Brunson hits back at Labour's tactics



Former ITN political editor Michael Brunson has criticised the way Labour is conducting its campaign after this week’s flare-up between broadcasters and politicians.

Brunson, who has come out of retirement to present Channel 4’s Election Powerhouse as well as a slot on Radio Five Live’s Sunday Service, claims that the Prime Minister and his cohorts "are behaving more like royalty" than politicians in their handling of journalists.

"They are giving out edicts, saying we will be going to such and such a place and passing by here and here, not taking into account the logistical problems it causes for broadcast journalists," said Brunson.

"And it seems they thought they could behave in the same way when they thought the broadcasters had stepped out of line. Instead of writing letters they should have gone to the journalist in the first instance, or if that didn’t work, they should have taken it up with their editors."

The Labour Party has already distanced itself from the letter sent to the BBC, Sky News and ITN by its general secretary, Margaret McDonagh, which claimed that broadcasters were conniving with protesters.

All three broadcasters have vehemently rejected the allegations, although Labour officials appear reluctant to name outright the incidents that have given them cause for concern. Tony Blair said on Radio 2’s Jimmy Young Show this week that the letter had not been referring to the egg-throwing incident which led to John Prescott punching a protester or the confrontation with Sharron Storer outside a Birmingham hospital.

Some journalists have been critical of a stunt by BBC Look East journalists who miked-up a protester they were following with a camera as he tried to buttonhole the Prime Minister.

"That seemed to be crossing the line," said one journalist who has been following Blair’s campaign. "They seemed pretty angry with him when he didn’t manage to get hold of Blair."

But the BBC has said that the programme had invited organic farmer Brian Baxter to go to Blair’s walkabout in King’s Lynn to test how difficult it was to gain access to the Prime Minister. The BBC had spoken to a Labour Party press officer and made it clear what they were intending to do, a spokesman said.

By Julie Tomlin

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