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Wednesday, 17 October, 2001, 12:06 GMT 13:06 UK
Why sorry may not be enough
Labour spin doctor Jo Moore
Moore continues to hang on
Nick Assinder

If Jo Moore thinks the carefully orchestrated public apology for sending her now notorious e-mail has saved her job she should probably think again.

Like many spin doctors before her - notably Charlie Whelan and Peter Mandelson - she has few friends in Whitehall, the government or the press corps.

If you are seen to have made a career out of bullying or even misleading and dissembling, then it should come as no surprise when, in times of trouble, you find yourself standing alone.

And she must realise that many of her detractors viewed her contrite public performance as just another piece of spin.

What continues to astonish observers, however, is the fact that she has held on this long.

Comfortable job

Within minutes of her infamous email (sent as the twin towers burned and suggesting it was a good time to "bury" bad news) being made public, MPs and others opened a book on when she would quit.

Transport secretary Stephen Byers
Byers under threat
And the overwhelming view was that she would be gone by tea time. A lot of money was lost that day.

The bet has now changed. Most still believe that, despite her apology, she will eventually go and that it is a matter of when rather than if.

The speculation is that she is only holding on until she can be found a comfortable job somewhere in the private sector.

Ms Moore has been at the heart of Labour's spin machine for almost a decade and knows where many of the skeletons are buried.

The last thing the government wants now is a "quit-and-tell" book

Baffled MPs

So the new gamble in Westminster is concentrated on whether, when she finally goes, she will take her boss down with her.

Stephen Byers' refusal to sack her has baffled not only opposition MPs and the press but even his own party's MPs.

The prime minister has publicly distanced himself from his minister and friend.

He has also let it be known that it is Mr Byer's judgement that is now the issue.

Prime Minister Tony Blair
Blair's judgement under question
Many Labour MPs, led by father of the House Tam Dalyell believe, however, that it is now a matter of Mr Blair's judgement.

What they want is for the prime minister to order Mr Byers to sack Ms Moore.

Ever since the last election, Downing Street has been insisting that "spin is dead". Mandelson and Whelan have gone and even Tony Blair's alter ego, Alastair Campbell, has retreated to the shadows.

The cynics in Westminster have always seen that as just another piece of spin. And they are now looking for concrete evidence that the prime minister means what he says.

But Tony Blair is now in a hugely difficult dilemma of his own making.

If he had ordered Ms Moore's immediate sacking the affair would probably have been short lived

By delaying what most see as the inevitable, he has not only called Mr Byers' judgement into question but also raised a question mark over his own.

See also:

17 Oct 01 | UK Politics
Spin doctor should quit - colleague
09 Oct 01 | UK Politics
The nature of the beast
13 Mar 01 | UK Politics
Spinning out of control
15 Oct 01 | UK Politics
Byers let off the hook?
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