Wednesday, 30 July 2008

Perhaps vampires is a bit strong but...

I was going to put something on here about David Miliband's article for the Guardian, and the ridiculous spate of Kremlinology it has produced from the media, but Hopi has already put it much better. (Slightly worried I have made him a bit paranoid with my 'Blob from the Backroom' typo, as now he keeps talking about his exercise routine). I caught a bit of Sky News earlier and the reporter was quoting David as saying "I disagreed with Margaret Thatcher, but at least it was clear what she stood for". Although it is absolutely 100% clear from the article that David M is drawing the comparison with the 'empty' David Cameron, the reporter said 'ooh, this could be interpreted as a coded attack on Gordon Brown...' Only to a complete idiot....

The problem is, Labour needs to get its political agenda across - and that can't be left to Gordon, it should be a team effort - but any senior Minister who raises his or her head above the parapet this summer will be immediately accused of launching a pre-emptive strike on the leadership. We can't win in this current climate. There are journos spending their every waking hour calling Labour MPs, trying to find one who will say something negative. And it's usually only those ones who respond, as the rest of us aren't playing ball. All I will say is this: I still believe Gordon's the best man for the job (or should that be best person, in case someone assumes I'm sending out smoke signals for the - non-existent - Harriet Harman campaign?). And I'm not going to fan the flames in any way by indulging in, or responding to, leadership speculation over the summer.


The Bristol Blogger said...

The "nothing to see here" line that Labour are pushing hard here might be a bit more convincing if Gordon's attack dogs hadn't been unleashed in this afternoon's

- "Behind the scenes, allies of Mr Brown were seething that a Cabinet member had, in their view, calculated to damage the Prime Minister. One of them said: "I think MPs will be appalled. David Miliband has shown himself to be not only disloyal but also self-serving.

"People at least thought he was a serious figure and a grown-up politician but by allowing his head to be turned by this leadership nonsense, he has revealed a surprising lack of judgment and maturity." -

Oh dear. The news management is all over the place isn't it?

It's also worth taking the time to read some the comments that Miliband has generated on

They're almost all entirely negative, which means if your Primrose Hill boy can't even rely on the support of Guardian readers - his natural constituency - is he likely to play any better than Gordon in the wider country?

Kerry said...

And how do you know that journos aren't simply making it up?

Kerry said...

Just to clarify - I wasn't suggesting the comments on CiF were made up; I was referring to spate of recent newspaper articles.

I think most people would accept that CiF isn't exactly frequented by typical Guardian readers. I have to confess to being something of an avid online Daily Mail reader - but I don't buy it!

Anonymous said...

The short answer is I don't. But then how do I know you're not making it up? As a member of the public that's the dilemma we're in and it's a dilemma your government created.

The reality is we've had over ten years of government by unattributable briefing. (Journalists like Andrew Rawnsley have even been given major journalism awards year-in-year-out for reproducing unattributed nonsense week-in, week-out)

The effect over time has been entirely corrosive and has a lot to do with why the Labour Party are where they are now.

For those that don't want to believe me, here's an extract from the Campbell Diaries on how Labour's European policy was set in the late 90s, apparently by Downing Street anonymously briefing a Murdoch paper on what to say:

- "It was not really an interview so much as a form of words which would be given to Phil Webster [political editor of The Times]. The Treasury drafted the words and I made a couple of changes to tone down the pro-Europeanism in a couple of places. I spoke to Webster and agreed that the intro was that [Brown] was effectively ruling out [the Euro] for this Parliament while saying it would be folly to close options ... The words went to Webster, the spin was applied, and away we went" -

I think you're now reaping the whirlwind from this kind of manipulation.

You live by the sword - you die by the sword.

adamskirving said...

