Let them without spin cast the first stone

Counsel was cross-examining an editor in a libel action centring on a family tragedy. "I suppose," he sniffed, "that to you this was just another jolly good story." The jury displayed much the same distaste for the editor as editors currently display for Whitehall spin doctor Jo Moore, who seized on 11 September as "a good day to bury bad news".

Was her professional cynicism any less normal than that of m’learned friend? Or that of the editor who replied: "And I suppose that to you this is just another jolly good case."

Or that of Cabinet Office minister Lord Macdonald who altered Hansard to correct the spin with which he had met queries about the quantity of Jo Moores (81) employed at taxpayers’ expense (£4.4m)?

Or even that of Lord Saatchi, satirically equipped by a lifetime in the spin game to lead the Opposition howl for Gus Macdonald’s head?

Forests of newsprint and lakes of ink have been consumed to pillory Jo Moore for spinicism seen as abnormal only because she was daft enough to e-mail the office. (Moral: Don’t risk a day off.)

We have relished the flagellation of Jo Moore. And savoured hints of secret reasons for her not being sacked by her boss, Stephen Byers, and his boss, Tony Blair. Nudge-nudge. Wink-wink.

Is there anything more cynical than the press in one of its fits of denouncing cynicism? What’s our problem? We could give Jo Moore lessons.

We were happy to be spun by whichever of her enemies leaked that e-mail. And we well knew that her opportunistic reaction to the Twin Towers atrocity would have occurred to every spin doctor worth their salt. It is what they do.

And who makes it possible for them to do what they do?

We are too often at home to spin, especially if exclusive. We are disinclined to reject stuff merely because it emanates from the spin machine. Night editors get specialists out of bed to replicate spun stories that a rival has fallen for.

Too few publishers reject advertisers who spin their wares as imitation editorial (in these hard times, not always flagged as ads, even by fiercely proud editors).

Too many of us allow celebrity PR input. And voluntarily spin travel pieces to ensure the stream of freebies (and upgrades for honeymooning executives).

And was it a cynical spin doc or a cynical journalist who infamously asked: "Anyone here been raped and speaks English?"

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