OPINION: The press must stand up to Campbell

This government is no different from any other in trying every

trick in the book to get journalists to report a war the way they want

it reported. But this campaign is quite different from previous wars

because it's not really a war at all.

During the opening period of the conflict, Britain fired a few missiles

from a submarine lying hundreds of miles from its target. Yet reading

the papers and watching the news you could be forgiven for thinking

we've had more troops involved than during World War II.

Because this isn't really a war, one of the first things Tony Blair had

to do was to invent an enemy. The fact the perpetrators of the appalling

11 September attacks were actually killed in the act is conveniently

forgotten and all is blamed on Osama bin Laden. The fact that we haven't

yet seen any hard evidence against bin Laden doesn't seem to matter.

Blair just tells us that the real evidence is secret because of

'national security' - and who can argue with that?

The most sinister thing about all this is that the Prime Minister's

spin-doctor, Alastair Campbell - who now frighteningly describes himself

as 'head of government communications' - has been trying to get the

broadcasters to report events just as he wants. In time-honored fashion

he briefed friendly journalists that he intended to 'read the riot act'

to TV bosses for daring to report civilian casualties from the bombing

of Afghanistan and for showing videos of bin Laden. This was ahead of a

meeting in Downing Street where it was reported TV bosses had been

summoned to meet Campbell. If I were a TV executive (never very likely,

I know), I would have sent the tea-lady to listen to his tirade.

The very fact that they all attended this meeting is bad enough, but

what's worse is that they reported a 'constructive discussion'. There

should have been no discussion at all. They should have just told

Campbell to get stuffed.

How can you talk to someone who puts it about that TV shouldn't show

video footage of bin Laden because he might be sending secret messages

to fellow terrorists? If that were the case, all he had to do was to

provide the evidence and the broadcasters would stop.

The Government thinks we are all stupid and shouldn't be allowed to hear

or see what this nutter has to say. Campbell has now got the media to

accept that they can't report where the Prime Minister is travelling to

- something that will now probably become the norm, thus ending all

plans for wonderful doorstep demos.

Even worse, he actually persuaded the Press Association to change a

story they had correctly reported that one of the PM's sons was

interested in a career in the army. Thank goodness the rest of the press

refused to be bullied by Campbell and reported that story. At least they

had the balls to tell Campbell to get stuffed.

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