The prime minister’s spokesman Andrew MacDougall told HuffPost PCO tracks the coverage of their backbench MPs because they make announcements on behalf of the government all the time. “Of course the government wants to know what kind of coverage gets generated from those announcements,” he said.But the Cons' abuse of announcement opportunities is far from a new issue. So I'll simply point to my answer to similar issues surrounding past cheerleading sessions:
There's been plenty of debate about the protest which caused Joe Oliver to move a funding announcement. But I'd think there's a more fundamental question we should ask about the event, particularly when the indignant response of the event host was to the effect that "this is an important announcement!".Needless to say, if there's no public value in holding press events which serve as nothing but personal promotions for Con MPs, then surely there's even less value in spending even more public money to assess whether the media has sufficiently parroted the Cons' talking points. And the Cons only seem to be confirming that they've utterly given up on actual governance in favour of focusing solely on public appearances.
To wit: how exactly is it important for the Cons to be able to dictate that a public venue serve as a resistance-free backdrop for their PR efforts?
(W)e've all too often come to accept that it's the divine right of Cons to assemble a compliant media and no dissenters wherever they please (and at our expense) to deliver talking points. And I'm sure the lesson they'll take from Oliver's press conference is that they should crack down even further on anybody who might disagree with any of their policies.
But there's a more basic question worth asking as to how publicly-funded political propaganda fits with the need for genuinely free speech. And the answer may be that we shouldn't be so ready to see our money and civil service co-opted to PR stunts in the first place.