First off. From the DoE Press Office:
Oh dear. Neither oblique confession, nor throwaway line of complacency, nor desperate plea for information. Nope, this wasn’t an honest, searching question stirring from the heart of the Department for the Environment.
Instead the DoE Perm Sec was waxing polite about an exhibition that explores “the links between our actions and how they affect biodiversity here and across the world”.
Obviously, you get a well rounded, considered, generous, sympathetic view from government on green issues. Not departments doing a Big Yellow Taxi job over ancient woodland. Or a Minister dismissing opinions from environmental lobbyists as belonging to the politics of the past.
So to recap:
Next up. The DHSSPSNI Press Office. Today the Belfast Telegraph states on its front page lead that ‘Patients [are] scared to go to hospital’. For his part, the Health Minister is saying that Robinson’s budget will lead to Thatcherite cuts.
So in its wisdom, the Health Press Office published a statement with this headline:
Minor handling issue: in the present climate it’s not a good idea to put the word ‘cut’ near proper nouns like ‘Health Minister’.
Staff at Bobballs enjoyed the Telegraph’s coverage on the health budget. Good, rounded, balanced stuff. The Chief Medical Officer isn’t best pleased with the budget. Equally the BMA’s Chief isn’t happy with the health minister.
The Health Minister may very well want to talk budget at every opportunity. But this is the kind of tragic story that saw Mary Harney humiliated so often. His budget consultation stuff is useful politics but it’s a diversion from the job at hand.
For example, the full list of press releases is fine. Great media work. But when the BMA refers to an ‘unacceptable level of service for patients’; ‘wasting what we have’; and how ‘we cannot afford the luxury of stationary politics’ it points at the very least to failures in stakeholder communications. At the very worst, decision-making is veering between short term on the non-descript, to non-existent on the essentials.
Ex-Tele editor Ed Curran talked excitedly about potential for the Health Minister’s resignation in a recent column. Now news editor Nigel Gould shows that he will put front pages into the budget story and devote plenty of inside pages to health. The Bel Tel are clearly positioning to run hard on health. Fortunately for the Health Minister they haven’t quite made up their mind about him in the way they did about Junior.
The consultation period on the draft budget ends in January. No one knows how the politics shake out. Stakeholders should be getting lined up to endorse the departmental line, not challenge it prior to big decision day. Can the BMA be won over?