How do you keep a secret? Or why Chris Leslie shouldn’t become an undercover detective

Imagine you have something you want to keep secret. You’re going to do something, and you don’t want anyone to know.

Chances are, you’ll take a look around and make sure there aren’t any  TV cameras pointed at you and rolling away live coverage to several channels. Perhaps the memory of politicians running into problems with comments caught on microphones come to mind, and you’ll take a good look around to ensure there aren’t any in the same room as you that might be used by a national radio station or two.

Then you’ll remember to check you’re alone. Don’t want to do your stealthy act in a room full of others, friends, enemies or passing tourists.

But imagine instead you go into a room filled with several hundred people, with a phalanx of journalists looking on and your every word being broadcast live on several TV and radio stations. What you are going to say is hardly “stealthy”, is it?

And yet, despite George Osborne getting up in Parliament and clearly announcing the plans to freeze income tax allowances for pensioners – words direct from his mouth to hundreds of MPs, the cream of the Westminster political reporting crop and millions of TV and radio listeners – Labour MP Chris Leslie has attacked him for making a “stealthy” change to income tax allowances “buried away on page 50 of the Budget”.

No Chris, it wasn’t buried away. It was said out loud, just a few feet away from you and hundreds of other MPs and broadcast live on national TV and radio. It was about as stealthy as the signposted secret bunker.

If you think that’s stealth, then please – never join the design team for a stealth fighter or become an undercover detective.

In the meantime, this sort of abuse of the word “stealthy” means it is one to file along side “ideological” and “send a signal” in the best never used pile.


Note: For a good post on the income tax allowances issue, see Mark Valladares – Budget 2012: Some Initial Thoughts.

* Mark Pack is Party President and is the editor of Liberal Democrat Newswire.

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  • Malcolm Todd 23rd Mar '12 - 3:19pm

    Well said.

  • Chris Leslie … was he the ex Blue Peter presenter who was a nughty boy?

  • Mark, you seem to have a knack of posting ‘non-stories’. Your penchant for the trivial and obscure ( like the ‘Vote Labour’ poster in a derelict town centre building; which wasn’t in the town centre) seems rather strange when so much of real importance is happening.

  • Nick (not Clegg) 24th Mar '12 - 11:22am

    When he got to that part of his speech the Chancellor lowered his voice, and he introduced the measure as a “simplification of the tax system ” (or words to that effect)

    As Nick Robinson commented on the BBC, one should always listen carefully when a Chancellor lowers his voice, because someone is about to get an unwelcome surprise.

    The Chancellor was clearly hoping that this measure would not receive a great deal of media attention, and was taken aback when it did.

  • Jason: I think it’s perfectly possible to be interested in both major stories and other ones too. It would be a rather dull and narrow world in which they only things it is seen to be appropriate to talk about are those grabbing the headlines that day. A mix is much better – and look back at, for example, my posts about the tax changes in the Budget in the last week to see that mix. But actually, I’m with George Orwell on the importance and power of political rhetoric – and hence I think the abuse of terms such as “stealth” to pretend something is secret when it isn’t does matter. That cheapens political debate and distracts from the substance and should be called out.

  • Richard Dean 24th Mar '12 - 11:34am

    Mark – not everyone will have been as alert as you were during the budget speech. The way George said it got people focussing on their preconceptions about how old people needed help and he was giving it by simplifying things for them. That was a classic magician’s mis-direction if ever there was one!

  • Mark PackMar 24 – 11:24 am……Jason: I think it’s perfectly possible to be interested in both major stories and other ones too. It would be a rather dull and narrow world in which they only things it is seen to be appropriate to talk about are those grabbing the headlines that day. A mix is much better…………..

    Mark, I apologise. Put like that I have to agree with you.

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