TV eye on spin doctor's art

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The Independent Online
A new fly-on-the wall documentary lays bare the Government's manipulation of the media, and explains how Labour's spin-doctoring helped the party win the election.

The programme, Out of the Shadows, looks set to make a star of Charlie Whelan, Gordon Brown's press chief, in the same way that The House, the behind-the-scenes expose of the Royal Opera House, brought Keith Cooper, director of public affairs, to notoriety.

The film trails the Chancellor and his aides in the run-up to the election. Mr Whelan, already an infamous figure in journalistic circles, is seen threatening a reporter with dire consequences if he doesn't run Labour's line on public spending; boasting how he won pounds 10 off Kenneth Clarke, then Chancellor of the Exchequer, who bet Harriet Harman would lose her job "for sending her kids to a posh school"; and justifying telling half-truths to journalists by saying "they'll all understand tomorrow and forgive me".

Mr Whelan's prominence in the programme as a spin-doctor par excellence is likely to cause controversy with Labour's chief media manipulator, Peter Mandelson, Minister without Portfolio, who appears only once in the film. Ross Wilson, Out of the Shadows producer and director, said Mr Mandelson had not seen the film, and added: "Mandelson just wasn't interested".

Mr Whelan said last night: "The film is about Gordon and his team, and the politics behind the scene, which Peter is not directly involved in ... I thought it a brilliant film. It was quite a risk Gordon took."

Rhoda MacDonald, the programme's executive producer, said the film which will be shown on ITV next Tuesday, originally aimed to show how Labour's economic policies were key to their election success, but that the party's relationship with the media began to dominate the documentary.