Putting the postman into a first class spin

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The great drawback for people who have been high-flying spin doctors in the past is that it is difficult for anyone to believe what they say in the future.

This problem now faces the arch-spin doctor Lord Mandelson and Alastair Campbell, who acted in this capacity for Tony Blair when he was Prime Minister.

They both say they went to see Alan Johnson, the former Home Secretary, but Mandelson strenuously denied they tried to persuade him to stand against Ed Miliband and thus lead Labour into the next general election. But do we believe them?

Mandelson said, somewhat lamely: “As he is a good friend of mine, we talked about the press frenzy going on at the time and he said it was all nonsense.

End of conversation. End of story.” A typical spin doctor’s remark.

Mandelson also said, equally unconvincingly, that he talked with Johnson about the city of Hull where they both have interests.

The Labour Party admitted the conversations took place but denied there was any kind of leadership aspect to them.

It is like the boy who cried “wolf” once too often, and no one subsequently believed him. Voters will take all this with a vast pinch of salt.

Michael Cockerell’s splendid TV documentary about the House of Commons demonstrated one thing loud and clear: MPs should stop whinging.

They should be grateful that they work in a building, steeped in history, which many office workers would give their right arms for. It is depicted by some MPs as being like a boys’ public school, a gentleman’s club, and woman-hostile.

This is balderdash, as I well know, having worked there for half a century

And they scoff at the fact that the ribbons used for members in the past to hang their swords on still remain. Why such contempt? Isn’t it a good thing that relics of the past are maintained?

Some would get rid of the many ancient traditions of Westminster, but the place works remarkably well as things are.

Incidentally, Westminster is not, as it is commonly described, the “mother of all Parliaments”.

It was John Bright, the Liberal statesman, who coined the phrase in 1865: “England is the mother of all Parliaments.”

Which, of course, makes a lot more sense.