If you read the comments on Milliband's article at CiF you'll find a lot of posters have taken the time to explain just why they are so angry. The thing that is glaringly obvious is that many of them are what you would describe as typical Guardian readers. Contempt would be to kind a word to describe what many ex Labour members and supporters feel towards this government and supporters on the back benches. The thing is there is now no way back for Labour, a new leader wont fix things, and there is nothing Labour can say that will convince people. That's what happens when a party consistently breaches its manifesto commitments. Up until now the New Labour project has been shielded from this growing disenchantment because the Tories were unelectable,(remember Michael Howard), and economic conditions were relatively good.

But Kelly, anger with this deeply authoritarian and divisive government has been building for years. Now the dam is bursting, and it's going to get ugly. If Labour hang on in power the next eighteen months is going to make the winter of discontent seem like a bygone golden era for a Labour government.

The sooner there is an election the better for the country and probably the Labour party. As it is Labour are going to get hammered in the polls, but if they hang on they risk complete electoral meltdown.

Kerry said...

Well I'm saying things on the record, so I could always be called to account at some hypothetical future date. I've never given an anonymous comment to the press, on anything (but that's probably as much a sign of my complete obscurity as anything else!)

Did New Labour invent spin? Or did they just brag about it more? If you read Joe Haines or Bernard Donoghue, is there really that much difference?

Also, I don't think your example describes how Labour's policy on the euro was set - it describes how it was reported once the decision was made. Brown wanted to close the door to euro entry during that parliament, Blair wanted to keep the option open at a future date - that's what the journo reported. OK, discussions were had re presentation, but you can't portray it as a decision that was made purely for public effect; it was what the Chancellor thought was best, and what the PM wanted. Also, it would be pretty foolish not to discuss how a story with such a potential impact on the currency markets was to be reported.

As for unattributable briefings, leadership speculation, anonymous allies speaking off the record - didn't we get 5 years of that with the 1992-7 Major government? So you can hardly blame New Labour for setting a trend.

Kerry said...

Adam, your comment came in after I'd sent mine. Yes, there are some people on CiF who are obviously Labour - but there are an awful lot from people who clearly aren't (eurosceptics, Thatcher-fans, libertarians, hard-left to name just a few). And perhaps you could list which manifesto commitments we are supposed to have 'consistently' broken?
P.S. The name's Kerry, not Kelly. A common mistake.

Chris Gale said...

I have to agree with the many other Labour people who are saying that Davis Miliband's 'intervention' through this article was distinctly unhelpful and I believe disloyal. He also managed a whole article without mention of the PM, hardly can that be called loyal.
Mr Miliband represents a clique of ultra Blairites who I believe are determined to try and oust the PM. I find his behaviour with this article and his obvious posturing quite contemptible and I am far from alone in the party in saying that.

Mrs Blogs said...

Miliband in his press conference said 'we have a good leader' 'can he lead us into the next election and win.. yes, I'm absolutely sure of that'

The media seem to have completely ignored what he actually said and chose instead to demand that he gave a specific answer in a specific form of words.

Its been quite a surreal experience watching what Miliband has said and then the reporting around it ...the footage they have used does not make the point.

He made it plain that what he was doing was not playing into the whole personality politics obsessing the media and the questions they were asking and trying to refocus everyone on ideas and arguments not personalities.

He didn't mention Brown in the article for exactly that reason. He did mention Thatcher and Cameron in the article. Does it mean he was endorsing them for leadership of the Labour Party?

Whatever he said they would not have been satisfied. They are determined to engineer a crisis.

The frenzied speculation may well now lead to a self-fulfilling prophecy.

The wider question is who elected the media to decide who runs the country?

adamskirving said...

Hi Kerry, sorry about the name. I could go on about the type of promises about improved services, police levels and so on, but every government fails to keep that sort of promise. Failure to achieve targets rather than outright lies.

It's where parties say they are going to do one thing and then do another that really creates distrust. I'll start with one that I know you don't want to hear, the smoking ban. There was a manifesto commitment to a partial ban, and a full ban was delivered. You might argue it was a free vote, but it shouldn't have been. If you wanted to go further you should have waited till the next parliament. On the other side of the same coin there was the Bernie Ecclestone affair.

