Village people: Spin doctor caught in his own web of debt words

At the party conferences
  • @andymcsmith

It must have been a bad moment for David Cameron's chief spin master, Craig Oliver, known affectionately to the hacks as "Crazy Olive", when he saw the headlines in yesterday's papers demanding "Pay off your credit cards for the sake of the economy".

It was based on what journalists had been briefed that the Prime Minister was going to say in his speech – a pearl of prime ministerial wisdom that coincided with new official figures showing household consumption down by 0.8 per cent in the second quarter of this year, and Tesco reporting weak sales. Retailers must have thought that David Cameron wanted to see them go bankrupt.

But no, it was all a "misinterpretation" of what his spinners had spun, claimed the spinners as they spun around the conference centre trying to undo the damage. When he delivered the speech, Mr Cameron actually said something quite different, stating a fact – "Households are paying down the credit card and the store card bills" – rather than an exhortation.

But the fact remains that on Tuesday, the spinners handed out extracts from the Prime Minister's forthcoming speech on which were the words: "The only way out of a debt crisis is to deal with your debts. That means households – all of us – paying off the credit card and store card bills."

Somehow, a team of highly paid advisers headed by Mr Oliver entered these words into a computer, printed them out and handed them round without spotting the obvious interpretation that would be put on them. It's enough to make you cry "Bring Back Andy Coulson".

The cat came back

It was expected that David Cameron would weave a joke about cats into yesterday's big speech. When it came, it was about as weak as a joke could be – "After yesterday, we should have a group reading of Mog the Cat" – but it was not as painful as the series of puns Baroness Warsi inflicted on her audience, in what may be her last conference speech in her capacity as party chairman. They included "paws for thought", "money in the kitty", "by a whisker" and "feline very good." Kindly leave the stage.

Eye of the Tiger

Highlights at the final night of karaoke at Manchester's Tiger included MP Grant Shapps singing "Summertime" by Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince – "all that hardcore dance that has gotten to be a little bit out of control" – and "Paradise by the Dashboard Light" by Meatloaf. The assembly of special advisers and young Tories were also remarkably up to speed with the lyrics to "Common People", by Pulp, below, and "I Predict a Riot" by Kaiser Chiefs.

Cheap sleep

While other Tories groan about the expense of a week in hotels in central Manchester, the Cabinet Office minister Oliver Letwin has saved a small fortune by staying at the Sports City Travelodge for £40 a night.

Train all a-twitter

Here is hoping that the Immigration Minister Damian Green – who played no small part in the flap over the Bolivian immigrant's cat – had a comfortable train journey home. On the way north earlier in the week, he had coffee spilt in his lap. Minutes later, he received a text from his daughter asking if he was all right, after someone in the carriage had tweeted about the mishap. Such is the speed of modern communications.