We don't recognise these figures

or How to spin bad news

As a cynical old hack nothing raises my hackles more than the non-denial “We don’t recognise these figures….”. Because you can, without even crossing your fingers behind your back, say exactly that if the figure mentioned is 68.9% and you know the true amount is 70.1%. It sounds great but is utterly meaningless.

Its latest use, over whether trade to the EU has been slashed since Brexit is a reminder that the power of the Government to spin, delay, hide and smudge is almost limitless, so it is obvious how Brexit will play out. First there are the denials, nothing to see here. Then its, teething problems, nothing to see here it is already over. Then it will be throwing money and resources at the problem, nothing to see here we are fixing it. Then it will be, this has been going on for months, nothing to see here it isn’t new and anyway it is the EU’s fault.

If after all that the Government with its huge majority can’t resist calls for a public enquiry it couldn’t possibly start until Covid is over and will then take years. There will be endless delays as every man and his dog gets a say on what is written about them. Ministers and officials will have covered their backs with memos or fail to “recognise” conversations, doubt whether they were briefed in exactly that way and will have moved on to new jobs or even careers.

The report when it is ready will be delayed for months and then spun to death before it is made public. The media will need days to read it all but will have to report on it in minutes and by then the Government will claim to have implemented all its recommendations years ago.

Those expecting heads to roll are going to be sorely disappointed.