Then there's the failure to have a referendum on the Lisbon treaty, which was the constitution by another name. The whole fiasco around the Iraq war, the dodgy dossiers and so on, was a breach of the promise for an ethical foreign policy. I'm not arguing the rights or wrongs of the war, it's the deception when there was supposed to be an ethical foreign policy. The introduction of student fees was another straight forward broken promise. We still have mixed sex wards.

The point isn't the rights and wrongs of these issues. It's that one thing was said in a manifesto and the opposite was done. So come the next election whatever is promised in the manifesto will mean nothing to people, because the expectation has been set up that promises will be broken.

Anonymous said...


you make a fair point when you say I've provided an example of how policy was announced/reported rather than set.

However, you only need to read Campbell and Hutton to know how the policy was set.

"Sofa government" is the euphemism I believe, which basically means Blair, Johnny Pole and Big Ali Campbell decided it one night between them with Gordon grunting in the background and and Primrose (David Miliband, the then No 10 chief of policy and now Labour's agent of change and renewal, ho, ho!) serving the tea.

But regardless of how it was decided, for most of us, this is still a bizarre way to govern a country and announce a policy. Shouldn't they do that in the House of Commons rather than clandestinely release it under someone else's byline in the Times?

And - according to Newsnight - The Guardian, The Times and The Mail are all running with the Standard story on their front page. Are they all making it up? Or could it be that Downing Street is up to its usual tricks and firing out a series of unattributable briefings to friendly journalists?

Glenn Vowles said...

Having seen David Miliband speaking and responding to questions it seems pretty clear to me that if he is not campaigning for the leadership or preparing the ground for it then he has certainly left the door open for doing so. He has not said 'no I'm not' and so I agree with what Chris Gale has said here. Haven't we all seen these kind of 'manouverings' before??

Pat Nurse said...

Of course we smokers know all about the press using speculation as fact in the smoking and health debate.

It seems odd that politicians can accept when it comes to their own colleagues that the press is "making it up" or "exagerating" or "speculating" but not when it comes to the "evidence" the media has pushed to create a hatred of smokers.

The gullible and the weak have swallowed hook,line and sinker, the anti-smoking - and anti-smoker - message, perpetuated by the press, without even bothering to check other studies or the effect such negative propaganda has on real people's lives.

As for Milliband, it makes no difference to me whether he is vying for leadership or not. He is typical of NuLabour - He looks, acts and speaks like Tony Blair and doesn't give a toss about anything else but his own interests.

Pleeeeeaaase - will someone give us an original and courageous policitian and not a puppet.

Kerry said...

Pat - are you really saying that the belief that smoking is harmful to health - is based on press propaganda? Have the medical and scientific establishment been taken in by that too?

On the Mililand speculation - one classic example of what I was talking about is his cancelled India trip, presented as firm evidence he was going to launch a leadership bid in September. And then it turned out it was actually cancelled because the PM had told all Cabinet ministers they've got to be around in early September. So in other words, the original story was nonsense - but these journos are paid to come up with such stuff, and to keep a story going, so they have to clutch at straws.

Kerry said...

Pat - are you really saying that the belief that smoking is harmful to health - is based on press propaganda? Have the medical and scientific establishment been taken in by that too?

On the Mililand speculation - one classic example of what I was talking about is his cancelled India trip, presented as firm evidence he was going to launch a leadership bid in September. And then it turned out it was actually cancelled because the PM had told all Cabinet ministers they've got to be around in early September. So in other words, the original story was nonsense - but these journos are paid to come up with such stuff, and to keep a story going, so they have to clutch at straws.

Pat Nurse said...

Hi Kerry,

I don't believe the press propaganda about smoking and health because it has only ever presented one side of the argument on evidence presented to them - usually by ASH, CRUK, and WHO who have vested interests.

I have spoken personally to a scientist who was chairman of the US Cancer Institute. He was involved in many years of research but he could find no evidence that passive smoking was harmful to others.

