The notorious comment, perhaps the most memorable instance of a government’s attempt to conceal an announcement, is often considered an example of spin at its worst. Alun Evans, the then director of communications in the Department of Transport, revisits the aftermath
Twenty years ago today seemed destined to be a relatively quiet news day. It was a Tuesday, and Tony Blair was in Brighton for the TUC conference where the political focus was on what he might say, but I, as the director of communications in the Department of Transport, Local Government and the Regions (DTLR), had no reason to think that my department’s responsibilities would loom large in any press reporting of the prime minister’s speech.
At lunchtime I was meeting a Times journalist in Covent Garden to update her on the work of the department. At about 2pm I got a phone message advising me to return to the department immediately because of an emerging incident in New York. I was in a taxi on the way back to the department when I was told that the second of the twin towers at the World Trade Centre had just been hit – at 9:03 New York time (14:03 London time). This was clearly a coordinated attack on the US.
Back in the department, I headed to the Private Office of the Secretary of State, Stephen Byers. I paused briefly at my office to tell my assistant to keep an eye on my emails as I would probably not be able to look at any for the rest of the day. I told him to forward any ones which looked important to the relevant officials and with that, in a pre-smartphone era, I left my emails behind for the day.