John Kampfner

December 3, 2007

Editorial Intelligence’s John Kampfner was the editor of the New Statesman (NS) which was a former Hobsbawm Macaulay Communications client.

The NS has described Editorial Intelligence as a small, self-referential, inbred clique comprised of press, TV, public relations, publishing and politics clones acting out a fantasy — some kind of depraved, pseudo-aristocracy hanging around Luke Johnson’s restaurants pawing and drooling over each other.

‘Media and PR workers have similar backgrounds, hold similar views, live in similar houses and go to similar plays. They dine, socialise and sleep together. Journalists often move to PR in mid-career and sometimes back again; a few work simultaneously in both camps. I’d reckon at least 90 per cent of newspaper content has had some PR or spin-doctor input. And newspapers employ PRs to plant favourable stories in other papers’.

It casts doubt as to whether Hobsbawm’s “data bank” contains “anything an averagely intelligent person couldn’t find in ten minutes on the web.”

Kampfner has a website archiving his abstract musings on travel, football and the media which tend to be of the ‘Why oh why’ variety. His work slots snugly into the template of most of the establishment press: he began his career with Reuters, then (recruited by Nigel Wade) joined The Daily Telegraph in 1990. On returning to the UK in the mid-1990s, biographies say he became Chief Political Correspondent at the Financial Times and political commentator for the BBC’s Today programme. He has also written for the Guardian and the Independent.

So far his work for Editorial Intelligence has been to tell us how great other people in Editorial Intelligence are.

The herd of independent minds

Kampfner is a member of an obscure religious sect. He is a believer in Robin Cook’s ‘ethical foreign policy’. One decorative use of this — its church if you like — was the Foreign Policy Centre (FPC), which has close ties to the intelligence services, is funded by mercenary companies (working in Iraq) and largely touts pro-war government propaganda: it is a broad church that welcomes onto its board individuals such as Anthony Bailey (who fronts for the BAe Systems and the Al Yamamah deal) whose donations to the party weren’t welcome until magically they were when the Labour party pot got low. Kampfner joined with John Lloyd and Stephen Twigg to reinforce the FPC’s line at the Fabian Society’s ‘Britishness’ Conference.

This came after a bit of a falling out over Lloyd’s promotion of the wholesale adoption of his beloved neo-conservatism — a religion not particularly known for either its ethics or shyness towards mass murder. Part of the gymnastics of those mysterious commentators who claim to be left-wing but hold no discernible left-wing views are that after their somersaults they must land on the side of whoever holds the reins of power.

Although he has written on the news management of the Iraq war by the US (kind of hard to avoid), in reviews Kampfner uncritically promotes both the FPC and the neo-conservative Lobbying organisation Centre for European Reform — both now run by Mark Leonard and both of which are massively engaged in ‘public diplomacy’, the CER was set up by David Miliband and Nick Butler of BP and the British American Project for a Successor Generation with an advisory board of Spooks, Lobbyists, and those who make a fortune out of the EU. The CER’s Charles Grant returns the reviewing favours by backslapping Kampfner in Prospect magazine, which specialises in this sort of thing. Here we read some of the mildest rebukes of Blair and indeed Mr Bush ever committed to paper:

“George Bush often displays a similarly Manichean worldview, which may be why the two men get on as well as they do. Both Bush and Blair are instinctive politicians who attach great importance to personal relationships.”

‘Yo Blair!’ Just like George and Tony’s special relationship, Kampfner favourably reviews Leonard (in the NS which he edits) to such an extent it is reproduced by the CER, (run by Leonard and Grant remember) and this all rather looks like mutual masturbation for those seeking a bit of objectivity from ‘journalists’.  Why Kampfner felt the need to join Editorial Intelligence when this sort of thing was his stock-in-trade is unclear: maybe he just wants to wallow in more of this kind of thing. You can even catch Leonard and Kampfner doing the rounds of Jewish Book Week — just like George and Tony again!

Kampfner also services the needs of the Institute for Public Policy Research to tread water over the UK’s arms sales: joining with Glenys Kinnock MEP (Lord Kinnock of Bedwetting is an IPPR trustee); the IPPR’s David Mepham (who used to work for Robin Cook]); Paul Eavis of Saferworld who works with International Alert, and who acts as an adjunct (perhaps unwitting) to BAe Systems PR ; and Keith Hayward, Head of Research, Royal Aeronautical Society and Associate and Fellow of the Royal United Services Institute.

