Campbell hits back at editor of 'vile' Daily Mail editor

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Indy Politics

Alastair Campbell, the former director of communications at Downing Street, launched a ferocious counter-attack on Paul Dacre, the editor of the Daily Mail, yesterday, as he said he held the media largely responsible for people's lack of trust in politicians and reluctance to vote in elections.

Alastair Campbell, the former director of communications at Downing Street, launched a ferocious counter-attack on Paul Dacre, the editor of the Daily Mail, yesterday, as he said he held the media largely responsible for people's lack of trust in politicians and reluctance to vote in elections.

Mr Campbell told a committee of MPs that the media, rather than spin doctors, were responsible for about 90 per cent of the "spin" about politics because they produced reports to suit their own agenda. He warned that attempts to combat disengagement from politics would be doomed unless the media agreed to "buy in" to the political system.

In two hours of questioning, Mr Campbell's strongest words were reserved for the Daily Mail, which he described as "vile" and said was part of a "culture of negativity" in the British press.

When Mr Dacre gave evidence to the Public Administration Select Committee in March, he said Mr Campbell's departure from Downing Street last autumn had "drained quite a lot of poison from the No 10 media operation". Yesterday Mr Campbell retorted that he seen "precious little evidence" of the "poison" being drained from the Daily Mail since then.

He told the committee: "My worry about the Daily Mail has always been its impact upon the rest of the media. You still hear journalists who ought to know better saying, 'Well, say what you like, it is a very professional product'. It is not. It is vile. It is actually the worst of British values posing as the best.

"It's got a backward-looking view of the world that I think anybody with progressive values should not respect and it systematically undermines and runs down the country and anybody in public life."

He said the Mail's strategy was to "throw as much mud as you can and some of it will stick."

He said that, in response to 24-hour television channels, broadsheet and tabloid newspapers had merged news and comment, linking their news coverage to their editorial line.

Asked how the hostile climate between politicians and the media could be improved, he replied: "I just don't know. I did my bit. I tried all these changes. I don't lie awake at night thinking about these things any more.

"Unless you have got a press that actually is going to say maybe we do have some responsibilities in this regard too, then it is going nowhere. You can have all the inquiries that you want. Until the good [journalists] stand up to the bad and say this driving culture of negativity is doing nobody any good - including the media - then it is not going to change."

In the absence of a new settlement between politicians and the media, he said politicians should worry less about newspaper headlines because people would not remember in three years' time. He denied leaking stories to favoured journalists when he worked at No 10 but conceded he had made mistakes. "We were so used to the ways of opposition, where what you say is all you have got. Some of those techniques should have been left at the door of No 10, or even No 11, or any other government department," he said.

Mr Campbell denied "losing control" during his war with the BBC over its claim that he "sexed up" a dossier on Iraqi weapons. Denying that the affair prompted his departure, he said he had already agreed with Tony Blair that he would go.

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