Respect for the media plays no part in Labour’s communications policy

According to the Sunday Telegraph: ’Prince Charles is keen to learn the lessons from Labour’s image makers, such as Mr Mandelson’. If this is so, then our future king should temper his apparent post-Diana enthusiasm for them to help modernise the monarchy with caution.

According to the Sunday Telegraph: ’Prince Charles is keen to learn

the lessons from Labour’s image makers, such as Mr Mandelson’. If this

is so, then our future king should temper his apparent post-Diana

enthusiasm for them to help modernise the monarchy with caution.



I have just read Campaign 97, an account by Nick Jones, a BBC political

correspondent and one of my former Lobby adversaries, on how the general

election was won and lost. It is a valuable report on the run-up to and

ebb and flow of the campaign, and a courageous piece of work because it

takes the lid off Labour’s brutally cynical approach to

presentation.



I cannot pretend that, as No 10 chief press secretary, I had an 11-year

love-in with the political press during the 1980s. Lord Bill Deedes, who

was Harold Macmillan’s Minister in charge of presentation during the

1960s, said I was a thug, but a very necessary one. In fact, I believed

my relationship with journalists should be based on mutual respect. I

sought at all times to build a bridge between the Government and the

media and to keep it open. I knew I could not achieve all that unless I

represented the media’s point of view within Government and remained a

credible informant.



On Mr Jones’ testimony, I doubt whether any such considerations have

ever entered the consciousness of Peter Mandelson, No 10 press secretary

Alastair Campbell, Labour communicator David Hill and one Charlie

Whelan, an extraordinary lout who has attached himself to Gordon Brown,

to the Chancellor’s eternal discredit. They seem to have only one

operational principle: either play it our way, keep your nose clean and

don’t give us aggro, or else you’ll be bludgeoned and starved of news

into submission.



Mr Jones catalogues brazen media manipulation and the misleading of

journalists, systematic complaining about and ridiculing of news

judgment, bullying, harrying and selective leaking. He says that ’on

occasions’ Mr Campbell’s ’impudence’ left him ’speechless’. And he

records one memorable occasion when Messrs Mandelson, Campbell, Hill and

Whelan joined in a public ’torrent of abuse’ against him.



First, he says, Campbell was ’incandescent, verging on the incoherent,

as he went on and on’ about his news report on the Essex firemen’s

dispute during the election. Hill and Whelan joined in, ’jabbing their

fingers, denouncing me as a prat and a wanker, as Campbell continued his

tirade’.



And eventually Mandelson ’gave me a supercilious look ... and, with a

majestic sweep of his hand, tried to be as dismissive as he could about

my reporting’.



I dutifully warn Prince Charles that even now I can hear the press

trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored.



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