The Diary: The ugly truth about Murdoch's anti-Miliband campaign


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The Independent Online

Ed Miliband is going through a patch in which he makes headlines only if the news is bad, especially in newspapers that Rupert Murdoch owns. He is, after all, the first Labour Party leader since Neil Kinnock to criticise the Murdoch empire instead of humbling himself before it.

Last week, the Sunday Times established a first in British political journalism by commissioning a poll which asked, among other questions, whether Mr Miliband is "too ugly" to be Prime Minister. Nine out of ten respondents did not think so. The result was therefore relegated to the back half of the 12th paragraph of the report, behind every aspect of the poll findings that could be interpreted as bad for Miliband.

There was a previous example of this same genre when somebody in the Labour leader's office, typing a message that Mr Miliband wanted to send via Twitter, accidentally wrote "blackbusters" instead of "blockbusters". This, incredibly, was the main front-page story in the following morning's Sun, under the headline "Block Ed", though it was not his finger that hit the wrong key. It also filled page three of The Times.

Breaking out of this negative cycle is nearly impossible, but it may be some comfort for Labour's besieged leader that he is not the only famous person to have a typo on his Twitter feed.

The President of the United States is known by the acronym Potus, but yesterday a very eminent US citizen put out a misspelt message on Twitter referring to "Optus", which had to be corrected later. Such slips are easily made, and the offender need not fear being ridiculed for it by The Sun or The Times, because he is one Rupert Murdoch.

Prescott and Clegg united on Twitter

Nick Clegg made a groan-inducing pun yesterday when asked about Michael Gove's suggestion that the Queen should have a new yacht to mark her 60 years on the throne. Dismissing the idea, he said it would be a case of "the have and the have yachts".

At the very time he was speaking, the previous Deputy Prime Minister, John Prescott, right, was tweeting: "Is Gove sticking up for the haves and have yachts?" Which shows how great Deputy Prime Ministers think alike.

Cameron's flight of fancy with Stelios

We all have our heroes. David Cameron was asked about his by an interviewer from Now, the only woman's magazine represented on his recent trip to Afghanistan.

"Oh, I still get a bit star-struck," he said. "I saw Frank Lampard last night at an awards event, which was exciting for me, but I'm not a Chelsea fan. Before I became a politician – OK this is really sad – I once spotted Stelios from easyJet in the street and crossed the road to tell him how brilliant he was because I thought it was such a brilliant idea to create a no-frills airline."

For the full interview, including Dave's praise for women serving in Afghanistan and the revelations that he remembers his wedding day and wedding night "pretty much minute by minute", and that his new year's resolution is to lose weight, see Now magazine, out today.

When TB did for a Mirror man

In evidence to the Leveson inquiry yesterday, the editor of the Daily Mirror, Richard Wallace, revealed: "Just after I was appointed editor of the Daily Mirror [in 2004], the then Prime Minister, Tony Blair, invited me to l 0 Downing Street. One of the first things he asked me was when I was going to sack one of my journalists who had been a consistent critic of the Government and Mr Blair in particular. Of course, I did not react to it."

He named no names, but it no secret that the hack Blair wanted sacked was the columnist Paul Routledge, author of a hostile biography of Peter Mandelson. Routledge's columns were an authoritative source on the latest thinking in Gordon Brown's office.

Scaredy-cat Salmond 'worried about poll'

Michael Forsyth, who was the last Conservative Secretary of State for Scotland, in those long dead days when there were more Scottish Tory MPs than there are pandas in Edinburgh Zoo, was a contemporary of Alex Salmond at St Andrews University. If he is correct, the bold face that the Scottish First Minister presents to the world masks an anxious man.

"He loves to stir things up," Lord Forsyth told the Sunday Post. "He's playing games because he's terrified, he's frit, he's a feartie – he's worried he'll lose the referendum and that will be the end of the matter. In the meantime, the real losers are the people of Scotland worried about their jobs."