Ed Hall: The Lost Art of Spinning
Ed Hall is a businessman and Conservative activist in Kensington and Chelsea who occasionally blogs here.
SEX OFFENDERS WHO PLEAD 'NOT GUILTY' TO HAVE THEIR SENTENCES DOUBLED. In a shock announcement that was lauded by victim support groups across Britain, the Justice Minister announced yesterday that people convicted of sexual crimes who delay court cases and thereby force their victims to go through humiliating and distressing cross-examination will have their prison sentences doubled.
How strange, but the sentencing policy proposed by Ken Clarke sounds like a proper Conservative law and order proposal when you put it like that. What is wrong with the advisors and so-called 'spin doctors' in the Coalition? Nobody in power seems prepared to stand up and fight hard for any reform proposal. Worst of all is the sense that a fear pervades the Coalition Government of taking on the liberal consensus in the media. "Listening" has replaced "doing".
The NHS reform is another area of vital activity that now seems to lack any real sense of determination or purpose... The message should be clear.
The NHS is going bust. We're gonna fix it.
It's another very simple message that is getting mired in poor communication. The rights and wrongs of the proposed legislation aren't the object of my irritation, but the lack-lustre and rather hopeless way in which ministers are standing up for the reforms is getting me genuinely cross. I don't personally know whether the planned NHS reforms were perfect or not, but I do get the impression that the Health Secretary is completely incapable of explaining what the reforms are, and why they are needed. Where is the tough political pugilist or aggressive word warrior fighting an intransigent and leaky Civil Service and the left-wing media to champion a new NHS?
At no stage have I felt that there is a great ambassador for our public health system fighting for its reform... and even the supposedly great communicator Ken Clarke seems unable to explain, simply and powerfully, what he intends to do with our justice system.
Most people were critical of the spin regime that swept into Number 10 and Whitehall in 1997, but it seems to me that we desperately need a major rethink on how we present policy: a return in part to the days of Ingham or Campbell. It might just be the existence of the Coalition that means nobody wants to appear to be front and centre of the new political discourse, but the risk now is that the Government becomes moribund and ineffective. Of course that was always the Right's criticism of coalitions anyway.
I think we need a 'Big Beast' back in charge of communicating the Government's message as a matter of urgency. Remember Jack Cunningham at the Cabinet Office, whose sole job seemed to be appearing on the Today programme? If Coalition Ministers are not up to fighting publicly for the reforms this country so desperately needs then send them packing to play with their BlackBerries on the back benches, and replace them with someone punchy that can fight the good fight. At this rate we will be 'listening' for the whole parliament and doing absolutely nothing. The country won't thank us for that.