Redoubtable media monitor who picked target for attack

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The Independent Online
Brian Mawhinney's well-briefed broadside against BBC Radio 4's Today programme yesterday was down to one man. Step forward the redoubtable Julian Lewis, media monitor extraordinaire, writes Chris Blackhurst.

Shortly before the Tory chairman's speech, Mr Lewis could be found hurrying towards the conference hall. As deputy head of research for the party, Mr Lewis carefully watches and listens for every bit of possible anti- Tory bias. His favourite target and one he developed at the Media Monitoring Unit, which he helped run in the mid-Eighties, is the BBC. In his eyes, it is prone to liberal tendencies, falls prey to socialist cant and too easily turns on the Government.

This one-man scourge of the Beeb is a short, soft spoken, baby-faced figure. Do not be fooled. When he spots an enemy, he goes for the jugular. His most recent crusade was against the satirical magazine, Scallywag. It attacked him; the editors boasted "sue us if you dare", and said they had no money; Mr Lewis sued the distributors and newsagents instead. The magazine has all but disappeared.

Mr Lewis is keen to secure a parliamentary seat and there was talk his days at Central Office were numbered. But Labour's love affair with the upper echelons of the BBC and the heavy-handed tactics of its press spokesman, Alistair Campbell, mean Mr Lewis's skills will be in even greater demand.