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The Independent Online
I'm Surprised that the spin-doctors, spinning away faster than ever at Blackpool and Bourne-mouth, seem to have accepted this name for their devious craft. It's not the spin that should worry them so much as the doctor, which I take to be the verb, "to doctor", rather than the noun favoured by Brian Maw-hinney, PhD. Putting on a spin is one thing; adjusting someone else's spin, or generally messing about with it, which is what the verb means, is altogether another - rather like the reverse of gilding the lily.

As for spin, sailors were "spinning yarns" to each other in Nelson's time, and could hardly be blamed for trying to shorten a tedious sea voyage by stretching the story. It must have been the landlubbers who borrowed the phrase to suggest that yarn-spinners were liars. But that was a different sort of spinning anyway. The spin, as practised at Westminster, has nothing to do with yarns of wool, nor with the webs spun by spiders. It comes from baseball - spin-doctor was first used in the States in the 1980s - though here we think of it more in terms of cricket. In either case, deception is the name of the game. The bowler (or pitcher) hopes the batsman (or batter) will forget that the balls he is delivering are not always the balls he seems to be delivering. Obviously, one doesn't want to take the parallel too far, but much the same may be said of the spin-assisted politician.

But at least the bowler is putting on his own spin, as we would expect politicians to do - we should never trust those who tell us how honest they are, by the way. Baldwin showed us this. It is the political equivalent of the googly. There is no equivalent in cricket of the political speechwriter.

Nicholas Bagnall