enthusiasm for recasting the relationship between government, media and citizens in significant ways. Labour's obsession with controlling the media seems to reflect a concern to use newspapers, radio and television to address voters directly while bypassing parliament, the traditional, but increasingly defunct, forum for debates and the close scrutiny of government policy. In this newly reconstructed relationship and 'in a new media age, new forms of dialogue must be created. Focus groups and market research are an essential part of this dialogue. So too are interactive party broadcasts and “Town Hall” meetings at which politicians can be questioned and held to account' (Gould 1998:297-298). Labour, according to Mandelson, wishes to consult citizens about their policy preferences via 'plebiscites, focus groups, lobbies, citizen movements and the Internet'. It no longer seems necessary to debate policy in Parliament. What is required is 'a different style of politics' which is more responsive and more closely tuned to public choices and preferences (Guardian, 16 March 1998:8). It is these choices and preferences which should inform policy. But the government's judgement about the independence and autonomy of citizens' policy choices risks appearing naive if not disingenuous. The government's growing enthusiasm for news management and the publicly funded advertising of policy initiatives makes politicians influential in shaping the very choices of citizens which they claim are driving the policy process. Citizens' policy preferences are not constructed in a vacuum but rely on information and opinion provided by the news media which are increasingly subject to news management and spin by the GICS, the COI and the Number 10 press office. It is undoubtedly easier for the government to persuade scriptwriters to endorse the merits of new policy initiatives than it is to win the support of critical, well-informed and organised groups of backbenchers during a Commons debate. While governments prefer to present, debate and promote their policies via the media rather than in Parliament, EastEnders will continue to offer soft soap as well as soap opera to its 20 plus million viewers three times a week.