On yesterday’s Today programme – during a discussion of the twentieth century’s most effective Prime Minister – it was suggested that Tony Blair was more of a press officer than a Prime Minister. The Conservative Party has, this morning, uncovered evidence that the whole Blair government is being taken over by press officers.
More than 3,200 press officers are now employed to promote the Government’s message. The £300m cost of the ‘wages of spin’ has trebled since the last year of John Major’s premiership:
- Oliver Heald noted that the Home Office alone employs 145 press officers but they have been unable to finesse the PR blunders that have dogged John Reid’s department throughout this year.
- John Prescott employs three press officers but no longer has any department.
- Hilariously, on this morning’s Today programme, Sarah Montague noted that a BBC reporter tried yesterday to find a comment on the Tories’ expose. The reporter was passed from press officers in Downing Street to the Cabinet Office to the Treasury as each press officer suggested someone else was responsible. Eventually someone told the BBC reporter that they would need to speak to individual Government departments. It’s good to know that BBC reporters don’t get treated any better than someone desperately applying for benefits or anyone else trying to navigate the Whitehall maze.
This obsession with taxpayer-funded propaganda isn’t just a New Labour problem. It’s one of the few things that unites the whole Labour Party. On the London Mayor blog Phil Taylor recently spotlighted Old Labour Ken Livingstone’s £100m advertising spending.