PETER MANDELSON, Alastair Campbell and Jo Moore - perhaps the three most infamous purveyors of government "spin" in the last decade.
The latter, of course, took her profession to new heights of cynicism by suggesting September 11, 2001, would be a good day for civil servants to bury bad news. An appalled nation made sure she paid for it with her job.
But you do not have to go as far as the halls of Westminster to see the art of news management and "spin" in action.
The Daily Post has used new rights under the Freedom of Information Act to find out exactly how much some local public bodies are spending on PR.
From major project failures such as the Fourth Grace and Everton FC at Kings Dock to delays in school renovation programmes, road works which will cause chaos to motorists or the annual bad news of a council tax hike - all will be subject to a PR strategy to minimise negative publicity.
We can reveal that across just a small sample of public bodies, including the five Merseyside local authorities, the bill for PR stands at more than £2.5m annually.
It ranges from Liverpool's spend of more than £700,000 to Sefton's still considerable £192,000.
The bill for the North West Development Agency is £190,000 and the Government News Network is a whopping £489,000.
In the five Mersey Town Halls, a total of 26 press offficers are employed to answer inquiries and generate positive coverage.
The overall cost would rise even further if the cost of PR for hospitals, primary care trusts, police and dozens of other public organisations was included.
So what are you getting for your money?
There is no doubt many press offices on Merseyside are a valuable source of facts and a great help to journalists in keeping the public informed. But their role is far more than a conduit of information - they are there to maximise positive coverage and minimise the negative.
A dictionary definition of spin reads "to twist and turn so as to give an intended interpretation" and in some circumstances then, is the truth not getting blurred?
One man who is certain it is is Liverpool Labour leader Joe Anderson, perhaps the most prominent critic of "spin" on Merseyside.
He believes much of the work is "pure propaganda" and is adamant the budget should be cut.
Cllr Anderson said: "In Liverpool the news centre may cost an annual £700,000 but the overall budget on publicity, when you include things like City magazine with its dozens of pictures of Lib Dem politicians is actually closer to £2.5m.
"When Labour left office in 1998, it was a total of £400,000 so that's a six-fold increase. I think people will be genuinely shocked to know how much is being spent on this propaganda.
"We have always said we would cut the budget for 'spin', especially when you have people waiting years for housing repairs, when old people's homes are being closed down and voluntary sector groups are having their funding cut.
"As far as I'm concerned, this 'spin' - and that's what it is - is a misuse of council funds to put out propaganda."
The Labour leader, who accepts that New Labour nationally has been at the root of much of the increase in "spin", believes the city should not need to rely on press officers to generate positive coverage: "If you deliver good quality services and conduct yourself in a way that is positive because of what you are doing in the city, then you will get good press coverage.
"I do not accept the news centre should be there to defend Liverpool. It should be there to promote the things we are doing yes but also provide value for money and to be honest about what we're doing."
The Labour leader's fears are shared by his Liberal counterpart Steve Radford.
He said: "Something is wrong when council officers cannot give answers without it going through the spin washing machine. What I see coming out of the council is flagrant political propaganda.
"It is an abuse of taxpayers' money. When we are cutting back funding to bodies like the Citizens' Advice Bureau yet there seems to be a limitless pot for press propaganda it is nothing less than immoral. I don't understand why the district auditor has not looked at it."
Council leader Mike Storey though is in doubt of the key role played by the news centre.
"The complaint has always been that there is a negative perception of the city which drives away investors and drives away jobs.
"I realised that one of the ways you change perception is not just by your actions but by showcasing your actions.
"Investment in the city is on the up and you get that through increasing confidence in the city. You help that by investing in your 'spin' or news machinery. If I had the money, I would double the amount we spend on it."
Cllr Storey said the previous situation was "dire" with little journalistic experience in the old PR dept.
"There were two people in there from the planning department and one lady who would not listen to the radio because it gave her a headache. I was appalled."
The £65,000-a-year head of Liverpool's news centre is also typically forthright in defending the role of his team.
Matt Finnegan is perhaps the closest the region has to the stereotypical image of a spin doctor, a man who routinely decides from his Dale Street bunker on whose desk and in which media outlet the latest council "exclusive" will land..
He said: "In the last year alone, the positive news stories we helped generate in print were worth £3.2m.
"We always try to quantify our output, in TV and radio the positive stories were worth £1.3m across outlets like Sky, BBC News 24, and the local stations.
"Our audience is more than 500 journalists and 160 different publications from the local media to the specialist cultural and regeneration press. Regeneration is the source of most of our positive stories, more even than culture.
"On the day we won Capital of Culture, the broadcast publicity was worth £4.3m alone and the print £650,000."
Every story written about Liverpool is rated by the news centre on a traffic light system with greens for positive, reds for negative and ambers for neutral.
Mr Finnegan said: "This year we've had coverage in the likes of the Washington Post and Time, even India Weekly. We've also welcomed journalists from Australia, Germany, Japan, Korea, Norway and Switzerland, providing them with information and pictures, setting up interviews and giving them briefings.
