There is no doubt that when Blair and the Labour Government came to power they were lacking in confidence and, in particular, were paranoid about the media. As Tony Blair said on many occasions he was not going to let The Sun do to him what they did to Neil Kinnock.
What this meant in action was that Blair, supported by the Privy Council, gave unprecedented power to Alistair Campbell to control the whole of the Government’s information services. The result was an incredibly centralised Government media machine where spin became all.
Ministers had to take orders from Campbell on what to say and where to be interviewed, policies were made up on the hoof to look and sound good to the public, and on many occasions it didn’t matter if what was said was actually true.
For the first time we saw Nixonian politics in the UK – if you questioned or disagreed with the Government you became the enemy. It didn’t matter who or what you were – civil servant, Labour politician or journalist – Campbell and his henchmen would brief against you and try to humiliate you if you disagreed with the message they wanted out there.
In the case of Iraq it resulted in them doctoring a ten year old university thesis and publishing it as “intelligence” and it came to a head a year or so later with Dr David Kelly where Campbell’s people did everything they could to get his name into the public arena. As we know he eventually committed suicide as a result of the pressure.
But the spin continued right through to the very end with the sickening stage management of Blair’s leaving announcement. It was a Government where image meant so much more than substance which in turn meant the good things it did over ten years ended up being dwarfed by spin.