Dear George and Danny,
I trust you have been busy getting on with looking at the idea of ending charitable status for private schools, and so have not had time to reply to my letter on the subject posted here yesterday. No offence taken, and I will continue to ‘engage’ (Danny … you don’t need to say it in every sentence of every interview, one in ten will do) in the debate on the process of cuts consultation you have launched.
May I also wish you well in seeking to reconcile what now appear to the diametrically opposed Con/Lib positions on student financing with George’s boys seeing students as a burden on the taxpayer (copyright D Willetts) and D Alexander, N Clegg etc having garnered many of their votes with a pledge to oppose tuition fees rather than raise them. Oh dear, it could start to get very tricky inside that Treasury boiler-room.
Anyway, nil desperandum, onwards and upwards, and I have another one for you to help you along.
No longer having access to those bright young things at the Treasury, I cannot claim to have all the figures at my fingertips, but I reckon you could save a lot of money by doing something I tried to do but failed – namely implementing proper centralisation of communications and advertising budgets.
Now you may think I was a control freak, and you may even believe the claims put around by my opponents that I gripped the Whitehall machine with a fist of iron. You might be right on the first bit, but wrong (in some respects at least) on the second.
Every now and then someone would run a story about all the money being spent on advertising and comms, and it would all be laid at my door, for the obvious reason that George’s party and most of the papers liked it that way.
But twixt me and you, I was as hacked off as anyone at some of the sums being spent on campaigns that frankly either didn’t strike me as worth doing or, if they were, lacked the effectiveness to justify the budget.
There was of course a Central Office of Information but frankly departments tended to do pretty much what they wanted. I tried of course, but you know, there are only so many hours in the day, and so many fights you can fight.
Of course many of the campaigns are needed … one thinks of pubic health information campaigns, or public sector recruitment (not that there will be much of that) … but quite a few are not. So spare us too many glossy telly ads explaining what you’re up to. However, IMHO (ask your kids George, Danny’s are still too young) real savings in this area will only be made by the kind of centralisation I was often accused of but never quite managed.
So you guys agree what you think is a reasonable budget for comms and advertising, place it somewhere central with your own person in there with the right mix of political, policy and comms judgement, and then make departments bid from within it according to what they believe their needs to be. Job done. All in the spitir of consultation too. But never forget – to quote that gripping tale of politcal derring-do penned by Norman Fowler – MINISTERS DECIDE.
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