Alex Massie

From the annals of the “Special Relationship”...

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This is how a "No Spin" government works.

Douglas Alexander, Secretary of State for International Development and Gordon Brown's long-time Mini-Me, comes to Washington to bravely speak truth to power. Choosing a suitably establishment venue such as the Council on Foreign Relations, Mr Alexander tells the United States that:

"In the 20th century a country's might was too often measured in what they could destroy. In the 21st century strength should be measured by what we can build together. And so we must form new alliances, based on common values, ones not just to protect us from the world, but ones which reach out to the world."

And:

"We need to demonstrate by our deeds, words and our actions that we are internationalist, not isolationist, multilateralist, not unilateralist, active and not passive, and driven by core values, consistently applied, not special interests."

The US must be asked:

"to recognise the importance of a rules based international system".

Plus:

"Given the interconnected nature of the challenges we face, I would argue that we have to simultaneously be fighting to end poverty, to secure trade justice and to tackle conflict and climate change, as well as working to defeat terrorism and ensure the preservation of our security."

All this, of course, is designed for domestic consumption. No-one expects Mr Brown to have as close a relationship with the American President as Tony Blair did. Hence this deliberate poke in the eye. It is inconceivable such a speech was made without the new Prime Minister's express approval. (Even if one agrees with Mr Alexander's argument one might question whether it really needed to be delivered in such a public setting.)

That's just the warm-up act however. Iron Broon pops out of his bunker to tell us that, no, Wee Dougie didn't mean what he said and that everything is as it was before.

"I think people have got to remember that the relationship between Britain and America and between a British prime minister and an American president is built on the things that we share, the same enduring values about the importance of liberty, opportunity, the dignity of the individual," he told BBC Radio 5 Live.

"I will continue to work, as Tony Blair did, very closely with the American administration," he added.

Now of course this has the benefit of being, well, sort of true in one sense. The facts - or boots - on the ground can't help but make it so. But there we have it: a government minister makes a deliberately provocative speech to cause trouble in Washington and placate the masses back home so that the Prime Minister can then appear to smooth things over having been seen to have made his point. It's a subtle, indirect, yet typically under-handed approach. Create a "crisis" and then be seen to "solve" it by announcing that you'll visit Washington soon.

But you have to laugh when Brown says this:

"I thought the interpretation that was put on Douglas Alexander's words was quite extraordinary," he said.

"To interpret this as saying anything at all about our relationship with the US is nonsense."

So why did you approve the speech Gordon? Silly question...

A No Spin Zone indeed. It's manipulative nonsense like this that results in the press and public despising these people.

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Written byAlex Massie

Alex Massie is Scotland Editor of The Spectator. He also writes a column for The Times and is a regular contributor to the Scottish Daily Mail, The Scotsman and other publications.

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