Charlie Whelan says . . .

Don't believe it - "Battle victory - 'good news story' "

It is a little-known fact that the Ministry of Defence has more spin-doctors than any other government department, with only the Home Office coming anywhere near its numbers.

Geoff "Buff" Hoon certainly needs all the help he can get at the moment. But when you see an army commander tell us live on television that a battle victory in an obscure town no one outside Iraq has heard of is a "good news story", then you know that spin has taken over even in the armed forces. How on earth can anything to do with this war be "good news"?

The reason why one of our war leaders can come out with such a crass comment is because there has been very little good news to report, unless you read the Sun.

The big problem for Alastair Campbell and his team is that there is no way that they can control events on the battlefield, and there are simply too many hacks covering the war for him to influence them all. The result is probably the most sickening spinning he has ever got Blair to indulge in. Reeling from a disastrous start to the war, Campbell got the PM to claim that two of "our boys" had been executed, even though there was no evidence for this and the families had been told they died in action. This scam may have fooled the Sun but, fortunately, there is one tabloid paper not slavishly supporting the Downing Street line. The Daily Mirror found out what the MoD had told the families, and Blair's willingness to use dead troops in the PR war was exposed.

There is a book to be written about the media manipulation when this war is over, and No 10 will not come out of it well. If you think that the Labour spin machine does bad things during an election, just wait to find out what it does during a war.