Thursday, September 09, 2004
Who did leak to the Sun?

The leak of Michael Howard's rejection of Bush to the Sun (not available directly, but a copy is here) is puzzling. There are a number of ideas.

Let's get rid of the first theory, that the Sun either made this up out of whole cloth or that they guessed it. The story is far too well sourced for that. Despite its soft-core pornography and reliance on football and soap opera stories it is a serious newspaper that will only report a story like this if it is sure of its facts.

The second theory is that the Bush administration placed this in the papers without consulting Blair. Someone in the Bush Administration must have commented on the story, hence the line "Senior US Right-wingers blame Mr Howard for undermining the coalition in Iraq and say they are privately rooting for a Labour victory in the next election."

Anyone who reads the well sourced Peter Oborne can be in no doubt that a supporter of the Bush administration's policies is objectively left wing in British terms, in that they would prefer a Labour victory to a Tory one. If they don't then they are not Bush supporters, simple as that.

But the idea that the Yanks would go in without consulting Labour, and giving final veto to them is unthinkable.

So is it a really, really stupid press operation from Downing Street? Even with Alistair Campbell gone this does require a certain high amount of stupidity. The press operation, to a very high level, would have to either be ignorant of the general distaste in which Bush is held among voters in general - including swing voters - or believe that a story like this would keep within the bounds of the generally pro-American Sun readership. Now it's possible that this stupidity exists (they thought they'd get away with the Hutton whitewash after all), but not likely.

So that leaves one last culprit, the Tories. After all how many Americans say "full stop" rather than "period" as Karl Rove is said to have done. Not that Karl Rove did not make that call, just that the quote - direct quote remember - must have been relayed by a British person. It could have been changed by a sub editor or journalist, but unlikely given that it was attributed as a direct quote.

And there were an awful lot of Tories quotes.

So if it was the Tories was it a bid by a pro-American source (such as the bewildered Liam Fox - who has access to American rightwingers) to destabilise Howard. Or was it a, in hindsight, brilliant Tory move to let Howard paint himself as a patriotic anti-American (although why they had such a feeble official response is perhaps not so brilliant).


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