Saturday 15 July 2006

The New Labour Spin Attack Has Started Already

Many people warned me that as soon as I announced I would be standing for the leadership of the Labour Party the New Labour spin doctors would do everything they could to undermine our campaign from the outset.

I've been around long enough to have witnessed their behaviour so I suppose by now I shouldn't be shocked. I don't mind New Labour disagreeing with and criticising my policies. In fact I really welcome debate of this kind but I just cannot come to terms with downright lies.

Most of the media reported our launch statement fairly accurately. There was extensive almost wall to wall coverage on radio and TV, with follow up reports in many of this morning's newspapers. Even where a TV, radio or newspaper journalist had a pop at me it was at least from a genuine political perspective.

However within hours of our launch it is clear that New Labour was briefing against our campaign. The result was a disgraceful tissue of untruths and distortions in today's Independent.

I have to say the Independent is usually pretty balanced and its political reporters like Colin Brown always do their best to check their facts and give us a fair opportunity to have our say.

Colin was on leave yesterday so a reporter named Andy McSmith covered our launch. His report smacked of a New Labour private press briefing. It was a pack of dishonest, untruths and fabrications clearly based upon the spin technique perfected over the last decade by New Labour. At no stage did Mr McSmith speak to me to check any of the elements of his story.

McSmith entitled his article "Stalking Horse Challenge Falls at the First Hurdle." The article alleges that I had called a press conference at Millbank Tower to launch an immediate "stalking horse " challenge against the Prime Minister but only backed down and cancelled the press conference because I had been warned by fellow Left wingers that I hadn't got the support.

Let's get the facts straight.

First, I have for some time now ensured that supporters and the media were aware that I did not back a "stalking horse" challenge to the Prime Minister and that if I were to run it would only be when the PM decided to stand down and would only be as a serious challenger to win the election. We have confirmed that Mr McSmith's colleagues on his own paper were fully aware that this was the case. In fact this was what was contained in my campaign launch statement and in everything I have said to the media on this issue.

Second, there was no plan to hold a press conference at Millbank Tower, a ghastly place. Initially I wanted to hold my press launch in the park next to Parliament beside the statue of Mrs Pankhurst, to celebrate the role of women in the fight for democracy, but the TV crews asked if we could use the Green opposite as they have live feed connections available there. No fellow left wingers advised us against this strategy. In fact many urged us on and applauded our approach. We went ahead then with a launch of the campaign in exactly the way we had planned and it was an overwhelming success.

I have demanded the right of reply in the Independent and will be taking Mr McSmith's behaviour up with the NUJ and the Press Complaints Commission.

But let me make it extremely clear to the New Labour spin doctors.

You can throw at us all you want. You can lie, smear, fabricate and invent all the untruths that you wish.

We will respond by telling the truth and sticking to the policies not personalities.

I suppose you have really done us a favour from the outset. In this first attempt to spin against us in this patently dishonest and underhand way you have exposed the role you play in politics. You bring disgrace upon what should be a noble cause, the Labour party and indeed British politics. You are dragging our party into the gutter with your spin and sleaze. With your lies and slick dishonesty you have undermined the trust the British public placed in a Labour government. People may not have agreed with all of our policies but at least they believed the Labour Party was honest. You have destroyed that faith in the party in the eyes of so many of even our supporters. Thanks to you the latest polls now show that people have more trust in the Tories.

You are one of the reasons why I am standing in this election. I want to clean up Labour party politics once and for all. My aim is to end the spin and scrap the sleaze and to clear out from all sections of our party and government those elements that are undermining the trust in the honesty and decency of our party.

I warn again all those that have supported my challenge for the leadership of our party. Elements in New Labour will stoop even lower to attack our campaign but we will stand ready and reply to every falsehood with the truth and will be strengthened as a result.

They will not and cannot halt this flowering of democratic debate in our movement.