Turn up the spin: how politics works

Spin dial

Imagine you run BAA. You quite want a runway at your airport, but no one else does. Your runway will require a whole village to be flattened, including three schools, a graveyard and 750 houses. Building the runway will make it very difficult to meet our climate change targets. But you really, really want the runway, because then you'll make loads of cash. What do you do?

Simple - you hire lots of ex-Labour apparatchiks to work at your company, and use their contacts ruthlessly. Meanwhile your mates in government hire a whole bunch of your ex-employees, until you've created one big incestuous family and blurred the lines between your company and the people who run the country. Sorted!

As the latest expose in the Sunday Times reveals, this is exactly what BAA did. Through a network of front groups, they built up a network of former Ministers and Peers, hiring any ex-Labourite who'd let them. The corruption stated at the Cabinet, and worked its way down: former energy Minister Brian Wilson left the inner circle to head up Flying Matters, the world's most useless lobby group. He replaced former head of the CBI Digby Jones, who tottered off to become an unelected Minister.

Lord Soley, former head of the Parliamentary Labour Party, now heads up Future Heathrow, another pro-expansion lobby group. Future Heathrow replaced Freedom to Fly, headed up by Labour Peer Brenda Dean. Freedom to Fly's director, Jo Urwin, now works in Downing Street as a special advisor on trade unions. Rest assured, these lobbyists use their connections: earlier this year, during the consultation on a third runway at Heathrow, Future Heathrow held a reception in a dining room at the Commons to lobby MPs about the benefits.

Further down the food chain, Tom Kelly (the Blairite spin doctor who slagged David Kelly off after he committed suicide over the Iraq war) works at BAA as public affairs director last year. He claimed he wasn't hired for his contacts, showing either a remarkable sense of delusion or sarcasm.

So there we have it - a step-by-step guide to bulldozing public opinion. With a government like this, it's a wonder more people aren't resorting to direct action...