POST: Weekly UK Press Briefings Do NOT Equal Minitrue Propaganda

November 11, 2009

The headline on this afternoon’s Guardian online is that UK Business Secretary Lord Mandelson has been tipped by Prime Minister Gordon Brown as informal “Minister of Information,” a title and role that hasn’t been officially filled for years. A scoop seemingly not yet picked up by the Times or the Independent, the article sussed out the vagueness surrounding this quasi-appointment.

Once a bitter rival and opponent of Brown, Lord Peter Mandelson was brought back into the Cabinet in a reshuffle by the Prime Minister himself, who set aside previous differences, stating “Serious people are needed for serious times.” Even at that time and for years before it, Mandelson has been considered a master of show, a Labour “spin doctor” and “an expert at presentation,” something the Prime Minister severely lacks. Easily, I am no Mandelson supporter, and aside from his skills at rhetoric, have before expressed my disbelief of his bring brought back into government, and into such a prominent position as Business Secretary.



Mandelson is probably also confused over the connection.



However, what I will not accede to is the overblown and outrageous claims made connecting Mandelson new Minister of Information appointment with some kind of overarching Labour propaganda conspiracy. In the scoop article out of the Guardian, multiple options are being considered to “review the way Downing Street conducts media briefings in ‘an increasingly fast-moving and online media world’.” Since the tenure of Tony Blair, press briefings have been on-the-record, but not televised. One such option would be for Mandelson to implement his skill as a rhetorician in a monday weekly televised briefing on government affairs. Another would be for the PM’s spokesman to give daily briefings, akin to the daily briefs that come out of the White House or State Department in the US.

I think it is a welcome idea. I have long enjoyed the weekly televised Prime Minister’s Questions and wondered how and why I could not wrangle online versions of press briefings for the UK. No supporter of Mandelson himself, I still seriously think a simple Monday press briefing would be a far cry from blogger’s whines that it would be “‘Mandy’s fairytale hour” or a feeble attempt to pound into UK journalists the weak’s Labour government’s party line – journalists are smarter than that, and I can guarantee you they are not griping over any increased channels of information into any aspect or persona of the government.

So, in response to the 130+ comments on the Guardian scoop that poorly characterize this move as an establishment of a 1984-like “Minitrue” position in the form of Lord Mandelson, I would say “Calm down, take a deep breath” and watch a White House or State Department briefing. Far from being a bolster for the government, it’s often the perfect way for journalists to rip into them. Think about it.


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