He was also involved in the manufacture of a safe cigarette which would have meant that within a generation, people would be actively smoking tobacco with just nicotine in and no harmful chemicals (Instead of just sticking a very expesnive NRT product on their skin).

He resigned when the programme was abandoned in the 1970s because America decided it would be smoke free by fair means or foul by the year 2000.

Not all of the medical profession or the scientific community agree that passive smoking is harmful by any means but they are never heard in the press - check out the pro-choice doctors website as an example. You could also look on FORCES INTERNATIONAL (not funded by the tobacco industry in case you wondered)where the evidence that the British press will not publish can be found.

A medical doctor is also one of FORCES columnists.

That is part of the reason that I'm so angry about the smoking ban because it has been introduced as a result of press hysteria. Even ASH have admitted that 30 years of confidence tricks by the organisation have led us to this point.

Anything deemed to go "off message" about smoking and health in the press is thought as "irresponsible" and so journalists and editors are wary.

As a journalist myself, I can say there have been times when I've tried to place pro-choice stories to be told - "we're currently running an anti-smoking campaign so I'm afraid this isn't one for us."

I've also put forward stories about smokers being treated unjustly to be told "Our editor is an anti so I'm afraid there's no chance."

The choice debate is not about promoting smoking - it's about examining ALL of the evidence on smoking and health - particularly passive smoking - and then encouraging people to make their own informed choices about their lifestyles.

The very fact that passive smoking is taken as fact is because the press have supported that argument,and with respect, your Govt has bought it hook line and sinker.

Anonymous said...

There's a pro-Brown story in today's Guardian by their senior political journalist Patrick Wintour that helpfully explains away Miliband's conduct. And we're told they'll be a cabinet reshuffle and an economic plan coming in September.

And the sources are? "Miliband's advisors", a "ministerial aide" and "within Downing Street".

If your party are so against press speculation, why do they fuel it? And why do your most senior figures in the most important offices of state do so?

You can hardly complain about press speculation while deliberately creating it in your favour.

Kerry said...

You could call it fuelling speculation. You could call it putting the record straight.

Had a look at Tom Harris' website recently? Top ten summer songs. Wrong, so wrong...

Anonymous said...

It's precisely not putting the record straight because it's all off the record, deniable and therefore may not happen.

It's just a means of putting a point of view out to the public and confusing us further.

What and who are we supposed to believe?

I see on Sunday Rawnsley was at it too with a different take: "Tony left too late for Gordon and too early for the rest of us," 'a friend' of Miliband's is reported to have told him.

Usually the construction 'a friend' in these kind of pieces is the politician themselves speaking off the record. What are we supposed to believe?

Just looked at Tom's summer top ten. Dance Away by Roxy Music? Where do I start?

puppet freezone said...

Again! Well said Pat!!

I could understand that everything became so one-sided once 'Big Tobacco's secrets were exposed, but with 'Big Pharma' seemingly funding studies that have the ultimate effect of piling up profits from NRT, I can't see why their studies are considered 'benign' and unquestionable. Whenever I hear the statement 'the debate is over', I think, well yeah... of course it is if only one voice is allowed to speak.

Kerry - on an entirely different note (returning to your comment that you read the Mail Online but don't buy it - same here, but only because occasionally I follow a link and find myself inside a Mail Online article...)I just wondered what you thought of the recent article in there about the Hamptons? I'd be really interested to hear your views and any additional information you have on that situation.

I'm a decent, polite, hard-working uni-educated (thanks to the old grant system) human being who spent most of my life on a council estate, so I feel badly for those whose 'good kids' are subject to this curfew and can understand any puzzlement they feel at being treated differently to the 'rich kids' opposite. How can these kids grow up with a sense of their own value, if they feel punished by the authorities simply due to financial circumstances? Where I come from, a good kid could turn bad on the basis that 'If I'm gonna get accused of doing something I didn't, I might as well just go and do it anyway'.

In case you haven't seen it, it's here: