THE LAST DITCH An Englishman returned after twenty years abroad blogs about liberty in Britain
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The Prime Minister and the grieving mother

FT.com / UK - Brown looks at £1bn helicopter order.

I wonder if the linked story has anything to do with this? If so, Mrs Janes' shameful conduct in secretly recording and publishing a private call has at least had some good result. That still doesn't make it right.

The Sun's approach to this story, which demonises Brown (a man well worthy of it) for something irrelevant, is unprofessional. He is partially sighted and his handwriting is understandably poor. If he makes a spelling error, it is hard for him to detect. He is an over-promoted economic policy wonk, not a writer, and has had his letters typed for many years. It was very proper, indeed admirable, for him to write a personal, hand-written note to Mrs Janes. She should have received it in the spirit in which it was sent. Her reaction is emotional, unreasonable and unjust and the Sun's exploitation of it is sickening.

Labour's opponents will be tempted today, remembering the exploits of Alistair Campbell and Damien McBride, to sneer that those who live by the sword shall perish by the sword. New Labour corrupted British political journalism; combining bribes of privileged access and bullying to make poodles of those who should have held them to account for their actions. Now they are weak and near defeat, some poodles are taking a cowardly chance to nip at their ankles. It's hard not to enjoy it, but that would be to make the mistake of accepting the despicable standards of journalism Labour has set.

We should demand better of the next government. It should not spin, bully or play favourites. Its ministers should treat journalists with the respect their profession deserves (even if some individuals within it deserve none). They must be open to be interviewed by serious journalists from all political points of view. Most difficult of all, if they are to do a good job, they must focus on the merits of their policies more than whether their press coverage is good or bad.

If the New Labour spin catastrophe teaches us anything, it is that sustained press manipulation will be detected and despised. In the end, burying bad news leaves a disgusting smell. As Abe Lincoln said, you can't fool all of the people all of the time. In the long run, it's better not to try. If a Conservative government behaves properly in its dealings with journalists, it will surprise and confuse them immensely. Labour has been in power a long time. Many British political journalists have no experience of honest dealings. Some - accustomed to bullying - will attack perceived weakness. Over time however, respect that can never be stolen or extorted can be earned - and reciprocated.

Call me naive, but I hope never to learn that a Conservative Minister or aide was responsible for promoting or seeking to benefit from such a disgusting, exploitative story as this one. Just as I hope that none will ever seek to benefit from smearing the private lives of their opponents or outing their personal foibles, whether they mask their prurience with references to "trust" and "honesty" or not.

I am sorry for Mrs Janes loss. We owe her son a debt of gratitude and respect. But his death does not give her opinions one grain of extra weight. She should shut up and pay her late son the respect his memory deserves in her grief. If they are wise, anti-Labour commentators will shut up too. There is no story here.

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