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Tuesday 22 May 2012

Make My Day, Squire!

[Update at end of post]

The less than dynamic duo of the perpetually thirsty Paul Staines and his tame gofer, the flannelled fool Henry Cole, at the Guido Fawkes blog are feeling more than usually pleased with themselves this morning, as they have had word that the Tories’ Head of Press job may be about to be awarded to Susie Squire, former spinner at the so-called Taxpayers’ Alliance (TPA).

Susie Squire

Ms Squire is at present special advisor (SpAd) to Iain Duncan Smith at the DWP, and given this information, plus the amount of falsehood and misinformation that has routinely emerged from that Department during the Squire tenure, anyone who has engaged brain before pontificating might be wondering if the prospective appointment is really such a brilliant idea.

Why this might be is not hard to figure out, given some of the singularly unfortunate spin that has emanated from the DWP since Ms Squire went through the revolving door out of the TPA and into Government two years ago. The following December, FullFact noted the difficulty that the DWP was having proving statistical information, despite it being in possession of the full relevant dataset.

They concluded “This situation appears to suggest the Department is once again quoting selectively from the information on the number of people who have never had jobs”, and reported that there were “serious deficiencies” in the DWP procedure for releasing statistics. And things had not improved when FullFact examined a claim by both Mail and Sunday Times this month citing DWP figures.

The report, that the Glasgow suburb of Bridgeton had “nearly 9 out of 10 people” on some kind of benefit, was followed up with a call to the DWP, who claimed not to have released any information. And their own figures didn’t support the claim. So who span that one? And, while one might have thought the TPA rhetoric should have been left there, it has popped up at the DWP since Ms Squire’s arrival.

For instance, the Telegraph had the line spun to them that migrants were likely to be benefit cheats (that’s the C-word that Emma Boon of the TPA used to characterise folks on the Motability scheme when talking to the Mail). The actual figures showed otherwise. And the “scrounger” rhetoric coming out of the Department was roundly condemned by no less than six disability charities.

There is one common thread here: the spin is coming out of the department where Ms Squire is the SpAd to the Minister. It shows a lack of attention to detail, selective and – yes – dishonest use of figures, demonising of the vulnerable (a TPA speciality) and migrants, and above all an ignorance of the seriousness of it all. Anyone with that track record has the potential to be very dangerous indeed.

So go on, Tory Party, make my day and appoint her. Get some more popcorn in!

[UPDATE 1850 hours: James Forsyth at the Spectator has confirmed that Ms Squire has been awarded the CCHQ press role. His reasoning as to why this is A Very Good Thing is priceless: she "is highly thought of in Number 10 where she is credited with ramming home the party's advantage over Labour on welfare". Advantage? Er, hello James?!? It's been an utter shambles. No advantage has been gained.

Forsyth, to no surprise at all, does not dwell on any of the problems that the DWP appears to have had with its information release while Ms Squire was Duncan Smith's SpAd. But he does confirm that she will be doing the lobby briefings, which will give ample room for her to realise that smiling nicely while smearing opponents might work for the TPA, but might not be a good idea in Government. More popcorn!]


Anonymous said...

Er. I vaguely recall a peer-reviewed paper from a social sciences class (unsure which, it's been several years) that quoted figures for residents on benefits in conjunction with homicide rates, drug use and so on, in some attempt to integrate both social and economic data for Central Belt population centres, including different districts of Glasgow. That would, I guess, be a valid source, but out of date by almost a decadeat best. While Bridgeton has a number of problems, that's probably not the biggest.

Mr. Fenton, may I ask you a possibly ill-advised question?

Tim Fenton said...

The Hon. Commentnaut has the floor.

Anonymous said...

If blogging about factual miscellany, science or legal coverage in news media, would you see it as advisable to keep such entries completely divorced from more personal content, rather than simply tagged or categorised separately?

(I'm sorry if the format of this is messed up.)

Tim Fenton said...

I'm not at all sure what you're getting at here, so by all means come back if you wish.

Anonymous said...

I suppose I mean... you and Mr. Ireland both write about journalists and politically-active people who are being misleading, making clear your own views, and you each seem to take some **** for it, while Mr. Dale and Mr. Cole are, or have been, often making things about themselves rather than the topic in hand, and so seem to both invite personal attacks and betimes make them on others.

This kind of suggests, from here, that interspersing personal pieces (for example, about what happened at the weekend) with serious ones which may be either reflective or in need of a step back (for example, what some dight from the Heartland Institute thought would work on a billboard, and the extent to which the underlying arguments are supported by evidence) could cause some problems for the person writing, particularly where the more serious topic stirs strong reactions. I hoped you might express an opinion on that view.

The question's mainly down to lack of experience. :S