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Continuing double standards in the media

Posted on 11 October 2009 | 11:10am

As I am interviewing Bertie Ahern at the Cheltenham Festival later today, I thought I’d catch him on the Marr programme to see whether he was in suit and tie or smart casual, and thereby get my dress code guidance. This is after all the man who when chairing an international summit wore the most extraordinary gold trousers which took even George Bush’s breath away.

Anyway today he was smart and sober in suit and tie and now I’m on my way. Before he came on I caught a bit of the paper review where Marr and his media guests made the point that the press mood surrounding the Tories was changing, that they were coming under greater scrutiny.

You could have fooled me. Let me give you a few examples of stories which, if they were about Labour, either now or when we were in Opposition, would be raging across the airwaves and filling pages of what we used to call the Sunday paper ‘gropes’, big background pieces. First, Boris Johnson’s attempts to give the woefully unqualified Veronica Wadley an important arts job.

Beyond editing a paper which has an arts section, it is difficult to see why she is suited to the post, set against other serious and talented contenders.  It is equally difficult to escape the conclusion that this is appointment based not on merit but on the help her pro-Boris anti-Ken coverage in The Evening Standard gave to the clown when he was running for Mayor. His threat now not to fill the position until what he assumes to be a change of government, so that a Tory chum can wave the appointment through, reveals the kind of arrogance we may grow more familiar with from the Bullingdon-Bollinger classes. But is this scandal raging across our media, as any suggestion of Ken Livingstone nepotism or cronyism used to? Is it hell.

Second, yesterday’s story in The Guardian that Gideon Osborne, the shadow chancellor who would like to be called George, had got his sums all wrong when he made up his pensions policy in the car on the way to conference. How wrong? Oh, just three billion. So this man, widely lauded throughout the press in the past week, for having set out tough choices (when in fact he barely covered a fraction of the black hole he claims to exist in this awful economy he claims to be on the point of inheriting) in fact got his sums wrong on the most basic calculations he was making. All over the Sunday papers? Er, no.

And third, the row over Cameron’s links to far right politicians in Europe, whose company and politics he prefers to those of mainstream and powerful leaders of the right like Angela Merkel and Nicolas Sarkozy. To be fair to The Observer they are continuing to drive at this one and long may they continue to do so. But what about the rest of the media? Think back to the outrage and the fury when some on the Labour left met far left leaders or apologists for IRA violence, for example. This, to me, is the equivalent.

But it is worse, because it is the leadership, a wannabee Prime Minister and his would-be foreign secretary William Hague, who are getting into bed with people they should be having nothing to do with. David Miliband is doing a good job on this. But the Tories having pretty much ended bipartisanship on foreign policy – indeed Hague as leader, grossly irresponsibly, came close to doing so on Northern Ireland at times – David should get even more political. Get out some notepaper and write to every major leader in the world to warn them what to expect if this lot get voted back in. If our media won’t pick it up properly now, they might if it becomes an issue in Washington, Beijing, Paris, Berlin. The fact that commentators think the Tories are now coming under greater media pressure and scrutiny merely underlines the point I’ve long been making about double standards.

  • john

    When asked to comment on Mr Campbells accusation of media double standards a spokesman said ‘Dr David Kelly is unavailable for comment’

  • Simon

    That Gideon stuff is just unpleasant. No doubt a taste of things to come as you get more and more desperate.

  • Marco

    Are these the same rigorous media standards which applied to the investigation of the one million pound bribe given to your Labour Party by F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone just before the 1997 election campaign and which immediately after the election lead to the dropping of the part of your Party’s manifesto which offended him ? Truth is your Party got away with it for eight years and was far more leniently treated by the media than any Party in the modern era before, or since. Furthermore, I don’t wish to descend to the general sneering level of your blog, but I would remind you (reference George Osborne), that Mr Blair was routinely called Tony by you and the media, despite the fact that his name is actually the somewhat more patrician Anthony.
    Be more sensible, Mr Campbell.

  • James

    I’m incredulous at the hypocrisy of this piece. Let’s take your points one by one.

    Boris tries to appoint a crony: Can you name one Quango that ISN’T stuffed with Labour cronies? To take one example, what qualification does Dame Suzi Leather have to chair the Charity Commission beyond being a Labour supporter? (Then’s there’s Chris Smith, Trevor Phillips, Lord Triesman and the rest of the professional Labour quangocrats)

    Osborne’s error: Um the reason the press gave Osborne’s speech good coverage is that he at least attempted to tackle the single biggest issue in British politics – how to pay down the almighty debt bequethed by your party. Not one Minister at your conference even mentioned the problem – which is truly outrageous. In any case the £3 billion “mistake” came about because Osborne included inflation in his assumption while the think-tank that made the original calculation didn’t. Hardly earth-shattering.

