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26 June 2000

When the spinning had to stop

Charles Nevinreveals the future: new Labour announcements that come to you straight

By Charles Nevin

Scoop! The New Statesman is proud to present a comprehensive selection of the major policy statements and keynote speeches about to emerge from new Labour as a result of Tony Blair’s decision that the government’s programme would be better presented without the usual vigorous spin, pressing, polythene cover and wire hanger. Some readers may find these documents shocking and upsetting in their frankness, but we print them as a matter of public interest.

Questions will inevitably be asked about our method of acquisition. So we will state at once that this was no spoon-fed set-up operation involving a ten-minute wait at the back of Millbank Tower at around 10.30pm last Tuesday; and anybody who thinks otherwise is welcome to attend the Red Lion this lunchtime for an off-the-record briefing next to the bitter pump.

1 Prime Minister’s important statement on Europe to members of the Honourable Order of Water Buffaloes: “Guys, guys. Europe. Me. Gordon. Robin. Me. Straight kind of guy. Them. Couple of chippy jocks who hate the bollocks off each other. Let me say again. My position consistent, unambiguous. In favour if these criteria met: 1) I get coffee mug with colour picture of Romano Prodi; and 2) Gordon gets blame if it goes arse-up.”

2 Health Secretary’s important statement on the NHS: “We’re doomed.”

3 Foreign Secretary’s important statement on international relations to the honourable members of the Lions Club (Wimbawe Lodge), Freetown: “Thank you, thank you, too kind. I wonder when last the Chancellor of the Exchequer received a 21-minute standing ovation? No, please, carry on if you wish. Finished? Sure? All right. It is true, though, indeed incontrovertible, that when you come to examine my achievements, faint praise is not the first phrase to come to mind. Would that the same could be said for the poor Chancellor! But although we have accomplished much here, there is still much to do. Tomorrow, for example, we strike north to retake the Suez Canal. No, no, young man, just squeeze gently and nurse it into the shoulder.”

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4 Social Security Secretary’s important announcement on social security: “Actually, I’ve announced this before.”

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5 Trade Secretary’s important announcement on trade: “Good evening. It gives me great pleasure, and has done since I was 14! All right, then, suit yourselves, although I would have thought even a nun would have found that pretty funny. Talking of suits, mine’s a South African. No? Blimey, you lot must lead sheltered lives. Anyway, a lot of people say my department doesn’t actually do very much. But you don’t want to believe all you’re told. Look what happened to me with those bloody Germans. Foreigners, eh? Hands up anyone who can sing “The Dirty Germans Crossed the Rhine”! Come on! Oh, well, suit yourselves. Talking of suits, no, whoops, I’ve done that one, haven’t I? Oh, well, thank you, this has been Steve “Stop Me And” Byers, the Man Who Gives It To You Straight, going down a storm with a top audience at the Convent of the Sacred Heart, Droitwich.”

6 Home Secretary’s important an-nouncement of important new initiative: “And . . . fire!”

7 Deputy Prime Minister’s important announcement on transport: “Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. And may I say how immeasurably improved is my life since the Prime Minister, with his usual and ineffable Alexandrian decisiveness and Aristotelian sagacity, judged that our administration would no longer best be served by an over-adherence to, and monotonous emphasis upon, the superficialities of presentation and external appearance; a judgement, indeed, that was most pleasingly confirmed by my re- reading of Gibbon over the weekend. And so, at last, an end to the torture of those hard vowels, that larger-than-life “bluff” persona, and, thank goodness, the pies. Now where was I, where was I? Ah, yes: I’m abolishing buses, large, ugly things, full of people; and, henceforth, the London Underground will be converted into an exciting new linear gallery, Tube Modern. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to be in the Sheldonian by 8pm to deliver my lecture on Walter Pater. Jeavons, I fear, you will have to put the throttle to the boards! On!”

8 Education Secretary’s important announcement on education: “I hear Harvard is rather good these days.”

9 Northern Ireland Secretary’s important announcement about Northern Ireland Secretary’s dog: “I have to report that, with deep regret and considerable reluctance, I have decided to accept the resignation of my dog, Bobby. Bobby has given tireless service in a most demanding job but, in a changing presentational climate, feels the need for a fresh challenge. And might I just add a few thoughts of my own in this new climate? As a general election approaches, it is becoming increasingly important to distinguish between the policies and aspirations of new Labour and the so-called opposition. I will select three key, clear differences: 1) our leader has got hair; 2) and lots of children; 3) theirs hasn’t.”

10 Chancellor’s important statement on Europe to top bankers: “Laugh? Put it this way, I haven’t had so much fun since Wembley! Did you see his face? What? The euro? Do me a favour, get a life! Let’s have another one! No, no, it’s my shout! So what if I bought the last one? It’s only money! Now, who’s coming down the dogs? I understand Bobby’s running.”

So there you have it. Startling, sobering, revealing. But do, please, remember that it is vital to check against delivery.