Labour publishes detailed denial of `Mail' myths

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The Independent Online
TONY BLAIR'S long campaign to woo Middle England's favourite newspaper ended abruptly last night as the Government effectively declared war on the Daily Mail.

In an attempt to undermine the paper, Labour issued the first edition of Daily Mail Monitor, to rebut a string of critical stories published yesterday. The Monitor, which Labour insists is not a one-off and will be produced regularly, aims to correct the so-called "myths" about Government policy.

The idea is understood to be the brainchild of Alastair Campbell, the Prime Minister's official spokesman, and Phil Murphy, Labour's deputy general secretary. Mr Campbell and Mr Murphy, both former journalists, worked with backbench Labour MP Gerald Kaufman to produce the Monitor.

Although discussed for some weeks, the first edition was prompted by six stories in yesterday's Mail, which attacked the Government on everything from its plans for Wembley to its policies on marriage. The front-page story, which claimed that Mr Blair would ration medicines on the NHS according to cost, was believed to have been "the final straw", Labour insiders told The Independent."We decided that enough was enough. The front page was way over the top."

Many in Labour's ranks remember the Daily Mail's backing for the Tories in the 1997 general election, a stance that was taken by its editor, Paul Dacre, despite support for Labour from the proprietor, the late Viscount Rothermere.

Just this week, new research revealed that the Daily Mail and General Trust had donated a grand total of pounds 500 to Labour before the election. But relations between the Government and the Mail reached a new low during the Labour party conference in the wake of the Prime Minister's speech on the "Forces of Conservatism", which was seen by the paper as an attack on its readers.

The stunt, which echoes the last government's attack on the BBC, failed to perturb Mail staff. "We take it as a compliment that the Government thinks we're so important. We must have them rattled," one insider said.