Alastair Campbell strikes more positive note on Ed Miliband

Independent on Sunday interviewee clarifies his position.

Following the Independent on Sunday's coverage of its interview with Alastair Campbell, which I blogged on earlier, Campbell has issued some remarks that clarify his comments and appear to show him very slightly less opposed to the prospect of an Ed Miliband leadership (Campbell backs David Miliband) than he seemed at first sight. Apologies to those readers who are sick of anything relating to Campbell on this blog, but I think the passage below is worth reading if you're interested in the contest.

First of all, thanks to the Independent on Sunday for devoting two pages to an interview pegged to the publication of Prelude to Power, which also mentions (and has pictures of the front covers of) All In The Mind and Maya, my two novels.

But . . . and I think journalists know me well enough to know there is likely to be a but after such lavish thanks . . . a modest grumble if I may about its presentation in the rest of the paper, which rather lends support to my argument about the real spin doctors being the editors, reporters and headline writers.

Here's a quote (and to be fair to interviewer John Rentoul, who had one of those old-fashioned tape recorders, I am sure all the quotes are accurate) from the section of the interview where we were talking about the four former Cabinet ministers vying to succeed GB as Labour leader, David and Ed Miliband, Ed Balls and Andy Burnham . . .

"They have all grown. I got on very well with Ed [Balls] during the campaign. But in the end you've got to make a judgment. Of all of them, I think David [Miliband] has got the most rounded political and policy skills that you need. I'm a pragmatist about this. I think about who can take on Cameron best. They've all got strengths. I think the thing with Ed Miliband is that he's a really nice guy, but you've got to differentiate between making the party feel OK about losing and actually then making the party face up to what it needs to do to get into shape again. It's the latter that you have to look for, and I think David's got that."

And here is a Page 1 strapline . . . Alastair Campbell exclusive interview: "Ed Miliband is a nice guy but he'd only make Labour feel OK about losing."

Now, if you can bear with me, go back to the actual quote, and note the subtle but significant change secured by inserting the word "only" in the strapline. I was trying to explain why I was backing David M over the other three, without denigrating his opponents. The quote just about achieved that, I think, but the strapline moves close to denigration territory. And it is in quote marks. Therefore you would be entitled to think I said it, exactly in those terms.

Then there was a small news story on Page 2, and here the headline is even starker . . . "Campbell: Ed Miliband isn't up to leading Labour." Again, I think you would be hard-pressed to say that I actually said that. He has many strengths and there are clearly serious people in the party who think he is the man to lead Labour into the future, and I can see why. I just happen to have reached the view that his brother would be better. It does not mean that he "isn't up to leading Labour".

James Macintyre is political correspondent for the New Statesman.
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