Published on 20 Apr 2009

In the Loop but out of touch

I went to see In the Loop last night, a romp around New Labour spin doctors. Thin plot, thin skeleton to hang some very funny jokes.

It’s a pity in a way, because it over simplifies the spin doctory. It isn’t all ‘attack dog’ and ‘filth’.

There is also a very sophisticated subjugation of truth, and capacity to get good material out too.

It gave us the Iraq War, it gave us the rumour that Gordon Brown was ‘psychologically flawed’ courtesy of a Blair era spinner, and much else.

But what is being missed in the post-Damian McBride (“despicable” emails – quote Ed Balls) furore is that the life of the spin doctor is vastly enhanced by the Westminster lobby system.

Andrew Thomas interviews Peter Capaldi, who stars as Malcolm Tucker in In The Loop. This interview contains language that some viewers may find offensive.

Every working day, and sometimes more often, journalists gather in a place we may not identify, at a time we may not mention, and listen to a Downing Street operative we may not name.

The true nature and content of these sessions is kept secret from readers, listeners and viewers alike.

Instead the spinning is dressed up in terms like ‘Whitehall sources’, Westminster sources’, ‘informed circles’, and the rest.

Two newspapers – the Independent and the Guardian – have both tried to smash the lobby system and failed.

For years the ‘lobby’ has known about Damian McBride as they knew about others before him, Tory and labour alike.

It sits uncomfortably in an age in which the media call for openness.

One can hope that the web will destroy the lobby. Before it does, we should all be prepared to call a halt.

Tweets by @jonsnowC4

4 reader comments

  1. Mike Hind says:

    It’s a refreshing aspect of C4 News that apparently so little of its content/analysis is based on lobby briefings. That’s the difference between lazy and agenda-setting journalism and the reason it’s the only source of televised news I trust.

    Please keep mentioning the lobby system. Every little helps.

  2. Tina Louise says:

    Fascinating insight into the mechanisms of news production, thank you.

    I agree entirely with Mike Hind and also find C4 News the only televised one that I trust.

  3. James I says:

    I’ve heard this assertion from Peter Wilby that the Graun and the Indie tried to keep out of the lobby and failed. In what way did they fail? did they have to go cap in hand back to the spin docs in order to get stories? Did they positively lose readership due to it?

  4. Oscar says:

    I agree entirely with you that spin has many forms other than the obvious “smears” of recent days. I especially admire the way this government and Blair’s have been able to refuse to answer any difficult questions at all when faced by the slightest probe by journalists. They are absolute masters of the “ah, but the real question is….” answer. Also, the annoying, but effective repetition of phrases such as “hard working families”, suggesting some affinity with some worthy bunch, covers the utterly dire straits they have created for the hard working. Their true constituency is the dependent.

    Does a journalist have to agree to avoid asking certain questions when interviewing the high and mighty on TV?
    It seems to me that some get away very lightly (e.g. Mandelson) while some are permanently interrupted and have liitle chance of completing an answer (e.g. Cameron).

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