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Nick Cohen
Thursday 8th July 2010
Anyone but Balls (4)
No names, but recently I offered my services to a member of the campaign team of one of the Labour leadership candidates. "When the Brownites come for you, when craven lobby correspondents take orders at dictation speed from anonymous briefers and put false rumours about you in supposedly independent papers, let me know and I will help you fight back."

The young woman looked appalled. I had committed a grave social error. No, no she insisted. This was a clean election. There would be no dirty tricks. Labour politicians were candid friends, fighting each other, yes, but in a courteous and comradely fashion.

Hers was a common form of denial. What passed for political satire in the Labour years was about process, not politics, and the best of it concentrated on the admittedly satirically irresistible figure of Alistair Campbell. What comedians and the wider public never grasped was that Brown was far nastier than Blair. The press never bothered to tell them because uniquely in my experience, Brown had men and women and in the pro and anti-government press. Almost to the end, hacks on the Mail and the Telegraph would provide him with a hearing and perform little services in return for stories.

Thus when Labour ministers spoke out of turn, smutty allegations about their private life appeared in the tabloids.

When the political editor of the New Statesman investigated the stories of corruption and collaboration with Islamo-fascism around Ken Livingstone, Brown's opo Charlie Whelan described to the journalist's wife, how he would get her husband fired.

And when the Labour Chancellor of the Exchequer accurately predicted the financial crisis the Brownites went for him too.

It was therefore no surprise at all to pick up the Independent this morning and read my old colleague Andy McSmith reporting that

   Andy Burnham, a contender for the leadership of the Labour Party, has accused supporters of a rival camp of conducting "malicious briefing" in the hope of getting him to throw in the towel. His remarks are the first public sign of mutual antagonism in a leadership contest that has been marked by restrained language up to now.
   Mr Burnham said that he "nearly fell out of his chair" when he read a report that he was looking for an early exit to avoid the embarrassment of coming fifth in a field of five.

 But, but who could  so fail to live up to the genteel standards of the new era of courtesy and fraternity.

    Mr Burnham's camp have remained tight-lipped about who they blame for the smear but some have been quick to point the finger at supporters of Ed Balls. Both are fighting for the votes of a very similar constituency.
   The shadow Health Secretary claimed the rumour was put about because he has begun to pick up support. He said: "It was malicious briefing. I can only conclude that they're worried. It was total rubbish. It's a sign of desperation.

My offer still stands. My rates are reasonable and track record impressive, even if I say so myself. I will provide counter-propaganda work for any candidate. Anyone but Balls.
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About Nick Cohen

Nick Cohen is a columnist for the Observer and author of You Can't Read This Book: Censorship in an Age of Freedom (Fourth Estate) and What's Left? How The Left Lost Its Way (Harper Perennial). Living With Lies, a collection of his writing for Standpoint, is available as an ebook. 

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