That pantomime cast was repeated at the 2003 Labour Party Fringe, sponsored by Hill & Knowlton, who spend a great deal of their time trying to start wars, this time with Derek Wyatt MP in the chair — Wyatt is also a member of Editorial intelligence — and Baroness Amos joining Glenys Kinnock, Paul Eavis and David Mepham. Kampfner was busy chairing another meeting with Brian Wilson MP and Geoffrey Robinson MP on the joys of nuclear power and another one on Iraq with Jack Straw and Clare Short.

Down Down — Deeper and Down

One of the more tedious aspect of the Blair/Brown saga perpetuated by writers like Kampfner, is the notion that Brown is some kind of left-wing Saviour, or measurably different, and that things, once again, can only get better. There is a paltry acquiescence and quietude about his work:

“In times of uncertainty, journalism of the left must not accept the status quo.”

We’ll look at that in context below, but first compare it to this from the Guardian:

“The third way has become the only mainstream way — the everything and the nothing.”

The process whereby Kampfner can imagine that (again along with Leonard etc.) fronting something like the Progress ‘national conference’ (introduced by the Rt. Hon Tony Blair MP and the Rt. Hon Peter Hain) isn’t Lord Acton’s corrupt establishment, is part and parcel of Kampfner’s mind set — the thing that keeps him cheerful—as in this example, from (yes) the Guardian:

“One of the great challenges of anyone who seeks change — journalist, politician or other — is to deal with anger and frustration, to know when to turn up the temperature and when not. Unlike the right, whose smugness is now greeted as a titillating post-political fashion statement, good journalism of the left (I apply the definition in its widest “liberal” context) must always challenge. It should never accept the status quo or take answers from officialdom at face value. In doing so, it lays itself open to some common criticisms: that it is obsessed by victimhood and blame culture; that it would never be satisfied, whatever is done; and — the most painful charge of all — that it is forever glum.”

Who is he talking to? After facilitating all those dreary conference advertisements for war by arm chair stealth bombers and massaging the think tanker’s private parts we get: No one should accept the status quo or take answers from officialdom at face value — toy with them first, write a thousand words or so, mull things over, give it a twist, try to look intelligent and then accept the status quo and answers from officialdom at face value. Get it right by studying the masters.

In several respects his work is a pointless read — a soft left so soggy and mildewed that it could switch to Cameron as needs be and few would notice. So bearing in mind the above mission statement, let’s have a look at the last paragraph of an interview with Patricia Hewitt:

“The leadership that both Tony Blair and Gordon Brown have been giving on these global issues, but now with Tony in particular around terrorism and the relationship between Islam and Muslim communities and the rest of the world, that leadership is superb.” One thing Patricia Hewitt cannot be accused of is failing to see the bright side.”

There is not much else to the piece. He just lets her ramble on in that passive aggressive nauseating tone without asking any questions. Here is the end of his interview with Gordon Brown:

“It is strange when politicians urge protesters to urge the politicians to do more, but that is the state of play as Gleneagles approaches. Brown heaps praise on Oxfam, Christian Aid, other non-governmental organisations and church groups, and – inevitably – Bono and Bob Geldof. He welcomes the forthcoming marches in Edinburgh and elsewhere, urging that they must be “properly stewarded” to ensure that “nothing happens which prevents us from focusing on the issues”. And he says: “Already what people have done and said outside mainstream political activity has made a huge difference. The changes wouldn’t have happened without the dialogue with NGOs. Millions of people have now taken up the issue. The challenge for Gleneagles is to build on what’s happened so far.””

That ‘interview’ was also basically a Brown soliloquy. And one more — the last paragraph of an ‘interview’ with David Miliband:

“There is something endearingly timeless about his politics. I suggest that, unlike many around Blair circa 1997, Miliband could not have been accused of trying to be fashionable. “I don’t think I’ve ever been accused of being faddish,” he says. “I’m more Marks & Spencer than Ted Baker.””

Kampfner’s literary agent’s site lets slip the secret of why Kampfner’s is so friendly:

“On return to London, he joined the masonic world of the political lobby at Westminster”.

The Lobby Rules effectively prevent journalistic objectivity. The trade off for this — access — doesn’t seem to be worth it for the reader: OK, its a living for Kampfner, but why should we be so hobbled and purblind?

