Campbell drops `Socialism' from party broadcast

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The Independent Online
ALASTAIR CAMPBELL, Tony Blair's press secretary, was at the centre of two controversies last night after it was revealed that he banned the word "socialist" from a Labour television broadcast and had been rebuked by the Prime Minister for attacking the Chancellor Gordon Brown.

An internal Labour memo on the broadcast, leaked to The Independent, reveals that Downing Street also toned down interviews with ordinary members who reflected the criticism inside the party of Tony Blair's "control freakery".

The party political broadcast, to be shown on Tuesday, was made by the Ginger Television company, run by the disc-jockey and media mogul Chris Evans, who is a Labour supporter. Its brief was to boost party membership - which fell from 405,000 to 388,000 last year - through interviews in which people explain why they joined Labour.

However, some of their comments were too unpalatable for the three Downing Street aides who viewed the broadcast including Mr Campbell. According to the memo they ordered the removal of an interview with a Scottish woman who said: "I joined the Labour Party because I'm a socialist"; an Asian woman who said "the decisions are made at the top" and a black woman who said "the leadership is only there at our behest".

Labour sources denied the cuts had been made on political grounds and said that not all of the changes were proposed by Downing Street. A spokesman said: "The Labour Party always shoots more film than we use in any party political broadcast. This was one of many memos on suggested edits to be made to get the film to length."

The second controversy came over allegations that Mr Blair apologised to Mr Brown last year after Mr Campbell was blamed for a two-week campaign of personal attacks on the Chancellor. After an authorised biography of Mr Brown revealed his continuing bitterness at not becoming Labour leader in 1994 when Mr Blair succeeded John Smith, the Chancellor was said by close Blair allies to have "psychological flaws".

In a Channel 4 programme tomorrow, Charlie Whelan, Mr Brown's former press secretary, claims that the Prime Minister accepted that his office was at fault and ordered a halt to the criticism of the Chancellor. He says: "At the end of the day even Tony realised that that was way over the top and whoever was saying this was out of order and Tony apologised to Gordon because he realised this had to stop, they couldn't go on like this."

Similar claims are made in a biography of Mr Campbell to be published next week. The author, Peter Oborne, says that a "monster operation to smear Gordon Brown" was approved by Mr Campbell. He writes: "The Prime Minister was angry and embarrassed enough by the messy affair to take Campbell aside and tell him off."

Last night Downing Street denied that Mr Blair had apologised to Mr Brown. One source said: "There is absolutely no suggestion that Alastair was in any way responsible for the "psychological flaws" remark and the Prime Minister knows that and would not have apologised. But there was a lot of bad blood at that period and everybody was sorry about that. Fortunately, it is all behind us."

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