Ingham spins tale of disaster

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The Independent Online
LABOUR'S spin-doctors will "reap the whirlwind" from selective briefings given to favoured journalists, Margaret Thatcher's former press secretary said yesterday.

Sir Bernard Ingham also said Tony Blair's official spokesman Alastair Campbell was a party political appointee who should not be paid by the taxpayer.

In his nine years with Mrs Thatcher he had never favoured one news organisation over another, Sir Bernard told a House of Commons inquiry into the Government Information Service.

"Now we have selective briefings all over the place. It must be hotbed of discontent in Whitehall and Westminster in the lobby because indeed there is favouritism which is frightening. I think the Government will reap the whirlwind in consequence of that," he said.

In his day the press had behaved like "baying wolves," he said, but now they had been tamed by new Labour. "They are like poodles. They seem to have lost their critical faculties for the moment. I think they are beginning to return now," he said. Alastair Campbell was on a "curious contract" where he was sometimes a civil servant and sometimes not.

"He observes the norms and conventions of the civil service except when it is convenient to bash the Tories. In these circumstances he ought not to be paid by the taxpayer. He is a party political appointee and should be paid as such," he said.

Recently Gordon Brown had been dismissed by Alastair Campbell as "psychologically flawed" and other ministers including Gavin Strang, Clare Short, David Clark, Chris Smith and Frank Dobson had been rubbished "hardly before they had got their feet under the table".

"Where is all this coming from? 'We don't know,' we are always being told. I got the blame when I was at Downing Street, but nowadays nobody is responsible for rubbishing ministers."