Labour and the press

I was one of the people who gasped with astonishment at Gordon Brown's evidence to the Leveson inquiry.

If anyone reading this believed a word he said, I have a really lucrative investment proposition to put to you regarding the Forth bridge ...

As a useful corrective, Jeremy Vine, who is now a radio presenter but used to be one of the BBC's frontline political correspondents, has brought out a book called "It's all news to me" which is being serialised in the Daily Mail.
It has some interesting reflectios on the way in which Alastair Campbell and Peter Mandelson treated the press:

"At any point, Peter would be involved in about 20 highly personal run-ins with political journalists... The BBC’s Nick Jones pointed out the way Alastair Campbell and Mandelson worked as a pair — the baseball bat and the stiletto. ‘If they don’t like your story, Campbell screams down the phone at you while Mandelson quietly goes to the Director-General,’ he said."

He summarised the personal style of Alastair Campbell with the words

"In a good mood, Alastair Campbell was fun; in a bad mood, he was Ivan the Terrible, Freddy Krueger and Chopper Harris all rolled into one."

Now, when considering the comments which Gordon Brown made to the Leveson inquiry, bear in mind that Gordon Brown's operatives, people like Damien McBride, made Alistair Campbell and Peter Mandelson look like models of fair-mindedness and restraint.

There is an interesting account in the book of  how Mandelson, while in opposition, managed to sabotage the then government's plans for a national commemoration of the 50th anniversary of D-Day.

"One day, he asked me what I thought of the Conservative government’s plan to lay on street parties to mark the 50th anniversary of D-Day. I said I didn’t have much of a clue. It all seemed pretty dull: though there were some fun events — like ‘spam-fritter frying contests’ — and fireworks in Hyde Park. Mandelson said that the Labour leader — then John Smith — had allowed him to ‘see if we can do something’ on the issue. Do something? What was there to do, Peter? ‘Aha,’ he said enigmatically.

Over the next few days the Government’s planning was torn to shreds. From the outside, no one could see fingerprints on the story, but suddenly the Conservatives were being lacerated for ‘trivialising’ the Normandy landings. Veterans’ organisations raged at the plan for street parties and fireworks; even the wartime megastar Dame Vera Lynn waded in to urge a boycott.

Soon, everyone was asking: how can a government be so cack-handed as to think a silly game with spam is the right way to mark D-Day? I watched every step of the story, agog at the way the different ingredients were shaken into the brew.

There were questions in the Commons. Polls that revealed the public felt the war dead were being disrespected. It didn’t matter that the spam contest was the idea of the Scottish Tourist Board and nothing whatsoever to do with John Major — the next report said he was in a ‘crisis meeting’ over the planning, and the Culture Secretary Peter Brooke was facing the sack.

How had Mandelson caused a multiple vehicle pile-up without ever being seen on the carriageway? My admiration increased."

Read more in the Daily Mail or buy the book. Hat tip to Tim Montgomery at Conservative Home for drawing my attention to it.


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