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Monday 4 February 2013

Spinning into trouble

It's been a while since writing about that man who is scared of entering a revolving door. David Cameron's alleged antics over funding for the armed forces, ably abetted by his spin doctors, (who else as an ally in a revolving door) deserve closer attention.

According to newspaper reports, Mr Cameron has renewed his "pledge" to provide "year-on-year real-terms growth in the defence budget in the years beyond 2015".

The proverbial brown stuff has hit the fan, and the advisors in Number 10 are making it clear that what DC meant was not what he said. DC was referring to the financial year starting in 2016 (a spokesman said). If DC's little helpers are attempting to make him look like a twit, they're doing a great job.

If these well-meaning (I doubt it), well-intentioned (with the benefit of the doubt, maybe), well-paid (by the taxpayer) spin doctors need a little help in revisiting statements to reframe them in order to massage their interpretation (they've got me at it now)... here's how they could have done it so much better:

Firstly, "real-terms" could be interpreted as "real terms". This would imply that growth could be limited to term time (possibly that's because everybody gets a new uniform) and could even be reduced outside term time.

Secondly, "2015" could actually have meant "20:15" and the years after a time are not intrinsically temporally defined.

Thirdly, "real-terms" could have been interpreted as "Real" (Brazilian currency) or "Riyal" (Saudi Arabian currency). This could subsequently have been explained as the very epitome of the plurality of nations that make up a modern defence system, and the vagaries of international currency fluctuations make it difficult to predict the parity at any given day in the future (Sir Humphrey would be proud of that one).

Either way, DC would not be seen as a liar, possibly as an overly smart politician; too clever by half, maybe.

But wait, all this is just conjecture, smoke, mirrors... if one takes the journalist out of the news one is left with (somewhat bland) truth.

On Tuesday 19th October, 2010, DC stood up in Westminster to address the House of Commons and read out a statement, the Strategic Defence and Security Review (full statement available at ).

This was a government statement, replete with the usual artifices and one unusually personal sentence:

"My own strong view is that this structure will require year on year real-terms growth in the defence budget in the years beyond 2015".

This was no pledge, it was merely a statement of opinion, albeit one emanating from the Prime Minister.

DC has a perfectly sensible, coherent, and (hopefully) honest 'defence' to his statement. DC had a "strong view" in October, 2010; events may have altered (or not) his view but, it should not be taken as a pledge; to do so is to take journalistic licence too far.

For once, a politician is unambiguous about his views, and at the same time clearly expounds government policy (see the full statement if you are incredulous). To then be unnecessarily dropped into the mire by his advisors is inexcusable.

A politician nailing his colours to the mast should be saluted... even if he might be a little naïve.

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