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Government Advisers and Spin Doctors
Publication date: 2009-04-16

In response to a scandal about some "smear emails" attributed to Damian McBride, an adviser to Gordon Brown, the British Prime Minister, Gordon Brown has called for "tightening the Code of Conduct of Special Advisers", to prevent such scandals in the future.

But, while the Media are preoccupied with the content of the "smear emails", there is a much more important issue in this affair which is overlooked.

Government can hire advisers and pay for their services out of government funds only if such advice is necessary for the purpose of government. Thus, if a government is considering extending the motorways network to deal with the issues of traffic congestion, they can hire an expert adviser in that technical field.

But, from the details of the "McBride Affair" and from Gordon Brown's own letter relating to the "McBride Affair" it is clear that Damian McBride was hired not as a technical adviser, but as a "political adviser", whose role was to promote the image of Gordon Brown, his Cabinet and of the Labour Party. But all these activities have nothing to do with the duties of government. Promotion of political parties or political personalities cannot be part of the government business and cannot be financed from public funds.

Nor can such political activities be conducted from 10 Downing Street, the Prime Minister's official residence. Any activities aimed at promotion of political parties or political personalities can be only financed from the private funds of political parties and conducted from premises owned or hired by political parties.

The British Government is not the Labour Party. Nor is the Labour Party the British Government. The British Government and the Labour Party are totally different institutions. And using public funds by government officials to finance their politics is a criminal misuse of public funds.

While Tony Blair will be mostly remembered for starting the Iraq War without a valid reason and justifying it by false arguments, he had also effected a drastic change in the British Unwritten Constitution. He hired "political advisers financed from public taxes" (Spin Doctors), whose role was to promote his own and his party's popularity by "headline management". And by turning the Civil Service into an extension of his Party Apparatus Tony Blair has blurred the distinction between government and politics which was the fundamental basis of the British Unwritten Constitution. Thus the British Government has become a "party-political regime", the main purpose of which was not the "Government of the Realm", but glorification of the persona of Tony Blair, the Great Leader. But this fundamental constitutional change was overlooked by the British Media, who failed to understand the distinction between government and politics. Thus, one journalist said that all politicians "demonize" their opponents -"Did not the Tories publish a poster portraying Tony Blair as the Devil?" But, this was at the time of an election campaign and was financed from the Conservative Party funds at a time when they were in opposition. Spin Doctors are hired when a party is in government as part of government activities and are financed from public funds as part of government costs. Such use of government resources for party-political purposes is an obvious abuse of government powers and misuse of government funds.

Recently, the British Media created an "affair" out of an expense claim by a government official for watching indecent films by her husband, which was at most just a case of petty theft, if it was deliberate, or a careless mistake, as it was claimed to be. But institutionalisation of Spin Doctors is a case of high-jacking the whole Institution of the British Government and using it for party-political propaganda. And the Media were so preoccupied with "the mosqitoes of petty scandals" that they failed to notice "the elephant of a major constitutional change".

So, it is not just Damian McBride, but, if there are any other "political advisers" (Spin Doctors) hired by Gordon Brown or any other members of his cabinet, their contracts should be terminated forthwith and any monies paid to them out of public funds should be repaid by the Labour Party out of its own private funds. The Civil Service should regain its independence from "political influences", and all elected government officials should stop using their government powers, working time and public funds for their "party-political" activities.

And, if the Labour Party wants to hire any "political advisers" for any purpose, it should pay them out of its own party funds, and it will be the Labour Party, not the British Government who would be responsible for their activities. Government should not be mixed with politics.

And, if Gordon Brown does want to re-establish the reputation of the British Government, then he should take these measures without delay. And this would even make "political sense", as it might even help him to be re-elected (provided, of course, that he cleans up the rest of the mess inherited from the Blair Regime, rather than sweeping it under that proverbial Carpet).


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