'Poisonous' Campbell provoked cynicism, Mail editor tells MPs

The editor of the
Daily Mail, Paul Dacre, launched a highly personal attack on Alastair Campbell yesterday, accusing him of engendering a "poisonous" culture of spin within the heart of Government.

The editor of the Daily Mail, Paul Dacre, launched a highly personal attack on Alastair Campbell yesterday, accusing him of engendering a "poisonous" culture of spin within the heart of Government.

He accused the Prime Minister's former communications director of being a "red-top newspaper propagandist" and said he should never have been appointed to the post.

Mr Dacre, whose newspaper has been among the most vociferous critics of the Blair government, rounded on Mr Campbell for his "triumphalist" reaction to the findings of Lord Hutton into the death of the weapons expert David Kelly.

Mr Campbell's reign brought relations between No 10 and the media to a new low, said Mr Dacre, saying that the former spin doctor was "almost unhinged" in his attitude towards the Mail.

In a session before a Public Administration Committee inquiry into the Phillis review of government communications, the Mail's editor-in-chief called for a new relationship between journalists and the Government, with no more leaks to "Labour-friendly" newspapers.

When Labour first came to power in 1997, the Mail was not unsympathetic to the new government, but Mr Campbell's "spin machine" created an atmosphere of distrust among the media, Mr Dacre told MPs.

"The making more cynical of the government publicity machine by Mr Campbell and others provoked a cynicism from the media," he said.

"I think Alastair Campbell's departure has drained quite a lot of poison from the No 10 media operation. Since his departure there has been an improvement in the situation."

In a reference to Mr Campbell's previous career as political editor of the Daily Mirror, Mr Dacre attacked the decision to put "Labour flag-waving Mirror journalists in charge of government press machines". He said: "You shouldn't appoint red-top political editors, who are propagandists on their own paper, in charge of civil service press machines." Mr Dacre was particularly scathing about Mr Campbell's handling of the events leading up to the death of Dr Kelly, which he described as a "very cynical regime to try and break the BBC."

"It's part of Campbell's policy that if you don't support the Government you have got to be broken and demonised," Mr Dacre added, describing the aftermath of the Hutton inquiry as a "terrible, terrible tragedy" for the BBC.

He seized on Mr Campbell's diaries in particular, saying he thought some people would "find it offensive that, every night, the head of communications was going home and writing a diary - presumably breaking confidences - which will make him millions of pounds, while Dr Kelly was hounded out by the Government for talking to journalists".

He added: "I was also quite horrified and shocked with the triumphalist press conference Mr Campbell gave following Hutton, as were many members of the public. As I was with the tour which he has taken around the country on the back of Hutton, while a widow grieves with quiet dignity."

Dr Tony Wright, the committee's Labour chair, suggested that Mr Dacre had a "pathological hang-up" about Mr Campbell.

However, Mr Dacre was more complimentary about the new Downing Street press chief, the former Labour Party director of communications Dave Hill, who replaced Mr Campbell last year, describing him as "a much more honest and straightforward person to deal with".

He criticised the appointment of Howell James, formerly political secretary to John Major, to the new post of permanent secretary in charge of government communications. "Here is a man who is deeply involved with friendships in No 10. It was recommended somebody with a Civil Service background come in and you tell me it's hunky-dory for a professional spin doctor to do it?"

Sir Christopher Meyer, the chairman of the Press Complaints Commission, and John Major's former press chief, also gave evidence to the committee, saying he disagreed with most of the recommendations of the Phillis report.

* Godric Smith, one of Tony Blair's two official spokesmen, is to become head of strategic communications and will withdraw from the twice-daily briefings for journalists after Easter.

CAMPBELL ON DACRE

"If I were chief executive of the Albanian tourist board, I would put an ad in the 'Mail' every day, saying, 'Come to Tirana, it must be better'," Mr Campbell on the opening night of his one-man show in the Customs House Theatre, South Shields, on 30 January, where he branded the 'Mail' "a poison in our media culture".

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer

£27500 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Telemarketers / Sales - Home Based - OTE £23,500

£19500 - £23500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Experienced B2B Telemarketer wa...

Recruitment Genius: Showroom Assistant

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This global company are looking for two Showro...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Executive - OTE £25,000

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This publishing company based i...

Day In a Page

Fifa corruption: The 161-page dossier that exposes the organisation's dark heart

The 161-page dossier that exposes Fifa's dark heart

How did a group of corrupt officials turn football’s governing body into what was, in essence, a criminal enterprise? Chris Green and David Connett reveal all
Mediterranean migrant crisis: 'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves,' says Tripoli PM

Exclusive interview with Tripoli PM Khalifa al-Ghweil

'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves'
Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles: How the author foretold the Californian water crisis

Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles

How the author foretold the Californian water crisis
Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison as authorities crackdown on dissent in the arts

Art attack

Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison
Marc Jacobs is putting Cher in the limelight as the face of his latest campaign

Cher is the new face of Marc Jacobs

Alexander Fury explains why designers are turning to august stars to front their lines
Parents of six-year-old who beat leukaemia plan to climb Ben Nevis for cancer charity

'I'm climbing Ben Nevis for my daughter'

Karen Attwood's young daughter Yasmin beat cancer. Now her family is about to take on a new challenge - scaling Ben Nevis to help other children
10 best wedding gift ideas

It's that time of year again... 10 best wedding gift ideas

Forget that fancy toaster, we've gone off-list to find memorable gifts that will last a lifetime
Paul Scholes column: With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards

Paul Scholes column

With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards
Heysel disaster 30th anniversary: Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget fateful day in Belgium

Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget Heysel

Thirty years ago, 39 fans waiting to watch a European Cup final died as a result of a fatal cocktail of circumstances. Ian Herbert looks at how a club dealt with this tragedy
Amir Khan vs Chris Algieri: Khan’s audition for Floyd Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation, says Frank Warren

Khan’s audition for Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation

The Bolton fighter could be damned if he dazzles and damned if he doesn’t against Algieri, the man last seen being decked six times by Pacquiao, says Frank Warren
Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

Fifa corruption arrests

All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

How Stephen Mangan got his range

Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor