HE was, says The Economist, a man with an unfortunate reputation, denigrated by political foes abroad, and by democrats everywhere. The opposition's propaganda machine was unquestionably superior. But he did not help this situation. He remained implacably opposed to public communication as a way of explaining his cause and concealed the way decisions were made. The reason, we are told, was his 'aversion to vanity'. But the result was that the first studies of his rule were made by his enemies, who set the tone. Who is the magazine talking about here? Tung Chee-hwa, by any chance? No, not at all. As it happens, the subject is the much-maligned (but probably horrid) Philip II of Spain. However, we needed only to swap the word 'Protestants' for 'Democrats' and you were completely taken in. You were, weren't you? Admit it. The interesting thing about Philip is not that he backed the Spanish Inquisition, which goes a long way towards justifying his unenviable reputation. Nor is it that he was in heated competition with the English on the high seas and, on the empire-building front, with the Portuguese, although that helps explain the scale of the hate campaign against him. It is that he never told his side of the story. That is one reason it has taken 400 years for a few revisionist biographers to start rehabilitating him. Mr Tung is not about to let the same thing happen to him. Our great leader wants his rehabilitation now. Having endured a bad press in near-silence for the past 18 months, the Chief Executive has apparently decided his propaganda effort had better be corrected - and pretty sharpish too. Which is why he has created a post for the world's highest-paid spin doctor. The new Information Co-ordinator will want us media types to toe the line, or else! Well, do not expect the media to jump to it at once. Here at the Week Ending bunker, we have brought in supplies of turkey and Christmas pudding ready to hold out for several days at least against the coming onslaught. Which is possibly a bit premature, since the new man is unlikely to start work until well after Christmas. Still, it is the thought that counts. We wanted to make a gesture. Not that gestures will make a difference. But neither will mere spin-doctoring. Mr Tung's problem, like Philip of Spain's, is not just a matter of getting a good man in to present a favourable story. Wherever you stand on the hotly debated question of whether Stephen Lam Sui-lung is a good man for the job, you have to accept he is working with some fairly unpromising material. Notwithstanding the combined talents of his colleagues in the Government Information Service being at his disposal, the less than experienced Mr Lam will undoubtedly need to rely rather heavily on co-operation from the subject of his spinning if he is to achieve any worthwhile results. And there is the rub. Perhaps he could do some good work with ready media performers like Donald Tsang Yam-kuen. The Financial Secretary is not exactly gaffe-proof. Nor is he particularly gracious when the media give him a hard time. But he is at least open to the notion that public posturing works. Then there is the redoubtable Anson Chan Fang On-sang. The Chief Secretary feels the same way about the media as she does about meddling politicians, and she has had her fair share of bad press during her career. But she does not shrink from confrontation and nowadays manages to look impressive by dint of appearing to take the flak on Mr Tung's behalf. The fact that she deserves a fair bit of the flak herself does not seem to make any difference. She just appears to take charge because no one else has the gumption to do it. And in those circumstances, it does not matter what she does wrong. At least she does something. So why would she need an Information Co-ordinator, except to keep her under control and stop her upstaging the boss? (That might be useful, of course. It might help prolong her career.) But what can Mr Lam expect to do for Mr Tung? No doubt he will take a few handpicked journalists to lunch, browbeat them, give them privileged briefings, and keep the rest in the dark. BUT how often will he be able to wheel out the boss for our edification? Will he be able to persuade the Chief Executive to talk to legislators more often, cultivate contacts among the democrats, kiss babies? Will he persuade the Chief Executive to appear in public and explain himself clearly? To respond clearly, promptly and sometimes pre-emptively to the issues of the day, instead of waiting for Mrs Chan to take a lead? To lay the conveniently favourable facts on the table in a friendly and coherent manner. To resist the urge to dismiss abruptly questions on the abolition of the municipal councils? Will he, in short, persuade Mr Tung to lead from the front? Mr Tung has, apparently, already overcome his aversion to vanity. Otherwise, he would not have decided the time had come to get his propaganda department under control. He would simply have waited the requisite 400 years and left it to history to show he was right. But he will have to overcome a few other aversions if the new man is to do his job. The first to go should be his aversions to the Legislative Council and the media. There is nothing like getting your imagined or self-proclaimed enemies to find they can work with you, if you really want to spike their guns. But the most important aversion Mr Tung must overcome is his aversion to taking it on the chin. If he does that, he might even find he can dispense with Mr Lam's $180,000 a month services altogether - and do an even better job himself.