I nearly choked over my Sunday roast when I saw the name of Labour blogger, Alex Hilton, linked with Alistair Campbell, a pretty girl and a grand internet conspiracy via the Mail on Sunday.
In the piece by political editor, Simon Walters, author of an attack biography of Campbell, Alex (my fellow blogger at Labourhome) is supposed to be pulling the strings of his girlfriend, Sally Gainsbury, an investigative journalist with the Health Service Journal, to bring down the Tory Shadow Health Secretary, Andrew Lansley.
Gainsbury recently interviewed Lansley, where she quizzed him on his party’s plans for funding the NHS. She quoted him saying that ‘pay should be set in line with what is necessary to recruit and retain the workforce’. Her magazine press released the interview, the HSJ website ran the headline ‘Andrew Lansley waves a blank NHS pay cheque’ – and the line was reported by Sky News as ‘Lansley puts his foot in it with freelance pronouncements on future Tory spending priorities’.
Lansley, not for the first time, had gaffed and embarassed the Tory leadership on the sensitive issue of spending levels. Lansley tried to rapidly rebutt and 'kill the story'.
‘The Health Service Journal has got this 180 degrees wrong,’ he said. ‘Future NHS allocations will not be able to accommodate inflationary staff costs.’
According to the Mail on Sunday, "Ms Gainsbury reported it as ‘Conservatives pledge real terms cuts to NHS wages’, and this fresh angle was picked up by several national newspapers, including the Labour-supporting Daily Mirror, where Mr Campbell once worked."
Aaah, yes, Alistair Campbell used to work at the Mirror nearly twenty years ago. This conspiracy has more tentacles than an octopus!!
Lansley's team has resorted to old style bully-boy tactics now. They contacted Walters, a former drinking buddy of Damian McBride, on Thursday. A story was welded together that adds Hilton, at times a former irritant of McBride, and finds a way of squeezing in some names you've heard of i.e. Alistair Campbell and John Prescott (via his son, David).
The piece is groaning with insinuation and a lack of on-the-record, direct and original quotes. There isn't even any of the 'sources within Tory HQ' that are a hallmark of these kinds of Sunday 'exclusives'. A big chunk of it is lifted from a PR Week story of about two weeks ago and there's also the shock scoop that Gainsbury, Hilton and Campbell ''follow each other on Twitter''. I wonder if they all follow Stephen Fry as well? Perhaps he's the king-pin in all this?!
This whole thing is a bit of a laugh until you consider that the bully-boys are trying to smear a hard-working investigative journalist, who has won a string of awards, including Press Gazette News Reporter of the Year and Medical Journalism Association Health Trade Reporter partly through writing pieces that slam Labour policy e.g. NHS told to cap spending as more than half of £1.8bn surplus is lost and Health inequalities: wealthiest overfunded as the poor lose out
The Mail obviously think so as they often publish her stuff
The article takes up most of page 8 and there's a large photo of Ms Gainsbury. I wonder if so much space would have been allocated if the journalist being pursued was a middle aged, balding man?