The Sunday Times, front page headline:
Balls ‘ran’ Labour’s smear unit.
The whole subsequent story, by “Isabel Oakeshott, Deputy Political Editor”, amounting to (at a quick guess) as near a dammit a thousand words, is based upon one — count them — one mysterious individual:
a Downing Street whistleblower … a No 10 insider … He claims … The insider said … The whistleblower, who has had a ringside seat on the power struggles inside No 10, claims … The whistleblower claims … The whistleblower, who has never spoken to the media before, was prompted to speak out through loyalty to Brown and the Labour party … According to the insider, … The insider claims … The whistleblower revealed … The whistleblower accused …
Got all that?
Let’s try it again, from William Goldman’s classic script:
BRADLEE: Bernstein, are you sure on this story?
BRADLEE (to WOODWARD): What about you?
WOODWARD: I’m sure…
BRADLEE: I’m not sure, it still feels thin … get another source.
For the Sunday Times, there is no other source. Even so, it is good enough for a full double, centre-page spread (pages 14 and 15) and the first editorial (page 18).
At some point the wish becomes the deed:
Mr Balls’s devout wish is to be prime minister and he has worked out a way of reaching his goal: replace Alistair Darling as chancellor this year, get himself elected party leader after the likely defeat of Labour at the next general election, harry the Tories as they slash public services to save Britain from bankruptcy and then march triumphantly into Downing Street in five or six years’ time.
Such a plan is the kind of scheme every aspiring prime minister may scribble, whether in a school exercise book or on the back of an envelope, as Michael Heseltine was once said to have done. What makes Mr Balls’s ambition unacceptable is the method he is alleged to be using to pursue it. As we report today, not only was he the power behind the now disgraced Damian McBride but he is also using his relationship with Gordon Brown to run a shadow dirty tricks operation from inside Downing Street. It has simple objectives: keep Mr Brown in power until the general election and then ensure Mr Balls becomes leader of the opposition.
Notice: the “whistleblowing” allegation, the suggestion, the unverified slur of page one has now become the “factoid” of page 18.
Inevitably, the window-lickers and their lick-spittle facilitators pile in:
Ed Balls Ran Labour Dirty Tricks Unit
The Sunday Times is claiming that Ed Balls was the man in charge of the Downing Street dirty tricks unit. He chaired meetings which planned the wholescale ‘dark arts’ operation against fellow Labour politicians.
That’s the Iain Dale starter for whatever he can get last evening. No suggestion or weaseling use of quotatation marks bothers Dale: it’s the lie direct. His punch-line, almost inevitably, is to cry havoc against the BBC for knowing the difference between froth-blowing and the real Adnam’s Broadside (which, this afternoon, was on top form, as always, at The King and Tinker):
None of this, or the contents of the previous post have made the BBC news headlines.