As you may know, the Daily Mail and Mail on Scumday are not allowed in the house. It’s the same rule I apply to dogshit. But I confess to taking a sneak peek online today, to see whether the Scumday did anything with a ‘story’ they were chasing me about yesterday.
Oh they did … and it is so nice to start the day with a laugh.
‘Tories’ Andrew Lansley walks into Labour’s internet trap … with a little help from a glamorous woman.’ My God, does that headline sound exciting or what?
‘It had all the hallmarks of a political sting:’ begin the reporters Simon Mills and Glen Boon … ‘an attractive young writer with secret links to Labour interviews a Tory frontbencher and produces a “scandal” gleefully fed to the media by ex-Downing Street press chief Alastair Campbell.’
Then in the next paragraph we get another Mail on Scumday buzzword/hate figure thrown in, namely John Prescott, because apparently his son David is involved in an ‘internet unit’ responsible for this amazing entrapment of Lansley, who for reasons best known to David Cameron will be in charge of the NHS if the Tories get into power.
But enough of JP – I want to know about the internet trap, and the glamorous woman. It turns out she is Sally Gainsbury, whose article on Lansley in the Health Service Journal I wrote about approvingly, under the headline ‘Lansley done up like a kipper’,a few days ago. The Scumday have a photo of her. A good-looking woman, certainly.
And hey, guess what, she goes out with someone called Alex Hilton, who is a Labour candidate, and who works with David Prescott on an internet campaigns consultancy whose work I have praised. Shock bleedin’ horror!
The Scumday writers put the word ‘operation’ in quotes to describe what the Tories claim is a dirty tricks campaign against Mr Lansley. Honestly, you must read it (though promise not to buy it) – it is hilarious.
So brilliant is our dirty tricks internet operation that Lansley fell into not one, but two traps set by glamorous Gainsbury, as a result of which several national papers picked up on his comments, ‘including the Labour-supporting Daily Mirror, where Campbell once worked.’ Oh my God, game, set and match!!!
But the conspiracy does not stop there. It turns out that Hilton and Gainsbury ‘FOLLOW EACH OTHER ON TWITTER’ – Christ alive, is there no end to their debauchery? And they follow David Prescott too. And they have ‘left a trail of left-wing political observations’ on the social networking site. Really, what chance did Lansley have up against this?
It gets worse. When Hilton was in hospital, his twitter page said that he was not ready for visitors, but people interested in his welfare should ‘text Sally’ instead. Poor Lansley … knowing an NHS patient has links with a journalist working on the outside. Is it any wonder he is starting to get a rather haunted look?
Mills and Boon kind of run out of anything that might be deemed a fact after that so they go into a whole load of blah about tax and spend, blah, Barack Obama and the internet, blah, and how the net is going to be central to the next election, blah, so ‘many experts’ (ie them) think the internet will be used for dirty tricks and black propaganda (God, do they ever stop talking about themselves?)
As for a fact or two amid their hysterical account … as I said on my blog, the Health Service Journal article was sent to me by a friend on Facebook. I had not heard of Sally Gainsbury till I saw her piece. I was unaware she went out with Alex Hilton. Er, that’s it.
But I find it rather encouraging that the Tories get so wound up about it that they get the Mail on Scumday to write hundreds of words of drivel suggesting they’re being done in by a sophisticated entrapment operation complete with gorgeous women, close-knit internet synergy of co-conspirators, and inspiration from Obama.
No matter how hard I try, I just cannot persaude the Tories or their press chums that I am not as good as they think I am.
Of course the more sinister view of this might be that the Tories hope to create a stink around a reporter who clearly has the measure of Lansley’s lack of grip on health policy, so that the Health Service Journal give their glamorous reporter the boot. Now that really would be a scandal. A space that needs to be watched.
*** While on the subject of today’s papers, I’ve had a few people texting and emailing to ask who Peter Mandelson and I were looking at in a photo of us on Page 24 of The Observer, taken through the trees at David Frost’s party on Thursday. It’s hard to be absolutely sure, as we were chatting away for quite a while, but it is a toss up between Mike Jackson, Michael Caine and David Cameron (roughly the order in which I would place them in a ‘suitable to be Prime Minister’ list.)