Can you hear it? I’m talking about the faint rustle of paper, the busy rattle of qwerty keyboards, hushed conversations, furtive glances, the dusting off of pre-prepared copy. It can only mean one thing, SCS (Spring Conference Season).
Let’s face it, we all know that is just an excuse for already ‘fat’ cats to dally near the coast or in some inner city conference centre, gorging on gourmet fayre, swigging expensive wines before sleeping it all off in the conference hall the next day. The press will be corralled into a room of their very own and fed titbits of gossip by Party minions, a few will escape into the main arena in the hope of getting the ‘BIG’ story. Sadly this will not happen because the real ‘ringmasters’, the manipulators of truth, will wait for the opportune moment. Usually just after they have duped one of their chinless idiots to read out a statement deliberately designed to cause controversy.
In the foyer, blissfully unaware that someones career has been purposely ruined for the greater good, the sellers of Party merchandise hawk their goods. Party ’T’-shirts emblazoned with the leaders smiling faces, mugs covered in party slogans, badges, ties, hi viz jackets, CDs and DVDs of their people in action. All designed to give the poor suckers who buy the rubbish on offer a sense of belonging. Of a sudden, there is a hive of activity, outside broadcast vans move closer to the venue, techs stream through the doors carrying tripods, cameras, boom microphones, closely followed by the likes of Kay Burley, Laura Kuenssberg, Daisy McAndrew and Geraint Vincent. Lackeys swarm around the esteemed reporters. A dab of foundation here, a flick of the hair there. microphones are attached to coats and shirts, checked and double checked. A lectern appears, the room is hushed except for the tentative shuffling of star correspondents feet as they try to get in pole position before the lectern. The room, albeit small, suddenly looks large and overflowing with Party faithful. An illusion deliberately constructed for the cameras in order to give the false impression that the conference is oversubscribed and that the cheap merchandise is selling like hotcakes.
The doors at the rear of the foyer open and the room is filled with the flashes from a myriad of cameras. Pop,pop, click. The object of their attention continues to walk towards the lectern, their stride unbroken by the fusillade of light breaking around them. Who can it be, the Party Leader? The Deputy Leader? The poor sod who was duped and hour ago into making himself look a prat? No, it is the Master of Duplicity, the Lord of the Dark Arts. The person behind the Throne, the real Big Cheese! The Chief Press Officer himself, otherwise known as; The SPIN DOCTOR!.
Who is this demigod? What circumstances have elevated the Party, Chief Press Officer to such giddy heights? I’m afraid that the question is in the past tense because the answer is, that they no longer need oxygen masks in order to carry out their inflated jobs as technology has outpaced the fabled ‘Spin Doctor’. However, of its time, spin was a necessary tool in the arsenal of all political parties. It is a form of propaganda and is seen as essential in persuading the public to favour a particular campaign, Party or politician. A tactic developed in the USA and used to great effect by the Republican Party and the Democrats.
From the eighties through to the end of the twentieth century, television was THE medium for promoting political ambition and, as the person dealing with the media, the Press Officer had to adapt and find new ways of getting the message across. Spin became an art form and those skilled in this art were much sought after. Susceptibility was the name of the game and it should be noted that in my opinion it was during this period that the population was dumbed down and the time when the seeds of apathy were deliberately sown.
It also made politics ultra dirty, a once noble vocation became a slimy slog through the professional valleys of selective facts and half-truths. It led to the birth of the “professional politician”!
So, can we wave goodbye to the ‘spin doctors’? I think not, they too have had to evolve now that information technology has increased since the end of the twentieth century. The commentator and online campaign guru, Joe Trippi and other commentators disagree. In fact Trippi put forward the theory in 2007 that modern internet activism spelled the end for political spin. The ‘spin’ prevalent during the late seventies thru to the end of the century has been passed down to the modern-day politicians. Chuka Umunna of the Labour Party is a classic example of someone adept in the art of twisting facts and figures to suit his own needs. Far more dangerous however are the professional, freelance Campaign Consultants. They have taken ‘spin’ to a whole new level, a dark sinister place where past demeanours proven or otherwise become weapons of attrition. This new breed of ‘spin doctor’ hires squads of people to investigate the opposition, infiltrate their organisations, dig up as much dirt as possible and then use it to destroy reputations and careers. One such member of this elite new breed is Mr Lynton Crosby, recently hired by David Cameron as Campaign Consultant for the 2015 general election. Not for nothing is he known as; ‘The Master of The Dark Political Arts”.
So, if you are in attendance at one of these pageants for peacocks do not follow the surge of celebrity television presenters when the lectern is hastily erected and the flashbulbs form a mosaic of silver through to yellow on walls and ceilings. No, stand back and look to see if you can spot the person who has orchestrated this supposed outpouring of truths, this media frenzy. He or she will be the one with their foot in the door, leaving it open sufficient to peer through at the carnage that they have perpetrated.
This is the worrying true face of modern politics. It is dirty, it is vicious and sometimes criminal. Above all, it is winner take all with scant regard to the consequences or the electorate. Evidenced by the ongoing saga of Maria Miller. Here we have a scandal of epic proportions and one which could and should have been dealt with swiftly and decisively.
The new breed of spin doctor, the campaign consultant, the masters of the dark arts of politics, whatever title you wish to give them are all bound by the same dogma. The Party comes first above all else. In their closeted Universe the electorate are a meaningless tool dumbed down over decades and primed to vote historically or not at all. The Maria Millers of this World must be allowed to get away with their misdemeanours because bringing them to book would reflect badly on the Party and upset the status quo. Which is why we have the shameful situation whereby petitions with the signatures of thousands of people, who are heartily fed up with the self regulatory way that these matters are dealt with, are being deliberately shredded so that no debate can be held about her alleged criminal acts. It is undemocratic and the government and, especially the Prime Minister, should be ashamed.
Why have I written this article? Why did I start by mentioning the Spring Conferences? I have done so because this is where the propaganda and lies will begin, especially as all Parties will be using them as a springboard for the EU and local elections as well as setting out their stall for next years General Election. Democracy in the UK is dying, my contention is that what is left of Democracy is about to be sacrificed on the alter of self gratification by a minority political elite and that our children and our children’s children will be the worst for it. We are actually being governed and, I use that term loosely, by a pack of contractors paid for by the three Parties – LibDemLabCon! It is no wonder that policies are the same or very similar from whichever side of the House you visit. We live in frightening times and we need to do something about it. Cameron and Clegg have ensured that by fixing the term of Parliament and the General Election date their Parties propaganda machines will be working at ultra efficiency. I intend to throw a mighty spanner in the works this year and next by not voting for any of them. My cross will be going next to a UKIP candidate and it is my hope that millions of other people across this country will follow suit.