"Certainly, we are much more positive than just being a conduit of information. Our mission, if we have one, is to promote Liverpool as a premier European city.
"We will attempt to minimise negative and damaging publicity to the city but we will also be realistic - the positive insight has to be based on facts.
"We do accentuate the positive and make no apology for that. We will not allow journalists to trample on the city's reputation if we can. Too much of that was allowed to happen in the past."
Far from cutbacks, the communications chief believes the city will need to spend more on its PR.
"We live in a 21st century world of instant global communication and the council has to respond to it. What we spend is on a par with core cities but I fully expect it will have to increase. We will have hundreds of journalists arriving in the city in 2008 and someone will have to service them."
Dave Smithson is someone who can see both sides of the "spin" coin. He's not only deputy leader of the Liberal Democrats in Knowsley, which spent £262,000 on press and PR last year, but for 12 years has run his own PR firm, Newspin, which enjoys Club 18-30 as one of his clients.
Cllr Smithson, prospective parliamentary candidate for Knowsley South, said: "I think it's all about striking the right bal- ance. If you look at a private company it would normally expect to spend 1-1.5% of turnover in this area. For Knowsley, 1% of turn- over would be about £2m, so they are actually not spending that much.
"Of course, a council is not trying to persuade people to buy its brand. It is pretty much in a monopoly situation, but I think one of the key things is trying to communicate why complex decisions were made.
"People often criticise the council for not telling them what they are doing so there is a need for good professional communication."
Wirral's Labour council leader Steve Foulkes believes spending money on PR is actively encouraged by the Goverment.
He said: "We spend £200,000 a year which for an organisation with a £500m turnover looking after 330,000 residents' futures is not an awful lot.
"We know we have to smarten our act up in the run-up to the Open in 2006 which is a key opportunity for us to showcase the area and we are making a new communications appointment in this area. But we are not interested in spin, just straight-talking."
Where the money goes in the region to pay for favourable publicity
THE COST OF SPIN IN THE FINANCIAL YEAR 2003/4
LIVERPOOL CITY COUNCIL Total cost: £707,000 Staff: 8 posts in the newscentre with a total amount paid in salaries of £250,587.67 The highest earner was Assistant Executive Director (Media) whose role was advertised at a salary of £65,000.
External contracts: The council PR firm October Communications was paid £116,987 to co-ordinate an "integrated and proactive media strategy" for the City Centre Movement Strategy. October says the contract was worth £72,000.
WIRRAL BOROUGH COUNCIL Total cost: £200,540 Staff: Four full-time and two part-time press officers earning salaries totalling £135,000 .
The senior PR officer earned £30,595 - £32,847. The publications budget for press/PR team was £42,300. External contracts: IPB Communications was paid £23,240 for PR advice on housing stock transfer (government guidance is to seek specialist advice in this area).
SEFTON BOROUGH COUNCIL Total cost: £192,674 Staff: Five press officers with salaries totalling £163,943. Salary grades were scale 4, PO1 and Hay grade5. External contracts: None
KNOWSLEY BOROUGH COUNCIL Total cost: £263,060.52 Staff: Four full-time and one part-time press officers with salaries totalling £123,112. The highest earner was on a scale ranging from £25,245 - £27,420 a year. External contracts: A total of £47,373.34 was spent on external PR companies.
Kenyon Fraser received £1,750 for media training for officers and councillors and Reputation received £45,623.34 for "conducting a fundamental Best Value review of communications which resulted in a major restructure of the service." The company also provided six months interim management prior to the appointment of the Head of Communications.
ST HELENS Total cost: £262,289.84 Staff: Two full-time staff with salaries totalling £69,820. The highest paid member is paid on a salary grade of £36,147-39,348.
External contracts: Contracts worth £34,288.84 awarded externally. Beattie Communications was paid 6,872.34 for a PR for a recycling initiative within schools.
Creative Concern was paid £27,416.50 for PR work on the City Growth Strategy.
NORTH WEST DEVELOPMENT AGENCY Total cost: £190,055 Staff: Seven press and public relations staff were paid £109,078 in total. the head of PR salary range runs from £35,423 to £45,896. External contracts: Five awarded costing £80,977, mostly for "media relations". Creative Concern earned £37,880, Tamesis £32,511, O'Neill PR £2,000 and Spin Media £8,000. Christopher Moyle was paid £586 for media research.
LIVERPOOL VISION Total cost: £54,500 Staff: One engaged in PR and marketing activity
External contracts: October Communications paid £48,000 for range of communication services.
LIVERPOOL LAND DEVELOPMENT COMPANY Total cost: £64,053 plus other staff time Staff: Communications Manager allocates approximately 30% of working hours to PR and the Commercial Manager allocates 10%.
External contracts: Alexander Corporate Communications and Tamesis Business Communications employed on PR contracts worth £64,053.
GOVERNMENT NEWS NETWORK (North West) Total cost: £489,263 Staff: Employed 11 press and public relations staff and two support staff in the North West.
External contracts: None