I have now discovered a few bits of interesting information about Gordon Brown's Sunday newspaper spinning operation last weekend. Many of you will have read stories in all the broadsheets about how Gordon was going to get tough on terror. What the journalists writing those stories didn't tell you was how this story got into their papers. As they won't tell you, let me.
Gordon Brown's spin team of Damian McBride and Michael Ellams spent most of Saturday phoning round the Sunday lobby giving them 'exclusive' insights into Gordon Brown's views on fighting terrorism. I believe there was even a document from which the journalists were able to craft their words. Indeed, so similar were the stories in the main broadsheets they had to have been given a document. Click on these stories if you don't believe me - Sunday Times, Observer, Independent, Telegraph. Now, nothing wrong with that until you know what the terms of this 'exclusive' story were.
Brown's spinners told these papers* that they would only get the story if they agreed not to carry any quotes from David Davis, Nick Clegg or any other opposition spokesman. Not only that, they weren't even allowed to tell the Tories or LibDems about the very existence of the story. Now, have a look a those links in the above para again. It's not difficult to spot that not a single one of the stories contains a quote from David Davis or Nick Clegg? Coincidence? No.
At 7.30pm on Saturday night the Press Association got hold of the story from one of the nationals. They hadn't been included in the 'briefings' from McBride and Ellams. They wrote the story complete with an extensive quote from David Davis, yet not a single Sunday paper carried it. Davis pointed out that Brown's intervention threatened to blow apart the cross-party discussions which had been going on between Blair and Cameron, and himself, Reid and Clegg. Newsworthy? I think so.
The fact is that Blair and Cameron had reached agreement on a way forward on using phone tap evidence in court, and Davis had negotiated a way forward with Reid in a number of other areas. It was all set to be announced this Thursday by Reid in a Commons Statement.
Brown's intervention cut across all of this. Reid was left fuming spluttering about Brown playing politics with terrorism and using it for his own purposes. He could hardly be blamed. It is not yet known if Reid will still be making a statement tomorrow, but if he does, it's quite clear that he has been severely undermined.
You won't, of course, read this version of events in any of the mainstream newspapers, because if you did, they'd be struck off Gordon's
spinning briefing list. Make no mistake, the media are waking up to the fact that Gordon's spinning regime will be just as ruthless as it was under Alastair Campbell and Peter Mandelson. They are spinning exactly the opposite, of course, which just makes it even worse. One day, perhaps, the lobby will stop co-operating with their bullying tactics.
UPDATE * Patrick Hennessy of the Sunday Telegraph has vehemently denied in the Comments that he received any such briefing along the lines I suggest. He describes this entire piece as "rubbish". I pointed out that I know for a fact that at least one newspaper did receive such a briefing and it was entirely reasonable to assume, given that all four broadsheets wrote almost identical stories, that all of them agreed not to carry quotes from either of the opposition parties. Hennessy further says: "I didn't think the story needed a Tory or Lib Dem reaction". That is of course for him to decide, but I have to say that I find it astonishing that on an issue where Blair and Cameron, together with Red, Davis and Clegg were trying to build a cross party consensus (soemthing Hennessy must have known about), he didn't think it worth ringing Davis or Clegg to see what they thought about Brown crashing in on the issue. Of course, PA carried Davis's fairly strong comments from 7.30pm, well before the Sunday Telegraph's deadline.