Friday, March 27, 2009

Is 'Spin' on the way out?

Its a serious question, which Conservative MEP, Dan Hannan has put on the agenda. A full blown effort by the No 10 bunker to 'spin' Gordon Brown's speech to the European Parliament as a triumph was demolished by the Internet. The 'spin' could work only if the mainstream media reported it to be a triumph - which it duly did. Gushy stuff, straight off the press releases. Not a peep about Hannan's response. Unfortunately for the 'spin machine' the Internet stepped in. Now we know the truth. The Prime Minister was reduced to laughing and chatting to others to hide his embarrassment. Rhodri Morgan always did this, whenever he was getting back a bit of what he likes dishing out. Same thing happened when Gordon Brown met Barack Obama. It was being reported that the two men got along like a house on fire. Almost love at first sight. We all believed it - until we saw a clip of the actual meeting on the Internet. No body language at all. Obama looked bored silly, with his feet jiggling about with impatience. It was the Internet that brought us the truth.

Unfortunately this tendency to make up the news is spreading. Earlier this week Mrs D started calling me Victor Meldrew. The insufferably giggly duo on breakfast television were rattling on about about how inflation had fallen to zero, and deflation was upon us. Despite the fall of RPI being significantly less than expected, and the more reliable CPI actually going up to 3.2%. Return of inflation was the story. But this would not have fitted in with No 10's press release about the desperate need for another fiscal stimulus. Inevitably, when the Internet started pointing this out, the BBC was forced to change its line.

Same sort of trends are affecting our Council's press offices. Powys Council (where I live) has a good press officer, but he's going to lose control over news management, unless there's a change of approach. "I'll get back to you" is no longer good enough. Conservative press supremo in Wales, Richard Hazlewood responds immediately. He knows that if he doesn't, somebody else will. There are going to be people like me, who have established information links, and will post stories on the Internet immediately - if we think they are in the public interest that is. That's how it should be.

First sign of change in Powys was a while ago when the Council discovered that dozens of its teachers had not been CRB checked. It was decided to keep this secret for a while for some reason - but next day it appeared on the BBC. The Council then wasted thousands trying to discover the identity of the whistle blower - who in my opinion deserved an award. This was a sign of things to come.

And now we have this cleaning lady named Edna Mopbucket who telephones me with all sorts of gossip. She even telephoned me this week about two officers "B***ink in the office". So happens that I'm only interested in what's in the public interest - so nothing like that gets posted. With 73 Councillors there is no chance of anything remaining secret. I've always worked on the theory if two others know, its as good as public. The only way to stop leaks is to not keep things secret. And our main stream news providers had better start giving it to us straight - and not just reporting faithfully what's written in the press release. And this is because of the Internet. Long live freedom of speech.


Jeff Jones said...

The internet is important but I wonder how many of those who have looked at Hannen's speech actually were not already sympathetic to the comments made in the speech.I doubt if he converted any people to his views because the content of the speech wasn't that impressive if you analyse it.What impressed many people was obviously the delivery of the speech. It probably reflects the fact that in the age of spin most politicians stick to a script written by someone else which is then delivered with very little passion. Anyone reading Chris Mullen's 'View from the Foothills' has to feel sorry for government ministers of whtever their political persuasion. Hannen on the other hand spoke without any notes and with real passion. It was a lesson for any young politician on how effective a short speech delivered without notes can be. Add what I find is an amazing often irrational personal hatred of Gordon Brown by some on the right of politics and you have a hit.The fact that the mainstream media did not then report the speech increased the impact. The last sentence is the really crucial issue in my opinion and that is the fact that so many journalists didn't see that they should have reported Hannen's speech. I don't think that it is Labour bias it probably reflected their personal view of Hannen who is a former journalist. It will be interesting to see how the internet develops as a means of spreading a political message. In the 19th century in particular local newspapers were the key to the politicians getting their message across. In many ways Obama's use of the internet as an outsider was a 21st century version of Lincoln's use of newspapers.Very few people actually listened to Lincoln in the flesh. He was able to win the nomination from far more experienced rivals because thousands of Americans were able to read his speeches. But we also should not forget as I've stated in another post that the medium is just a means of communication . What is crucial is the message.

US-DC correspondent said...

Dan Hannan’s speech is having a big impact state-side.

What is catching the attention of many stateside is Dan Hannan’s dire warning that Gordon Brown’s policies of spend spend spend and borrow borrow borrow to spend spend spend is doing serious damage to the UK economy; that expanding public sector employment at the cost of private sector job creation spells disaster.

People stateside are finally beginning to realize that Obama’s ‘solution’ is looking like Gordon Brown’s ‘solution’.