The coalition of the willing —to do it for a fee and expenses

Kampfner is part of a slightly larger clique than Editorial Intelligence, such as this BAPtastic gathering at The Fabian Society:

Tim Garton Ash, Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, Ed Balls, Hazel Blears, Shami Chakrabarti, Nick Cohen, John Denham, David Edgar, David Goodhart, Tristram Hunt, Tessa Jowell, John Kampfner, Jude Kelly, Sadiq Khan, David Lammy, John Lloyd, Gordon Marsden, Shahid Malik, Ed Miliband, Fuad Nahdi, Tom Nairn, Trevor Phillips, Tariq Ramadan, Sir Iqbal Sacranie, Zia Sardar, Ben Summerskill, Gisela Stuart, Stephen Twigg, and more…”

And Sadiq Khan wonders why he’s getting bugged. No doubt these conference zombies lectured everyone about democracy while clogging up the arteries of debate with their political cholesterol. Sometimes though, Kampfner gets tough (queue Butch voice over): ”January 2005, Power for a Purpose, a NS Special Issue by Kampfner and Peter Wilby”:

“As Tony Blair headed for a third election victory as Labour Party leader, John Kampfner and Peter Wilby “in a comradely spirit, offer him a draft manifesto, Power for a Purpose, designed to transform him into a proper social democrat while keeping his party in office.”

On they go with a hail of bullet points. But the reality here is that it was cobbled together from the same old sources, as revealed by his: “Thanks to the Institute for Public Policy Research, Social Market Foundation, Fabian Society and Demos for assistance.” And the truth is the Labour party didn’t really bother with a manifesto, perhaps no one had the stomach for it or it was just seen as a waste of money. Perhaps there was one and no one bothered to distribute it.

Kampfner rarely strays from the confines of this little coalition of the willing — and all this closeness causes some form of self-replication, like watching the parthenogenesis of some bacteria: such as the NS’s ‘Edge Upstarts’, yet another bright and breezy slightly queasy “KnowledgeBase” launching in 2006. The same old Demos, Social entrepreneur, Venture Philanthropy patronising tedium from the same old self-serving clique now posing as judges.

“It will be a database of information for anyone in the social enterprise or practical learning sectors — and something to which anyone will be able to contribute.” But Yasmin Alibhai-Brown will elbow you in the face and Shami Chakrabarti will bite your shins if you try to take their places on the fee-paying conference circuit.

Getting into bed with simple no-nonsense naked capitalism somehow isn’t good enough for these people who try to tart it up in the scant Lingerie of social concern. Their endless conferences (which destroy language), the staging of meaningless competitions, prize-givings designed to aggrandise those sitting in judgement — all form a type of game show junk politics. Their awards are presented by ‘Newly-appointed’ Minister for the ‘Third Sector’, Ed Miliband MP — really! we were hoping for Martin Mcguinness.

Kampfner’s fellow judges are Garry Hawkes the former chairman and chief executive of Gardner Merchant and director general of Sodexho Group , Nigel Kershaw of the Big Issue, “a leading social entrepreneur and advocate of social enterprises that offer business solutions to social problems.” Slave labour with a social conscience. The blurb also notes that “In 2005, The Big Issue’s UK editions generated £12m in cover sales with around £7m going directly to homeless and vulnerably housed vendors.” Spot the arithmetic discrepancy there. And here comes Demos’ Charles Leadbetter now puffed as “one of the world’s leading authorities on innovation and creativity in organisations”. Did he write — sorry innovate — that little blurb himself? It is used elsewhere.

Of course there’s the government: Hilary Norman, Director of the Social Enterprise Unit, “Hilary joined the DTI’s Small Business Service in September 2004 where she leads the implementation of the Government’s strategy for social enterprise.” You have to entertain these people for your money these days. Dancing down-and-outs how about that for a concept? And then there’s Demos’ M. T. Rainey. And lastly — it’s usually the guy from RTZ or Shell — here he comes: Stewart Wallis, “His career began in marketing and sales with Rio Tinto Zinc.”  Some time at the world bank perhaps? “He then joined the World Bank in Washington DC working on industrial and financial development in East Asia”. Read the full details in the New Statesman or new Social Enterprise. Later perhaps…

Although it is clear that Kampfner just cannot stray from these confines: somehow or other it is pretended that he does — here by the BBC:

“In Analysis this week, John Kampfner scours the election debate for clues why fear seems to play such a major role in the political battleground and asks whether appeals to insecurity and anxiety make people more or less likely to vote…”

And where has he scoured? That would be: “the think-tanks Demos, Migration Watch and Claire Fox’s The Institute of Ideas.” ALL ABOARD — Last stop Spooksville! But Kampfner is a versatile performer — he can also wear a green hat and get all environmental.

New face in Hell

Just as the meaning of the word ‘scoured’ is traduced above, Kampfner is part of the detritus of ‘the centre’ as rendered indistinguishable from the right in latter day Orwellian ‘nuspeak’ of NuLabour. This is all too apparent in a conference, organised by Compass, which — and no you are not experiencing deja vu — argues it has :

“speakers from a wide range of political opinions — including government ministers — such as Ed Balls MP, Derek Simpson of Amicus, Helena Kennedy MP, Jonathon Porritt, Hazel Blears MP, Stephen Twigg MP, Richard Sennett, Shami Chakrabarti of Liberty, Greg Dyke, Neal Lawson, Polly Toynbee, Jon Trickett MP, John Harris, Billy Bragg, Oona King, John Kampfner and Fiona Millar who’ll be joined by ministers, MPs, trade unionists and leading figures from across the democratic left and the wider progressive community.”

