the economic turmoil of the Thatcher decade we industrial reporters knew all about the power and influence being exercised behind the scenes by the Prime Minister’s press secretary
Our abiding regret is that we never had the chance at the time to interrogate him at first hand over his contempt for the leadership of the trade union movement and his astute manipulation of the news media on Mrs Thatcher’s behalf.
Ingham was without doubt the most successful head of government information of his era, and the last beneficiary of the cover that he and his predecessors enjoyed thanks to the loyalty of political correspondents at Westminster.
Rarely was he identified as the begetter of infamous briefings in Downing Street. Lobby journalists stuck to the rules and attributed information and guidance to unidentified “government sources”.
When disruption and shortages started to get out of hand earlier in the autumn even loyal Conservative newspapers had to report the realities facing the country as ministerial competence was seen to be draining away.
No wonder the front pages began predicting a ‘Winter of Discontent’ – a handy headline for pulling together the horrors associated with the prospect of a beleaguered government losing control.
When Conservative governments set about curtailing employment and trade union rights the route map for massaging public reaction follows tried and tested procedures.
Headline-grabbing objectives are floated in briefings to well-informed journalists, and then, amid a flurry of media interest, ministers row back from worst-case scenarios insisting that high standards in the UK will not be eroded.
Political honeymoons are often short lived, but few Prime Ministers have squandered media loyalty and support as rapidly and comprehensively as Boris Johnson.
Dominic Cummings' forced departure has paved the way for the launch in the New Year of White House-style televised briefings from Downing Street by Allegra Stratton, who is to become the new face of the government.
The gruesome finale to Maria Miller’s seven-day struggle to hang on to her cabinet post as Secretary for Culture, Media and Sport was a text book example of the high-wire political news management that blighted the Blair years.
Her resignation within a few hours of the start of Prime Minister’s questions mirrored that of Peter Mandelson’s second on-off resignation from Tony Blair’s government in January 2001.
He finally stood down from his position as Secretary of State for Northern Ireland less than an hour before the start of questions in the House of Commons, allowing Blair the chance to wipe the slate clean when he was challenged at the despatch box.
Mrs Miller was only too well aware that David Cameron would have had to face a near impossible task trying once again to fend off criticism of her own inept handling of the investigation into her claims for parliamentary expenses.
Her resignation was announced at 7.18am on Wednesday 9 April; she had given Cameron the benefit of almost five hours in which to prepare himself before he had to face the Labour leader Ed Miliband.