    Tories new Euro-mates: I agree that the Tories were daft to leave the main Conservative EU group. However, allying with a few dodgy East Europeans is hardly comparable to, say, allying with the most sinister US regime in modern history to invade two Middle Eastern countries and kill hundreds of thousands of people….

    Desperate, desperate stuff…

  • Carly

    Campbell you have completely lost the plot. The Tories teaming up with non federalist East European political part is in no way comparable to Labour MP’s sympathy and links to the IRA. IRA were murdering British citizens. You really need to get a grip, Britain is eurosceptic and this is a non story. As for Boris well he’s teflon Boris and very popular with the people more so than anyone in Labour at the moment. BTW good to see ICM poll in the NOTW showing Tories with 19 point lead, if repeated at the election would produce 170 majority. Roll on May 2010, when Tories are rightly returned to power as the natural party of government. I am personally looking forward to the implementation of their ‘fair votes’ policy which will bring to an end the bias towards Labour in the electoral system. Thus making it harder for Labour to ever win an election again, happy days are on the way!

  • Charlie S

    Am enjoying the return of some good old fashioned tory bashing on here, and loving some of the responses. They hate it up em

  • Paul Mallon

    Good to see Miliband getting stuck in on the Tories’ euro friends. You are absolutely rightt to make the contrast you do – when Labour people mix wth types deemed kffensive by the majrity, we ne ver hear the end of it. I agree with Miliband that these people have noplace at a british party confdrence

  • Brian Hughes

    Unless it concerns a war involving our troops or an alleged draconian imposition by the Unelected Bureaucrats of Brussels, most of the Great British Media doesn’t really do foreign. Arts and finance are also a bit beyond its normal celebrity-orientated scope.

    Enjoy your trip to Cheltenham, alas there’s fine misty drizzle enveloping the town at present – it’s making me almost as gloomy as the opinion polls! I hope you’ve chosen the colour of your pants with your customary care…

  • Zelo Street

    Bullingdon Club and Bollinger? You jest, Big Al. A Buller Man wouldn’t go near Bollinger. For a Buller Man, the preferred tipple for working oneself into a state of advanced alcoholic derangement is Dom Perignom.

    The Boris story has been picked up by Dave Hill’s London Blog, so it’s likely to be on the Guardian’s radar, as is the slip by the Rt Hon Gideon George Oliver Osborne, heir to the seventeenth Baronet, over his tax balancing (main headline in yesterday’s edition).

    Also picked up on by the Guardian, and I’m sure you will have something to say about them, is the so-called Taxpayers’ Alliance, increasingly influential for the Tories, and whose funding has grown from 67.5k in 2005 to over a million. The stream of stories they put out, painting Government – any Government, national or local – as “wasting money” and/or being too big – are printed verbatim by newspapers like the Mail and Sun, and even by so-called leading bloggers on the right.

    Finally, good to see your blog is getting to the right wing froth merchants. You know you’re getting it right when one of them whines “non story”.

  • ollie

    I just have to laugh at the irony of Campbell’s article.

    How can anyone take seriously what he says about this subject? Is Campbell now trying to re-invent himself as Mother Theresa?

    To hear him whine about double standards in the media is utterly breathtaking.

    If this is the sum total of Labour’s attacks on the Tories, then they deserve a very long time in opposition.

  • barbar of Oz

    Three days went by after Cameron’s speech without a co-ordinated excoriating attack from the government.

    Consequently the main story for the weekend is GB’s eyesight! Pathetic. What is going on? Or are election campaigns conducted differently here than in Australia?

    AC, no point whingeing about the media’s coverage if you guys are incapable of giving them a story.

  • Alan Quinn

    Why is it that the majority of people who come on here to have a go at you Alastair never use their real name?

    Keep up the good work showing up the tories for what they are.

  • Alan Quinn

    Good news in the Observer today, the Ashes are to return to free to air TV in 2013, that won’t please the Murdochs as Sky paid £300m for the last series. Never mind it could get worse for them if all England football matches were to follow if Labour has the bottle to do it.

  • Darryl

    As ususal the usual predictable sniping from the right wing idiots, I agree the government needs to be more focused on attacking the tories Although difficult with the biased (even bbc) media. The polls are closer than people think (soft tory lead) and they need 117 seats and record swing to get a majority! keep upo the good work alistair.

  • Simon Gittins

    Wouldn’t you be better off spending a bit less time whining about the media and focus slightly more on why this governement and the Labour party are so unpopular.
    There is a reason why you are getting slaughtered in every opinion poll and why you will be demolished at the next election and it has very little to do with the media.
    Start looking a bit closer to home, years of deceit, lies, incompetence, and waste may have something to do with it !!
    You continue blaming everyone else but yourselves and see what happens when GB finally has the guts to call an election (fortunately he has no choice in this one).

  • Just Sayin.

    . . . John Campbell, who would like to be called Alastair . . .
    Ha! Nailed him!