The organisations it involved include The Fabian Society, Renewal, Tribune, New Politics Network, The Co-operative Party, NUT, Electoral Reform Society, Age Concern, Liberty, Green Alliance, Amicus, Red Pepper, Shelter, Make Votes Count, IPPR, Soundings, Friends of the Earth, New Statesman, Unions 21, Citizenship Foundation, nef (new economics foundation), POWER, Centre for European Reform, Forum for the Future, Foreign Policy Centre, Fawcett Society, Demos, Centre for Global Governance, Young Foundation, and War on Want.

Venn diagram anyone? That type of line up is cloned on an identifiable circuit and its doublethink is openly reinforced and reproduced — ‘the centrepiece of the Progress annual conference on Saturday 15 October, which will be addressed by the prime minister, Tony Blair’ — to serve a very useful purpose; call it ‘social enterprise’ for those networking and looking for another gig or award or think tank or committee place or just simple loveable money.

But don’t be misled, there is strenuous debate amongst these people: think of the discussions over expenses and who sits where. Then there’s the awards.

Compass — little more than a PR astroturf venture — is orchestrated by Neal Lawson who was up to his usual tricks when he stated (sold the message) on the BBC’s coverage of the conference, that the word ‘left’, ‘suggests extremism’. Much the same routine as Paul Wilkinson’s use of the term ‘Human Rights Extremists.’ One presumes that everyone listed as attending is happy to go along with this sort of shall we say ‘deconstruction’: given it is people who are afraid of the people who are in abundance. Even nice little Shami Chakrabarti is now a member (governor) of the Ditchley Foundation (looks like all those appearances on Newsnight and Question Time have finally paid off) and she has also jumped into bed with the Centre for European Reform getting her picture taken alongside Uncle Paul Wilkinson.

Mein Kampfner

Kampfner toured the country promoting his book, ‘Blair’s Wars’ which is largely based on anonymous sources — no doubt the ‘silent majority’ settling old scores. The new edition was updated to include the Hutton Report, but surely this is Kampfner just stating the bleedin’ obvious:

“John Kampfner, alleges that Hutton, former lord chief justice of Northern Ireland, a man with “impeccable legal — and establishment — credentials,” had been specially selected by the government to head the inquiry, presumably in an effort to ensure a conclusion favouring the government. Kampfner reported that an unidentified “senior figure” with the government telephoned [Gavin] Davies, urging him not to cooperate with the inquiry. “Hutton was selected by the government,” the caller reportedly told Davies. “He is close to the security services and anti-BBC. It’s a trap.” Davies reportedly dismissed the warning. When the Hutton inquiry concluded, Kampfner wrote that Blair “knew the government had not just escaped censure, but had been completely exonerated. The BBC had been damned.””

Just about everyone mentioned here is “close to the security services” one way or another. As one reviewer put it (since there are quite a few of this sort of book he did it in a batch):

“Both books set out similar themes. On relations with the US neither book falls into the lazy cliché ridden trap of painting Blair as Bush’s poodle. Both highlight how Blairs determination to deal with Iraq and WMD preceded Bush’s election and became very much his own area of expertise. Kampfner notes that Blair was not dragged into war against Iraq. He was at ease with himself and his own beliefs. Blair appears to have been amongst the quickest of world leaders to come to terms with September 11th and think through how the Americans would react. But why then back the US over Iraq, and what deal was done and what influence did Blair think he could wield? Kampfner provides the most damning summing up of Blairs approach to Iraq, his other conflicts and foreign policy. It was a mixture of self-confidence and fear, of Atlanticism, evangelism, Gladstonian idealism his was a combination of naivety and hubris (p351).”

There is so little damnation there it actually imputes pure motives to Blair (a shyster’s shyster). This concept — that Blair ‘acted in good faith’ — is also the line that the FPC has put forward. Is this all they have left?

Why cling to this diaphanous illusion? The emperor has no clothes. Would Honest Tony, with all these ‘convictions’ have taken Britain to war without the USA? When did the UK’s doublethink from containment (under Clinton) to the hunting of WMD (a terminological device used specifically for Iraq) take place? Put it this way: what was Alistair Cambell doing with the Coalition Information Centre — they were forging intelligence. Diplomats lie and journalists believe those lies — that’s how wars are started.


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