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Alastair Campbell: Why my respect for the media has fallen

From a speech by the former Downing Street communications director to the Foreign Press Association Media Awards 2003

The two main chapters of my professional life have been a decade close to the top of political journalism; and a decade close to the top of politics. During that time my respect for the media has fallen and my respect for politics and the political process has risen.

I was a tough-minded journalist. But I always respected politics, and did not make the assumption that everyone in politics is in it for venal reasons. An editor once said to me: what are you complaining about? We kick the Tories just as hard as we kick you, as if balance was rubbishing the Government one week and the Opposition the next. This doesn't mean mistakes aren't made, but politics is tougher and more rewarding when you get it right as, more often than not, this Government has done. It is not happenstance, but politics that has delivered economic stability and record investment in our schools and hospitals.

It is a paradox that we have more media coverage of politics but less understanding. The two-way, in which reporters explain to the presenter in the studio what is going on, was meant to be the way that politics was made simple and interesting for the public. But its sub-text has become: don't listen to them, listen to what I'm telling you about what they really mean. Journalism becomes Jeremy Paxman interviewing Martha Carney about what Mark Mardell said to Huw Edwards about the John Humphrys/Andrew Marr two-way that morning on something in the papers about something a politician is supposed to have said.

Both politics and media have to be more straightforward and accepting of each other's role, and able to enter into a dialogue without each side feeling they have to view the other as sub-human.