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Chief political correspondent John Morrison
"Alastair Campbell is seen as the voice of his master's unspoken thoughts"
 real 28k

Record columnist Tom Brown
"The Record ain't slavish and it's never gonna be"
 real 28k

Brian Wilson, Scotland Office Minister
"I will not argue with legitimate stories"
 real 28k

Sir Bernard Ingham
"I think he's gone barmy"
 real 28k

Tuesday, 14 March, 2000, 18:12 GMT
Campbell attacks 'dishonest' media
Campbell graphic
Mr Campbell made the attack in the Herald
The prime minister's chief spokesman has strongly criticised the Scottish media, calling them "dishonest" in the way they report the work of government north of the border.

In an interview with The Herald newspaper, Alastair Campbell said that media coverage was "unbalanced" and some stories were not true.

His attack follows Downing Street's ruling that Mr Campbell should only be referred to as "the prime minister's official spokesman" was dropped after he agreed to be filmed briefing journalists for a forthcoming BBC documentary.

Campbell's handling of the London lobby is bullying, and intimidation. He uses favourites and withdraws favours when he is displeased

Record columnist Tom Brown
His harshest criticism is levelled against the Daily Record over its coverage of the repeal of Section 28, the law which prohibits the promotion of homosexuality in Scotland's schools.

Mr Campbell tells The Herald: "If the Daily Record writes complete fiction, I am entitled to say this.

"When the Daily Record splashes over two pages crisis talks between the Big Three (Tony Blair, Donald Dewar and John Reid) and it is a complete invention, I have an old-fashioned view that their readers ought to know it is an invention."

'Journalists create spin'

In forthright terms, Mr Campbell, a former political editor of the Record's sister paper, The Mirror, accused the Scottish media of operating a "Pravda-in-reverse policy" where spin was valued before facts.

Mr Campbell said journalists were very good at giving criticism but not very good at taking it.

He added that the media constantly accused the government of spin when "99 times out of 100, it is coming from them".

Alastair Campbell
Alastair Campbell: On the attack
But the Record columnist Tom Brown responded by describing Mr Campbell as becoming "over-wrought when things aren't going his way.

"Campbell's handling of the London lobby is bullying, and intimidation. He uses favourites and withdraws favours when he is displeased.

"He thinks he can come up here and use those tactics with us and he discovered that he is dealing with a different breed and he just can't handle it."

Mr Brown was dismissive of Mr Campbell's claims in The Herald about the Scottish press pack "slavishly protecting each others' interests".

He declared: "The Record ain't slavish and it's never gonna be."

Section 28 debate

Mr Campbell's comments follow last week's visit to Scotland by the prime minister, who also criticised sections of the Scottish media for "corrosive cynicism".

He too rounded on campaigners against the abolition of Section 28 and attacked "cynical and unbalanced reporting".

The debate on the controversial law has dogged Labour both in and outside the parliament.

PM address
Mr Blair targetted the media in Scotland
There are predictions that it has damaged the party's chances of retaining the marginal Scottish Parliament seat of Ayr.

With two days to go before the by-electon, the intervention of Mr Campbell is expected to deepen the rift between Labour and the Record, the one-time bastion of Labour politics.

Speaking in Ayr, the Conservative party leader, Wiliam Hague, said Mr Campbell's criticism was "symptomatic of arrogant government".

The Scottish National Party said Mr Campbell had adopted the Tory tactic of blaming the media for the government's unpopularity when its own incompetence in running the country was to blame.

'Ludicrous' stories

Mr Campbell's comments have been welcomed by Scotland Office Minister Brian Wilson, who himself had a spat recently with BBC Newsnight Scotland live on air.

He said: "The most important thing Alastair Campbell has done here is to start a debate. The Scottish media is unfortunately very bad at self criticism and self analysis.

"There is a constant stream of stories which are not about much. It is ludicrous."

Mr Wilson added that with legitimate stories backed up by facts he had no cause for concern.

Sir Bernard Ingham, who was Mrs Thatcher's spokesman, poured scorn on Mr Campbell:

"He wasn't complaining when he had a poodle press for the first two and a half years of this government.

"He's only complaining now that they've begun to bite because the government is falling apart.

"I don't know what this is going to achieve. The media are going to take great delight in putting a sock in his bagpipe."
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See also:

14 Mar 00 | Scotland
Hague's plea to sink Labour
13 Mar 00 | UK Politics
Labour message 'hard to get across'
10 Mar 00 | Scotland
PM goes on the attack
11 Feb 00 | UK Politics
Online and on-message
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