We must do less spinning and be more humble, says Short

By Nigel Morris,Ben Russell
Saturday 22 February 2014 03:55
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Clare Short called on the Government yesterday to be less reliant on spin and presentation as Tony Blair's new team of ministers prepared to take up their jobs.

With Whitehall braced for a massive shake-up, the reappointed Secretary of State for International Development urged a greater emphasis on delivery. She said the last Government had much to be proud of, but signalled her frustration that it had concentrated too heavily on how its achievements were presented. Ms Short said: "The record was good, but a lot of the style was offputting for people. That's the thing that needs changing."

Asked on BBC Radio 4 whether the Government should be more humble, she said: "One can overdo humility, but I think it's arrogance, and over-spin and over-presentation that gets on the nerves of the country. I think people want us to get on and be more straight-forward, rather than humble."

Ms Short's comments echoed her previous warnings before the 1997 election about the "men in the dark" responsible for selling Labour's message, and reflect fears on the left of the party that part of the reason for last week's collapse in turn-out was cynicism about Labour's addiction to spin.

The message was underlined by David Blunkett, the Home Secretary, who told BBC Radio 4: "The second term is always different because you can't keep on blaming what you inherited.

"So you have the challenge of delivery, and you have the opportunity of reshaping the relationship between the governed and governing... to address what the causes of the low turn-out were."

Ministers took to the airwaves to underline their determination to hit the ground running. But there were concerns that the upheaval, which sees almost every department reshaped, would divert attention from attempts to live up to expectations on public services.

The frenzy of activity came as Mr Blair spent the weekend putting the finishing touches to the reshuffle of his ministerial line-up. Most attention will focus on the identity of the new minister for Europe to replace Keith Vaz, who looks certain to be dropped. A strong candidate is Lord Falconer of Thoroton, currently a Cabinet Office minister.

Lord Macdonald of Tradeston is widely expected to be given a new post at the Cabinet Office, taking charge of a public services "delivery unit". Ministers tipped for promotion include Baroness Scotland, a Foreign Office minister, Yvette Cooper, the Public Health minister, and Alan Johnson, a Trade and Industry minister.

Among possible newcomers are Ruth Kelly, the MP for Bolton West, Stephen Twigg, the MP for Enfield Southgate, and Phil Woolas, the MP for Oldham East and Saddleworth, and the former Tory minister Shaun Woodward.

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