Andrew Marr claims that Rupert Murdoch was favoured by New Labour

Leveson Inquiry: New Labour favoured some journalists, says Marr

Andrew Marr said he did not look back with pride on asking Gordon Brown if he took painkillers

23 May 2012 Last updated at 12:46
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-18173185

New Labour favoured certain reporters, including ones who worked for Rupert Murdoch’s papers, BBC journalist Andrew Marr has told the Leveson Inquiry.

And he said he the media now “jumped fast to analysis and comment” sometimes before facts were laid out.

Earlier former Heritage Secretary Stephen Dorrell told the inquiry into press ethics he explored ways of “doing nothing” about proposed privacy laws.

Ex-Labour minister Lord Reid and the BBC’s Jeremy Paxman will speak later.

The inquiry into press standards is looking into the relationship between politicians and the media.
‘In the wilderness’

Mr Marr said he believed the Labour government thought having a positive relationship with News International titles as well as newspapers such as the Mirror and the Guardian was “well worth doing”.

Asked if New Labour favoured some journalists because they worked for News International, Mr Marr – who before joining the BBC worked for non-Murdoch newspapers – replied: “yes, absolutely”.

But he said reporters from some papers, such as the Daily Telegraph, found themselves “out in the wilderness”.

Speaking about reporters whose role was to cover political stories, he said “there was very much an attempt to divide this group of journalists”.

He said “from the outside it felt quite cold and chilly” not to be part of the favoured group.

He added there was clearly “a lot of work” going on to ensure good links between a pro-Europe prime minister and the Sun, a Eurosceptic newspaper.
‘Friendly with politicians’

In the past, Mr Marr had written that fostering relationships and trust with politicians through lunches and drinks was key to getting stories. But he told the inquiry he was no longer a personal friend of any politicians.

Stephen Dorrell said he wrote minutes while a minister “in English that didn’t require decoding”

But he said: “I am friendly with politicians, and many I like and admire. Contacts with politicians is part of my professional life and was never easy.”

He also said the rise of internet news had meant people did not buy newspapers to simply find out what had happened and papers had adapted and now looked to get readers “emotionally engaged in the news”.

Mr Marr said he “mourned” the old distinction between news and comment but thought there was “no going back”.

He told the inquiry asking Gordon Brown whether he took painkillers to “get through” was not a moment of his career he looked back on with enthusiasm or pride.

He said this was not because the question was inappropriate but because it had overshadowed other news lines that came out of the interview.
‘Do nothing option’

Earlier the inquiry heard from Conservative MP Stephen Dorrell, who was national heritage secretary in the mid-90s under John Major, with responsibility for media policy.

Mr Dorrell told the inquiry the government at the time preferred to avoid statutory regulation of the press and said he was “personally hostile for any proposal for official regulation of freedom of expression”.

He said when privacy laws were suggested, the government explored ways of “doing nothing” about it and he was asked to “dress up a do nothing option”.

And he said was not in favour of having government policy determined by press coverage but also not in favour of having policy set out “blind to press coverage”.

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