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Wednesday, 19 June, 2002, 22:20 GMT 23:20 UK
Blunkett 'joke' sparks media row
David Blunkett
Blunkett: 'thinking of hidiing away from the media'
David Blunkett is insisting comments he made about media "insanity" were a joke and not a fresh Labour attack on the press.

Speaking at a crime conference, the home secretary said he was considering "hiding myself away" in the Home Office to avoid the "abuse and ridicule" of the press.


In politics there is a simple rule - if you live by the sword, you die by the sword

Mark Oaten
Lib Dem chairman
He said the media were "almost at the edge of insanity" and ministers were unable to discuss policy ideas without being accused of spin and hypocrisy.

Labour has been locked in a war with sections of the press over Tony Blair's role in the Queen Mother's funeral.

Mr Blunkett has come under fire for backing down on plans to broaden access to private e-mail and phone records after his son, who works in the IT business, told him how the proposal was being seen.

'Throwaway remark'

But the home secretary's aides insisted the remarks were not part of the campaign started last week by Labour Chairman Charles Clarke, who accused the media of being pious and hypocritical.

They said Mr Blunkett had made the remarks off the cuff as a way of warming up the audience and giving them a laugh.

A spokesman said the home secretary did not hold the view that ministers are "damned if they do and damned if they don't" in the present climate.

But he added: "It speaks volumes that a couple of throwaway remarks by Mr Blunkett about the media have been seized upon by the media as important, rather than the content of his speech on criminal justice which was important in his view".

'Remarkable outburst'

Liberal Democrat chairman Mark Oaten told BBC Radio 4's World At One programme Labour had itself to blame for media scepticism.

"It is another remarkable outburst from a senior Government minister," said Mr Oaten.

"In the past they have wooed the media, they have had much success by the media and in politics there is a simple rule - if you live by the sword, you die by the sword.

"I think the senior cabinet members who are spreading outrage at the moment forget that."

BBC political editor Andrew Marr says Mr Blunkett's frustration comes amid signs the relationship between Downing Street and some newspapers has now broken down and is beyond repair.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Caroline Quinn
"He has made his remarks off the cuff"
Trevor Kavanagh, political editor, The Sun newspaper
"Journalists are beginning to take sides"
Chair of Home Affairs Select Committee, Chris Mullin
"The biggest spinners are journalists not politicians"
See also:

19 Jun 02 | UK Politics
12 Jun 02 | UK Politics
12 Jun 02 | UK Politics

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