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6 January 2010

That Tessa Jowell rumour: the truth

Resignation threats, the NS and lazy misreporting

By James Macintyre

Pleasing to see Newstatesman.com‘s exclusives here and here about Tessa Jowell picked up last night and this morning by the wires, the Daily Mail and other online outlets, including Iain Dale.

Less gratifying to see it misreported by Sky News and — more wildly — the Guardian.

The former implies that Jowell denies our story, and that our story was that Jowell was set to resign. The latter, pretty outrageously, claims that: “Tessa Jowell, the cabinet office minister, was wrongly named on a website, and forced to ring No 10 to deny she was leaving the government.”

This has been “wrongly” reported, to coin a phrase. Anyone who actually read either my very brief initial story or my subsequent analysis will have seen straight away that my line was precisely that Jowell was not quitting government; that instead she had spoken by telephone to No 10 to deny the rumour which already centred around her.

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So, just to be clear: it is reporting the facts “wrongly” to say that she called No 10 after my report appeared. I was the one who reported that call. I even reported a well-placed source — who knew about the contents of the call — saying that “Tessa is in a good place with Gordon at the moment”.

I hope that is clear. Forgive this obscurity, but the Labour leadership question is a complicated one, and with events moving fast it is important to clarify the details. Incidentally, I received a call late last night from a very senior rebel who said that “Brown will be gone by the end of the week”. I still doubt that, for the same reasons I outlined yesterday and, similarly, at the turn of the year, but we shall see.

 

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