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Labour spin doctor on rack over 11 September email

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A leading spin doctor for the Labour party is apparently fighting for her job after a leaked email saw her suggest that the US terrorist attacks would make useful news cover for embarrassing or controversy UK government decisions.

Jo Moore - a key political advisor to transport secretary Stephen Byers - sent the email to the department's head of information at 2.56pm, just under half an hour after the second plane ploughed into the World Trade Center. It read: "It's now a very good day to get out anything we want to bury. Council expenses?" - referring to plans for local authorities to set their own expense levels.

But it would seem that over-sensitivity following the US attacks has still not died down and Ms Moore has become the subject of fake righteous indignation by politicians and journalists alike.

A LibDem spokesman popped up on Radio 4's Today programme, accusing Ms Moore of reaching new depths. "How anybody could do that is just unbelievable," he said. "The rest of us were absolutely transfixed and horrified as we watched our television screens and that there was somebody in government working in public services thinking only about how to bury news is horrific. The public will not understand how people can have the mentality even to think this way."

The public may not, but he certainly does. Journalists have been the same - cries of outrage at how someone could do this when people were dying in the US. Well, it may be unpleasant but only with hindsight. When the email was set off, there was very little information about the crash and neither tower had collapsed.

If we want to be a little more honest with ourselves for a second, the first feeling of seeing the crashes were confusion, disbelief and exhilaration. The true horror of the situation only became apparent later on when the towers collapsed and it started to filter in what had happened.

A main job of politicians and journos is to keep their head while everyone loses theirs. Politicians need to make decisions and journos need to find out information. What Ms Moore did was perfectly logical and hardly a great surprise - it's a classic tactic to put out bad news when everyone's attention is elsewhere. If the planes hadn't been full of fuel, hadn't caused the towers to collapse - something she had no reason to know at the time - then would this email be held up as an example of a sick mind? No, it wouldn't.

And then there's the fact that this leak has clearly come from someone with an axe to grind. It is offensive to think that people will take advantage of others' suffering. But welcome to the real world. In fact we find it more offensive that politicians and journalists are cynically using people's sensitivity to the terrorist attacks to use as a smokescreen for their own machinations. ®

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