17 June 2009

Dear Gordon, Love Peter

Sorry Gordon, but this is not one of those affectionate little notes the Mandy sends you on a daily basis.  Oh no, this particular piece will give you good reason to throw another mobile phone at the toaster while you take breakfast with The Times.

Peter Riddell is on heat this morning in his article over the appointment of Simon Lewis:

It doesn’t matter a damn who the Prime Minister’s official spokesman is now. It is already far, far too late for that. Simon Lewis has a reputation as a smooth operator with good contacts. But however good he may be, he will have no more than a marginal impact on the fate of Gordon Brown.

Governments or companies in trouble often blame the messenger and turn to a new one in the hope of turning round their fortunes. This is invariably a false hope.

Mr Lewis and his fellow spinners are under no illusions. They know that no amount of gloss, or spin, can return Britain to boom rather than bust. The danger, however, is that a desperate leader looks to presentational gimmicks to boost their ratings. But most backfire: witness the lack of impact of many of the Government’s stream of initiatives this year.

What Mr Brown needs is not a high-powered new spokesman but a stronger organisation. Jeremy Heywood, the workaholic Downing Street Permanent Secretary, is at the centre of the web of power, but even he cannot co-ordinate everything. E-mails fly around, to and from Mr Brown, but there is no one apart from Mr Heywood to ensure a clear pattern of decisions. That has led to the sense of drift that has damaged the Brown premiership far more than the work of his spokesman.

Spot on.  And if further evidence were needed that all Lewis will be is Mandy's slave, Nick Watt provides it:

His new role comes as Lord Mandelson conducts an informal review of the No 10 media operation. The business secretary identified two weaknesses: the civil service side struggles to offer adequate political protection for the prime minister, while the political side has in the past gone too far in the other direction and been overly partisan.

The appointment of Lewis has been in gestation for months. But Mandelson, who knows him well, will hope he will address the weaknesses.

Lewis’s appointment may well have been made by the civil service, but without Mandy's seal of approval it would not have happened.

Good luck Simon as you spend your days dreaming about life with HMQ.  Don't fret too much, Cameron will be along to rescue you within a few months.

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