The Daily Mail and Labour: It is tempting to wish a plague on both their houses

Though his message was correct, Alastair Campbell was the wrong man to deliver it

Share
Related Topics

It is tempting to wish a plague on both their houses. When you see Alastair Campbell berating someone for being a bully, manipulating the truth, and bending the facts to suit a political agenda, and when you see a representative of the Daily Mail proclaiming objectivity and reason in their editorial decisions, it's pretty difficult to be anything other than despairing about the quality of public discourse in this country. Nick Clegg, in his radio phone-in on LBC, said that the newspaper is “overflowing with bile”, and politicians of every persuasion have been queuing up to excoriate the Daily Mail following their attack on the political beliefs of Ed Miliband's father.

If there's one thing that politicians know, it's how to spot an opportunity. There is definitely something of a public backlash against the newspaper, at least among the chattering classes where politicians move. I even heard that the right-wing columnist Melanie Phillips - who doesn't work for the Mail any longer - was angrily challenged in the street by a passer-by and called on to defend the paper's position. So, under the cover of cross-party agreement that the Mail is a vile organ, politicians who have spent years trying to woo the paper, and to cosy up to its editor, Paul Dacre, are now united in revulsion.

Of course, this doesn't apply to Ed Miliband who - not for the first time - stood up ahead of the public mood, and his articulate defence of his late father's legacy will have struck a chord with the electorate in a way that very few of his policy announcements will have done. As for some of his colleagues... well, Alastair Campbell was at his powerful, articulate best on Newsnight the other day, and right-thinking people throughout Britain will have probably agreed with him: the Mail's piece was spiteful and ill-considered, and was motivated by a crude desire to hurt Mr Miliband.

But if the message was the right one, you have to ask whether he was the right messenger. Anyone who had first-hand experience of Campbell's vigorous briefing style when he was at No 10 will have been incredulous at his protestations. It is no wonder, I think, that the great British public have little regard for politicians or journalists, and don't trust what emerges from the interface between them.

I have seen at first hand the particular double standards of politicians when it comes to their relationship with the Press. Take Gordon Brown, for instance. He was vilified by the Sun and his premiership was blighted by that paper's decision to withdraw support for Labour on the eve of his speech to his party conference. Yet he never missed an opportunity to turn up at Rupert Murdoch's parties, and interrupted the business of government to travel to the Cotswolds in order to make sure he was seen at Rebekah Brooks's wedding. No wonder many observers looked askance when he turned up at the Leveson Inquiry to complain about the way he was treated by the newspapers.

The reverberations from the Mail's attack on the Miliband family may turn out to be more significant than we think now, but the immediate effect is to weaken further public faith in our institutions.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive or Senior Sales Executive - B2B Exhibitions

£18000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Executive or Senior Sal...

Recruitment Genius: Head of Support Services

£40000 - £55000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Warehouse Team Leader

£22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This industry leading company produces h...

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Manager / Sales - OTE £40,000

£20000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT provider for the educat...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Workers clean the area in front of the new Turkish Presidential Palace prior to an official reception for Republic day in Ankara  

Up Ankara, for a tour of great crapital cities

Dom Joly
Rebekah Brooks after her acquittal at the Old Bailey in June  

Rebekah Brooks to return? We all get those new-job jitters

John Mullin
The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

BBC heads to the Californian coast

The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

Car hacking scandal

Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
10 best placemats

Take your seat: 10 best placemats

Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory
Ashes 2015: Alastair Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Aussie skipper Michael Clarke was lured into believing that what we witnessed at Edgbaston and Trent Bridge would continue in London, says Kevin Garside
Can Rafael Benitez get the best out of Gareth Bale at Real Madrid?

Can Benitez get the best out of Bale?

Back at the club he watched as a boy, the pressure is on Benitez to find a winning blend from Real's multiple talents. As La Liga begins, Pete Jenson asks if it will be enough to stop Barcelona
Athletics World Championships 2015: Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jessica Ennis-Hill and Katarina Johnson-Thompson heptathlon rivalry

Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jess and Kat rivalry

The last time the two British heptathletes competed, Ennis-Hill was on the way to Olympic gold and Johnson-Thompson was just a promising teenager. But a lot has happened in the following three years
Jeremy Corbyn: Joining a shrewd operator desperate for power as he visits the North East

Jeremy Corbyn interview: A shrewd operator desperate for power

His radical anti-austerity agenda has caught the imagination of the left and politically disaffected and set a staid Labour leadership election alight
Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief: Defender of ancient city's past was killed for protecting its future

Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief

Robert Fisk on the defender of the ancient city's past who was killed for protecting its future