Driving over to Cumbria yesterday morning was considerably enlivened by John Humpreys' interview with Alistair Campbell.
I know he can be a foul-mouthed bully, but I've always admired Campbell for the revolution he and Peter Mandelson wrought in the way Labour was treated by the media. As Campbell (vainly) tried to remind Humphreys, when he became Tony Blair's press secretary , the media was almost universally hostile to the party. It took a single minded effort of herculean proportions to get the traditionally rightwing tabloid press to report Labour and its leader at all favourably. Nick Jones' excellent Soundbites and Spin Doctors lays bare how both parties have tried to manipulate the media (and vice versa).
Of course, there's plenty of "previous" between Humphreys and Campbell over the Hutton report, which I needn't repeat here as I know I have a universally knowledgable audience...
Humphreys central charge was that Campbell, almost single-handedly, has brought politics to its knees through spinning, which has in turn created a climate of cynicism amongst the public. As a result, no-one believes what any politician says any more.
There was plenty of harrumphing in my car at that - IMHO Humphreys has done more to create the climate of sneering negativity in politics than any other individual. His snide questioning of politicians invariably takes the line that "we all know that you, minister x, are little more than a lying lickspittle, and your policies are a disaster." He then affects pantomime horror when an embattled interviee suggests that he, Humphreys, is allowing his own anti-Labour hostility to seep into the questioning.
He is the single biggest reason why for the most part I listen to the news on Radio 5, where there is a refreshing lack of overweening personalities presenting the news.
News management probably did go too far in the first couple of years of the Blair government, as Campbell himself conceded (not that Humphreys noticed). Nonetheless, yesterday Campbell gave as good as he got for a full half an hour. Great stuff.