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Raymond Snoddy on Media: Jowell's Bravery Earns Her Booby Prize

Magazine article Marketing

Raymond Snoddy on Media: Jowell's Bravery Earns Her Booby Prize

Article excerpt

Tessa Jowell's succession to a splendid new job running the Olympics was a racing certainty. The name of the incoming home secretary may have been a surprise, but it didn't take a clairvoyant to realise that mere sacking was always going to be far too good for her as the ultimate Blair loyalist.

The back benches, or perhaps even a peerage, would have represented far too much easy repose; much better will be the gentle torture of five years on the treadmill, in the shape of having been asked to finish what she started in Singapore and bring the Olympics in on time and on budget ... ahem.

For the cognoscenti, there is the subtlety of allowing the former cabinet member to attend its meetings, to remind her of what she is missing. But the most useful thing of all about keeping Jowell on ice is, of course, that there is someone serious to blame and fire if the whole thing goes tits-up.

Did the rather smart James Purnell, secretary of state for culture, media and sport, specifically ask for such an appointment - and for that very reason? Prime Minister, he might have argued, such a course would allow me to deliver more fully on promoting UK creativity and sorting out British broadcasting. But surely this is far too cynical a view of someone who was head of corporate planning at John Birt's BBC; he couldn't possibly have thought of such a thing.

Purnell will have serious work to do over the next few years. He will be the person held ultimately responsible if the digital switch-over, due to roll out to London in 2012, means either blank screens during the Olympics or lots of crappy pictures. Come to think of it, perhaps Purnell wasn't so smart. The really astute thing would have been to make sure Jowell was persuaded to take responsibility for the digital switchover as well as the Olympics. Then, in the event of trouble, she could be blamed for both. Perhaps it's not too late - all that needs to be done is to move a few more civil servants to the Cabinet Office.

Since last week we have entered another era of change, but please, just a moment or two of self-indulgence for a small snippet of broadcasting history.

It is September 2001. Before turning up at the Royal Television Society's Cambridge convention, Jowell has been put in charge of returning any bodies from the terrorist attack in New York, although in the end there was little to do. …

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