That the American Dream is in peril, not because of the state of the World Economy, but because of Obama’s quest for enlarging government, in essence, to Europeanize US government.

Once America is no longer the city on a hill, the shining star, once America turns away from Reagan’s vision of America – the great hope that is America will be gone.

Which raises terrifying questions: where will you be Europe?

Where will you be UK?

Where will you be Wales?

Anonymous said...

Glad to see JJ's back ..had been missing his spin on things..and now look forward to any views he has on our Wales Spring Conference. Had heard Edna had just got a part time job cleaning the Conference centre now that she is on the run from County Hall at Landod...any news from there Glyn on devloutions etc. With Sir Wyn's report in the long grass we are a party need to move forward together with or without the MPS who seems to be doing their own thing at present.

Was up in Preston on Friday night with my brother to hear Nigel Evans Ribble Valley as the guest speaker...great to see a good turn out with a few £s for election funds .. but sad to see he has not moved on from fighting old battles on Europe and devolution.

We need Guto,Sue,Dylan and you at Westminster Glyn to fight our corner.

Welsh guy in 'DC' said...

Anon (04:52)> Wales also needs to exploit Welsh assets already under the control of the Welsh Assembly.

Moreover Wales badly needs a Welsh Assembly with a refreshed new outlook on how it views private enterprise.

Such topics have been detailed ad nauseam many times already.

But just one (new) example of the problem, “DC guy” attended BioWales 2009 at the Vale Hotel near Barry a couple of weeks ago. Now don’t get me wrong, BioWales 2009 is a great annual event – critical to building biotech business in Wales. I was there for two days, and loved every minute of it. Chatting to Welsh biotech companies and people from Wales and further afield.

At the evening dinner event yours truly was sitting opposite someone who worked for “Technology Transfer” at one of Wales’s preeminent universities.

At the same table, and to my immediate left, was an MBA who worked for a venture capital firm.

The University in question and at least one other Welsh university justifiably describe themselves as world-class universities.

I asked the Technology Transfer person how many unique patents were held by her university. “About 100” was the reply.

The Technology Transfer person explained that her university took the view that it only invested in sure-winners.

I asked the MBA guy - I asked him if he knew why the university in question had so few unique patents. He was unable to give a rational explanation. One excuse was that this Welsh university is “not Oxford”. I pointed out to the MBA guy that patent applications are judged on a limited set of criteria by patent examiners who don’t make any judgments based on the perceived status of a university or commercial company.

I explained to them that it’s a number-game, all new innovations should be protected by at least a US provisional application which costs very little to file, that they could, for example, be based on an academic paper submitted to a peer reviewed journal (or even published so long as publication was not more than 12 months before the filing date).

I explained that we need to do this to avoid a repeat of “MABS fiasco”, where the MRC (British Medical Research Council) did not spot the value of the MABs innovation and failed to file a meaningful patent on this pioneering biotech innovation, a British innovation/invention which without meaningful patent protection was picked up by foreign competitors who filed patents on the applications of MABS technology, many of these companies were in the USA, at least one foreign company made hundreds if not billions out of an unprotected British invention and created a whole industry in bioassay kits for use in Path Labs based on the unprotected British MABs invention which had it been patent protected would have paid for the running of a major chunk of the NHS for many years and created thousands of jobs in the UK and around the world, but under the control of the MABs patent assignee had there been one.

It is well known that at one of Wales’s preeminent world-class universities is one of the founding fathers of a major branch of biotechnology – can anyone guess if this Professor is listed on a meaningful patent covering his original pioneering work?

There is a patent with his name on it, but the claimed subject matter is so narrow its commercial value is vastly diminished probably because a provisional patent (or other patent) was not filed on the original pioneering work. It went unprotected just like in the MABS fiasco.

What a waste.

What a waste when Wales is crying out for high-tech jobs.

What an awful MABS type waste.

Glyn Davies said...

Jeff - Over a million of them !! I agree that its impact was the simplicity and directness of the speech. It connected with what many people think. It was the message that millions want to send to the Prime Minister, and this time he had to listen. Personally, I think our learning from the Internet that Obama was so clearly bored with Gordon Brown's conversation was rather more important. It was this relationship that he was hoping to build his election campaign on. Now all he can do is ask Eluned Morgan to write him a campaign song.

DC - It does seem that more and more people, and national leaders are beginning to realise that its unwise to try to spend a way out of recession - especially if a generous social policy means that the recessionary pressures create a huge borrowing requirement anyway.

anon - I had to pull out of the Conference for sad and personal reasons. I'm a bit surprised that the good people living in the Preston area have that much interest in devolution.