19 Oct 2010

Defence Review spin: Mimicking New Labour?

Strange – in former times, budgetary announcements and the rest used to have to be kept secret until they were announced on the floor of the House of Commons. But today vast amounts of the Strategic Defence and the Public Spending Reviews are already out in the public domain.

In the past there have been Treasury resignations for such leaks. Not any more. So should the charade of Ministerial accountability to Parliament be ended? Are the “markets” now too sensitive to cope with the release of unexpected news on the floor of the House? Is the political system too antiquated to cope?

Spin is regarded by many as one of the curses that sank New Labour. Is the Coalition in danger of mimicking this process that so feeds and delights the UK media?

Were a Martian hack (him or her, again) confronted with a choice of lead story from either review this morning – even before either has been published, which would they choose? Would it be the UK’s incapacity to project air power to some far flung target for the next decade? Or is it the UK’s inability to house its own people at home? The former proposal is apparently not designed to remedy the latter.

So, what do we learn from today’s spin? There will be a decade long hiatus during which we shall immediately scrap an aircraft carrier that still has four years life in it and all the planes that can fly off it. We shall build two more, mothball or sell one, and have no planes to fly off either for 10 years. I’m no Defence expert, but it sounds odd to me.

We learn too that council houses for life are to end. Yet the council house itself has been on the wane for years ever since local authorities were encouraged to sell off their housing stock to their tenants. Although in making these changes there has been mention of freeing money to spend on house building, there has so far been neither spin nor leak as to how the current shortage of four million homes is to be addressed. Nor indeed has anyone reconciled how it is that we can build two near aircraft carriers, but have managed to build fewer houses that at anytime since 1924.

Is it “interesting times” that we live in, or just curious times?

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