16 December 2007

New Labour: Sleazy from the get-go

I wish I had the chance to see the John Major interview in full this morning, but I was out training after finding out I have a London Marathon place :-). I will try to take a look at it over the next few days.

I think Major has a point about sleaze - the sleaze under his Government was down to individuals rather than the Government as an institution. Unfortunately that has not been the case with New Labour.

I think it goes a little beyond what seems to have been said this morning. The sleaze under the Conservatives largely happened towards the end of their 18 years in Government. New Labour have been sleazy from the moment we had the misfortune of having them come into Government.

What seems to have changed over the last year or so (probably thanks to David Cameron) is that when Blair and Co were found to be sleazy the blame from the voters was directed towards politicians as a whole so every political party suffered. Now people are recognising that it is New Labour that have the problem not everyone else.

I just hope that the exposure of New Labour is followed by similar recognition that the Lib Dems continue with their highly disreputable campaigning methods.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

I saw this in an old copy of the Times and wanted to share it with your fellow blogers to ensure non of us never forget Labour sleaze

Dustbingate! Prescott Vendetta? The night shift workers who took New Labour to crisis for the money and the fun.

By Times journalists Dominic Kennedy and Nick Watt.

For ten days starting on March 10th 1998 Tony Blair’s New Labour government was put into crisis by a bunch of night shift factory workers who made plastic bottle tops whilst the nation slept. The whole affair was coined Dustbingate by the ITN’s chief political editor Michael Brunson who could not control his amusement at the time. Apparently one of the factory workers had shinned over John Prescott’s garden wall in the middle of the night and stolen his dustbin.

As relatively new correspondents on The Times it was up to us to break the headline story of Vendetta against John Prescott on March 10th 1998. Though even at that time we both had a strange feeling that what was brewing was not all that it seemed and so it turned out to be.

What made the whole situation more bazaar was that these night shift workers turned out to be a bunch of middle aged men in mid-life crisis and desperate to escape the boredom of their jobs. Their plan of escaping their life sentence of mediocrity appeared simple enough and it was to investigate the Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott and find what we in the media had been trying to find for years and make a great big dirty bundle of cash.

Well they went about this task a little bit more differently that an experienced journalist but it did seem to get the desired results. Whilst we are not adverse to obtaining the odd snippet of information by extraneous means these factory workers showed no holds barred in getting their information by hook, by crook and downright cheek and not a little subterfuge that would have put our own secret service to shame. Whilst they did put some of us in the media to shame with what they came up with, most of us down here in London do not have a friends who work in solicitors offices in Hull or an Auntie, Uncle or cousin working at some place they could nick the odd document with the Deputy Prime Minister’s name on it.

Well we all know what happened next, the Downing Street media spin doctors took a decision to feed these factory workers to the press in order to stop their nefarious activities. And boy were they in for shock, as in answer to the government sending in the media shock troops the factory workers leaked and sold their documents to the national press. Suddenly in an amazing turn of the tables by the factory workers the media spotlight was not on them but on the activities of the Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott. The Downing Street media machine was suddenly in melt down as they tried to shut down the stories about John Prescott that were suddenly appearing all over the newspapers. The Deputy Prime Minister was put out on prime Sunday morning television to be interviewed by Sir David Frost himself and a fuming Prescott threatened to belt the factory workers.

For us in the press it was an extraordinary ten days and most of us found ourselves laughing into our copy. The affair had been a very humorous distraction that had held the nations attention for almost two weeks. These factory grunts had not only beaten us media professionals to the biggest story of 1998 but had made complete fools out of so called professional political spin doctors sitting in 10 Downing Street and even Prime Minister Tony Blair himself could not resist holding back a smile when he came to the steps of Downing Street to back his Deputy.

To add insult to injury some months later the factory workers got a lucrative books deal which they entitled Dustbingate and became a best seller and is noted for being something of a humorous account of their episode as media scoops. If one now trawls a google search engine with the words “Dustbingate” there are more than forty thousand hits in every language and in the north of England the whole episode has moved into legend.

So what happened to the factory workers? Did they escape their mundane lives? The man named as their leader and chief mischief maker, Ian Newton is today a social worker. His university degree paid for by the money he made out of the affair. Two of the other five now live in the Indian island of Goa and have set up a business exporting native art to the UK. The others we do not know much about except that one bought a new motorbike after the affair and the other two left the factory not long after the Dustbingate episode with a pocket full of cash. As for John Prescott he never seemed to get over the whole affair and would fume with rage whenever the Dustbingate name was mentioned.

I suppose us, as journalists might be forgiven for holding a grudge against this unruly mob that set out to beat the likes of me to the story. But whilst we are a bit envious, we have to say, good on ya’ mate and hope you are all happy because you certainly made us hacks in the media laugh until our sides aches.

8:11 PM  

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