  • olli issakainen

    I have noticed a remarkable change in the British media recently, when it comes to the attitudes towards the Tories. And no wonder! After Dave made the colossal mistake of attacking Big Goverment and blaming the government for the financial crisis, eyes have started to open among journalists and columnists. And not just among the Left.
    It is now obvious to all that the Tories are incompetent on the economy. They cannot be trusted to govern Britain. Their policies would ruin the recovery. Higher taxes, cuts in benefits and public-sector pay freeze would put Britain in even deeper crisis. The Tories have no policies for growth.
    And if anyone still believes it is all the government´s fault, please read the Will Hutton´s column in today´s (11.10) the Observer. He ends by saying that Labour still has a winning argument to make.

  • Just Sayin\’

    “Think back to the outrage and the fury when some on the Labour left met far left leaders or apologists for IRA violence, for example. This, to me, is the equivalent.”

    The equivalent? So the Latvians and the Poles are bombing us in the streets and trying to kill the Prime Minister? Why haven’t I read about this?
    It must be those Downing Street spin doctors keeping it out of the papers.

  • Just Sayin\’

    Alan Quinn
    “Why is it that the majority of people who come on here to have a go at you Alastair never use their real name?”

    Because people think that the basic ground rules for an Alastair Campbell blog must be that you have to make things up.
    And because they don’t want Alastair (or John as he is really called) twisting their names round – a la George Osborne – for so-called political/satirical/ineffectual effect.

    Oh, and by the way, we have no proof whatsoever that Alan Quinn is your real name. And plenty of evidence to the contrary.

  • Maureen Harper

    Just had a great day at Cheltenham and I must say your events were the highlight. I came to your interview with Bertie Ahern and it was a real pleasure, the right mix of lighthearted and heavy, and you clearly get along really well. I could see a touch of the Michael Parkinsons in you there!Then to you being interviewed by Kirsty Lang, who seems really nice, and you could hear a pin drop when you were talking about mental illness. I was the one who asked you to sign the book to a man called Jerry who has just got out of hospital having had a terrible mental breakdown. I thought the political discussion was interesting too. Many thanks and good luck.

  • Trevor Malcolm, Portsmouth Hampshire


    Sometime after 4pm, Thursday afternoon, (see your blog, dated 8 October, first paragraph), you began writing the following

    “ … In the next few hours someone will do us the service of telling us which words and phrases were most used in David Cameron’s speech. Big Government will, I suspect, be top of the pops … “

    Now – at last – the numbers are in, announcement upcoming. My suspicions? The same as yours. So, lucky neither of us bet money on wrong conjectures

    During a Party Conference speech that lasted the longest 70 minutes I’ve endured, Cameron tallied “Britain/British” 27 times – just pipped “Families” at 22 times

    Announcing these results in reverse order (like Eric Morley’s Miss World shindigs) first place for most repetition went to the word “Country” – as in country, country, country …

    … THIRTY-TWO times over, yes. Incredible, Cameron

    When it comes to communication, the Tory toff’s Wannabee PM is no Cicero. Nor Socrates, Plato or Aristotle. He’s increasingly perfected the knack of getting on my t*ts, in fact

    Since when did this DuckHead’s rhetoric replace detailed policy announcements?

    Back to more numbers, then? All you statisticians, next three “Repeated Repeats” included “Debt” 17 times, “Responsibility” another 17 – “Big Government” eventually trailed home, repeated a mere 15 times

    Even the word “Change” chalked up 14 repeats: “Broken” got mentioned 8, then “NHS” a disappointing 7, and “Conservatives” a measly 5 repeats

    For want of a Conservative speechwriter, Cameron’s obliged to “cut n paste” his stuff off proper orators. His “vision” (hey, “personal faith and vision” – Margaret Thatcher coughed that one up in 1978) – of turning Britain around, proved Cameron capable of cribbing even Dr Martin Luther King’s still famous “ … I have a dream … “ speech from 1963

    One illustration’s enough to dissect

    Says Cameron, “ … it will be a steep climb ahead. But the view from the summit will be worth it … “

    What?! Why, Britain’s best-loved wartime drunken bipolar, Winston Churchill, referred to “broad, sunlit uplands” in his “Finest Hour” speech on 18 June in 1940

    And that God-fearing, yet forgetful Yankie, – Nancy’s Boy – Ronald Reagan referred to a “shining city upon a hill” during his Farewell Speech. Just as an earlier US President (JFK) had first used that metaphor, before Reagan dusted it down in 1989

    Jesus, electorate, are we supposed to listen to these Parrots, who employ speech-hoarding Magpies as their own content providers, churning out same old bilge, devoid of policy, agendas with practical detail, new initiatives – any content fresh and new at all? Feels like a long, cold winter awaits us

    Boy, am I peeved. And, you can tell, can’t you?

    Trevor Malcolm