Yes, this was the Independent's lead story on Monday, and that was before news came of the suspension of Ian Jones, who was Martin Sixsmith's deputy at the Department for Transport. I didn't know whether to laugh or cry. All this is apparently in response to the Jo Moore-Sixsmith affair, and nothing to do with it being a minister who lied, and not a spinner. Never in the history of Westminster gossip has so much rubbish been written by so few to the total uninterest of so many. What worries me is the way that such an inefficient civil service has managed to spin that all the problems lie with political spinners. It really should be known as the self-serving service, so determined is it to protect its power.
When I entered the Treasury with Gordon Brown, Terry (now Lord) Burns, a political appointee under Thatcher, was in charge. He spun the press more than the head of information, but wasn't good enough at it to save his job. Unbelievably, he was once tipped for the top job in Whitehall, just as Sir David Omand was on Monday in the Times. Apparently he is "charming and ambitious and gets on well with his colleagues". We know this because Jill Sherman, the well-regarded Whitehall editor, told us. Now, you may think that having a Whitehall editor would be a waste of time because the senior civil servants aren't supposed to talk to the press. You would be wrong. They love briefing hacks and are often quite prepared to stab ministers in the back.
I hope all civil servants are banned from briefing the media, except those authorised to do so. But I bet this won't happen. Wasting government time on a bill to curb the non-existent powers of spin-doctors is as stupid as wasting time banning people in fancy dress from hunting vermin.