The Daily Telegraph’s outgoing political editor George Jones has said media relations with the Government are unlikely to improve with Gordon Brown as Prime Minister.
Speaking to Press Gazette ahead of his planned departure in October after 21 years at the Telegraph, Jones said the culture of spin will continue to flourish under Brown’s leadership.
“There will be a honeymoon period and it will be back to the usual aggressive, confrontational state,”
he said: “We are in the run-up to a general election, and everything will be constant campaigning between now and then. Virtually everyone has a spin doctor and is able to manipulate the media, which is very different from 20 to 30 years ago.
“You used to be able to find out things more easily and, if you were good, pre-empt things that Governments were doing. But now Governments pre-empt themselves and information has become a tradable commodity. Journalists will need a healthy dose of cynicism despite the relentless pressure for scoops.”
Speaking about the future of the Tory party Jones, 63, says the party’s incoming head of communications Andy Coulson is in a better position than any other spin doctor since the fall of the John Major Government to win back popularity for the Tories.
He said: “Andy Coulson has the best material to work with at a time when the voters may be looking for a change.
There have been three other Tory leaders since Major: Hague, IDS and Michael Howard, but Cameron is their best hope. He’s young, charismatic and has voter appeal, and attempts to push the Tories back to the centre ground have put the Conservatives back in contention.
“I think Coulson will be on a very sharp learning curve – he’s got to prevent mistakes and own goals, like the grammar schools debacle; and so he’s got to constantly keep in touch on things. But he’s got a pretty good product: of any Conservative spin doctor for the past 15 years he’s got the best product to sell.”
Jones began his career on the Eastern Daily Press in 1963, and has since worked as a political and parliamentary journalist for the Scotsman, the Sunday Telegraph and Reuters before joining the Daily Telegraph as political correspondent.
It is understood Jones turned down a senior managerial role at the paper but he declined to comment on the circumstances of his departure. He said he would like to continue writing and broadcasting in some capacity.
“They (the Telegraph management)
decided they want a change, and that’s their right. I hope there’s life after the Telegraph – I’ve done quite a lot of broadcasting in my time, and I hope there will be some continuing role in journalism,” said Jones.