Its a serious question, which Conservative MEP, Dan Hannan has put on the agenda. A full blown effort by the No 10 bunker to 'spin' Gordon Brown's speech to the European Parliament as a triumph was demolished by the Internet. The 'spin' could work only if the mainstream media reported it to be a triumph - which it duly did. Gushy stuff, straight off the press releases. Not a peep about Hannan's response. Unfortunately for the 'spin machine' the Internet stepped in. Now we know the truth. The Prime Minister was reduced to laughing and chatting to others to hide his embarrassment. Rhodri Morgan always did this, whenever he was getting back a bit of what he likes dishing out. Same thing happened when Gordon Brown met Barack Obama. It was being reported that the two men got along like a house on fire. Almost love at first sight. We all believed it - until we saw a clip of the actual meeting on the Internet. No body language at all. Obama looked bored silly, with his feet jiggling about with impatience. It was the Internet that brought us the truth.
Unfortunately this tendency to make up the news is spreading. Earlier this week Mrs D started calling me Victor Meldrew. The insufferably giggly duo on breakfast television were rattling on about about how inflation had fallen to zero, and deflation was upon us. Despite the fall of RPI being significantly less than expected, and the more reliable CPI actually going up to 3.2%. Return of inflation was the story. But this would not have fitted in with No 10's press release about the desperate need for another fiscal stimulus. Inevitably, when the Internet started pointing this out, the BBC was forced to change its line.
Same sort of trends are affecting our Council's press offices. Powys Council (where I live) has a good press officer, but he's going to lose control over news management, unless there's a change of approach. "I'll get back to you" is no longer good enough. Conservative press supremo in Wales, Richard Hazlewood responds immediately. He knows that if he doesn't, somebody else will. There are going to be people like me, who have established information links, and will post stories on the Internet immediately - if we think they are in the public interest that is. That's how it should be.
First sign of change in Powys was a while ago when the Council discovered that dozens of its teachers had not been CRB checked. It was decided to keep this secret for a while for some reason - but next day it appeared on the BBC. The Council then wasted thousands trying to discover the identity of the whistle blower - who in my opinion deserved an award. This was a sign of things to come.
And now we have this cleaning lady named Edna Mopbucket who telephones me with all sorts of gossip. She even telephoned me this week about two officers "B***ink in the office". So happens that I'm only interested in what's in the public interest - so nothing like that gets posted. With 73 Councillors there is no chance of anything remaining secret. I've always worked on the theory if two others know, its as good as public. The only way to stop leaks is to not keep things secret. And our main stream news providers had better start giving it to us straight - and not just reporting faithfully what's written in the press release. And this is because of the Internet. Long live freedom of speech.