Labour rips into media over 'bias and propaganda'
GORDON Brown's frustration at his failure to imprint his message on the British public spilled out into the open yesterday when he launched a furious tirade on air.
During a bad-tempered interview with Sky TV, the Prime Minister branded its political editor Adam Boulton a "political propagandist", and complained repeatedly that he was not being allowed to make his case.
Mr Brown's fury comes after months of resentment felt by both the Prime Minister and his wife Sarah over what they see as the overwhelmingly negative coverage being meted out by the British media
Privately, Mrs Brown has accused the press of invention, particularly over claims Mr Brown had been "snubbed" by Barack Obama on his two visits to the United States since his inauguration. The Prime Minister's wife has said she believes large parts of the media have simply decided they want a change of party, and are now trying to engineer stories to bring it about.
Mr Brown's tirade yesterday was aimed at Mr Boulton, but he is also understood to have privately expressed resentment at the BBC's coverage, which came to a head earlier this week when he was asked on the Andrew Marr programme whether he was taking pills for depression.
The momentum following Mr Brown's keynote speech on Tuesday came crashing to a halt yesterday after the Sun announced it would be backing the Tories in the general election, for the first time since Tony Blair's successful 1997 campaign.
On the conference floor, Unite general-secretary Tony Woodley dramatically tore up a copy of the paper, while Mr Brown insisted it was "people, not newspapers" who would decide the election.
Meanwhile, the Prime Minister's speech came under fresh attack as pensioners' groups in England said his pledge on free personal care would fall far short of the measures already in place in Scotland.
Mr Brown's impatience with the media became apparent when he was asked during his Sky interview if he agreed he was struggling to get his message across. He responded: "It doesn't help when newspapers translate it into something different."
As Mr Boulton tried to ask the Prime Minister whether he would stay on as leader, and if he would take part in a live TV debate with other party leaders, Mr Brown accused him of being "obsessed" with personality.
He said: "You haven't given me the chance to talk about the philosophical issues that you say weren't addressed in the speech. You haven't given me the chance to talk about our political reforms yesterday. You haven't given me the chance to talk about our economic policies".
When Mr Boulton then asked if he would agree to a live TV debate, which is being proposed by Sky, Mr Brown snapped back: "You're certainly sounding like a political propagandist yourself."
Mr Brown is understood to have tried to walk out at the end of the interview with the microphone still attached to his suit, only to be told that he had to stay put for a BBC interview.
The Browns' anger at the media has been partly caused by the stories that emerged from their visits to the US. When Mr Brown met Mr Obama in Washington last year, there were claims the US president had snubbed them, to the extent of offering cheap gifts to the Prime Minister and his family.
Last week, reports claimed Mr Brown had failed to secure a proper face-to-face meeting with the president and had had to settle for a 15-minute "chat" in a kitchen. One source close to the family said: "Sarah has been furious about the treatment he is getting for some time."
With Labour ministers trying to fight back in the polls, the decision by The Sun was met with belligerence from the conference. Deputy leader Harriet Harman said: "We may be the underdog but we won't be bullied. This underdog is biting back."
Conservative leader David Cameron said he was "delighted" at the Sun's support and claimed it showed that his party was "setting the agenda".
However, Professor John Curtice of Strathclyde University, said the Sun's move away from Labour was symbolic but would not have a big material impact on the party's support.
He said: "Particularly because it's the most widely-read newspaper, and because of the history of the 1992 election, and because the Labour Party has courted it like hell, it's iconic or symbolic of the fact, not that the Sun is going to change the climate, but that the climate has changed already."
He added that he expected the net outcome of the Sun's decision to be "approximately zero".
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