Brown praises community role of regional press

Prime Minster Gordon Brown today used a speech to regional newspaper lobby journalists to praise the campaigning work their titles do in creating a better society.

The prime minister addressed members of the Newspaper Conference (the regional press parliamentary lobby), along with newspaper editors and other key figures from the regional press industry in an event at the Houses of Parliament.

Brown, a former journalist with Scottish Television, opened his remarks by calling for the creation of more cities and more universities.

Speaking to journalists in the wake of the the Labour Party funding row, Brown also reiterated the need to reform political party funding thorough new legislation.

He said: There will be legislation quickly on this. I hope all parties will support this legislation. I have told the trade unions we have to make changes to the political levy so that is transparent as well. I'm prepared to move forward with this legislation."

He said there had been "an arms race" in party funding and that the recent problems in the Labour Party on this issue had made him "very angry".

The prime minister said of the donations row: "It's unacceptable. I'm angry about it, but we have got to deal with it."

Brown said he was not proposing further public funding for political parties "at this stage".

He went on: "I believe we have got to take all the steps necessary to avoid these things happening in the future.

On the subject of the NHS, the prime minister said: "There's a huge opportunity for local and regional newspapers to have campaigns to tackle binge drinking, drug abuse and obesity – or which promote physical fitness and sport."

Brown also praised the critical role that local and regional newspapers play in creating communities and the contribution that they make to regional and national life.

He said: "Together we have the chance to shape better communities. Let's work together to do it."

Responding to a question from Simon McGee of the Yorkshire Post about who his favourite three prime ministers were, Brown neglected to mention his predecessor, Tony Blair. Instead he opted for Lloyd George, Winston Churchill and Clement Atlee.

Russell Whitehair, president of the Newspaper Society, which hosted the lunchtime event, warned the prime minister about the threat posed to regional newspapers by the BBC's proposed network of local web sites.

Whitehair said the BBC sites would have "a major impact" on local newspapers.

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