Gurus spin a line in the future imperfect

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The Independent Online
By the time Gordon Brown rose to his feet yesterday, the Labour Party had already issued its attack on the Tories' attack on the contents of his speech.

In the fevered world of pre-election politics, everything happens at least 24 hours in advance. By the time a big event such as a set-piece speech comes round, it has been in all the newspapers. As often as not, other political parties have already spoken out against it and the party making the announcement has come back with its own reaction to the reactions.

Readers of yesterday's Independent, for example, will have seen some sizeable chunks of Mr Brown's speech published verbatim on the front page.

Even though the shadow Chancellor was not due to speak until yesterday, his spin-doctors had already fed a "line" on his tough stance on public- sector pay to the Sunday newspapers.

Lest the daily papers should feel left out, the news about Labour's public- sector spending freeze was then given to them for Monday morning.

By Monday morning, therefore, much of that day's speech was public knowledge. So when Mr Brown spoke on Radio Four's Today programme, he had to have yet another announcement to make in order to keep the broadcasters happy. He opted for the revelation - already widely trailed but not previously confirmed - that Labour has dropped its proposal to impose a 50 per cent top rate of tax on people earning more than pounds 100,000.

Now the party's spin-doctors must find something else for Mr Brown to announce next week, and the week after. There is still plenty to say, of course - full details of the party's tax plans are still to be seen, for example. But with a whole series of major speeches scheduled for the next few weeks, they are bound to have their work cut out.