Friday, 13 March 2009

News Management

In the immediate aftermath of September 11 2001, a scandal broke in this country after Jo Moore, a new Labour special adviser to then secretary of state for transport Stephen Byers, sent an email to colleagues suggesting this was "a very good day to get out anything we want to bury."  Her logic was that, when a mammoth news story breaks, the government has a window of opportunity through which to shunt into a black hole any news that would otherwise make the government more unpopular.  This was classic new Labour news management - completely immoral, but effective. And we've seen similar behaviour over more recent scandals.

The Treasury recently announced that it would insure £325 billion of toxic assets from Royal Bank of Scotland while pumping an extra £13 billion into the loss-making bank.  After bailing out the banks in October with £500 billion of taxpayers' money, these developments must have worried the government.  Would the public be prepared to keep funding the banks, while the banks were still acting as private businesses, were not lending in such a manner as to stabilise the economy, and, in some cases, were still charging high rates of interest?

The government responded by concentrating the media's attention on the pension of Sir Fred Goodwin (above), the 50-year-old recently retired chairman of RBS who will receive about £700,000 per annum for the remainder of his lifetime.  This story hogged the news limelight for the best part of a week, distracting everyone from the real news; the government had further burdened the British taxpayer - now to the extent of a year's GDP.

It is time for the government to come clean and stop trying to hide the truth that, while it has authorised a taxpayer bailout of the banks, the way it has done it means that neither the taxpayer nor the government will be able to keep them in check.  It is a very clever trick to hide this terrible truth behind fulminations from government ministers against the greed of the bankers, as though there were nothing wrong with the system.  But it is now time for them to stop banging on about Goodwin and start the real task of reorganising our entire banking system in the public interest.

 

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In the immediate aftermath of September 11 2001, a scandal broke in this country after Jo Moore, a new Labour special adviser to then secretary of state for transport Stephen Byers, sent an email to colleagues suggesting this was "a very good day to get out anything we want to bury."  Her logic was that, when a mammoth news story breaks, the government has a window of opportunity through which to shunt into a black hole any news that would otherwise make the government more unpopular.  This was classic new Labour news management - completely immoral, but effective. And we've seen similar behaviour over more recent scandals.

The Treasury recently announced that it would insure £325 billion of toxic assets from Royal Bank of Scotland while pumping an extra £13 billion into the loss-making bank.  After bailing out the banks in October with £500 billion of taxpayers' money, these developments must have worried the government.  Would the public be prepared to keep funding the banks, while the banks were still acting as private businesses, were not lending in such a manner as to stabilise the economy, and, in some cases, were still charging high rates of interest?

The government responded by concentrating the media's attention on the pension of Sir Fred Goodwin (above), the 50-year-old recently retired chairman of RBS who will receive about £700,000 per annum for the remainder of his lifetime.  This story hogged the news limelight for the best part of a week, distracting everyone from the real news; the government had further burdened the British taxpayer - now to the extent of a year's GDP.

It is time for the government to come clean and stop trying to hide the truth that, while it has authorised a taxpayer bailout of the banks, the way it has done it means that neither the taxpayer nor the government will be able to keep them in check.  It is a very clever trick to hide this terrible truth behind fulminations from government ministers against the greed of the bankers, as though there were nothing wrong with the system.  But it is now time for them to stop banging on about Goodwin and start the real task of reorganising our entire banking system in the public interest.

 

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