Alastair Campbell slams the PM's "Putin-like" journalist ban

4 February 2020, 13:53 | Updated: 4 February 2020, 20:30

Alastair Campbell told James O'Brien that Boris Johnson's journalist ban is "what Trump is doing in an even more insidious way - this is what Putin does."

Tony Blair's former director of communications said he'd never stopped a journalist from lobbying No 10 and expressed surprise that an aide to Boris Johnson banned certain media outlets from a Brexit briefing yesterday.

Mr Campbell said that compared to his time in government Boris Johnson "gets it so easy" from the media.

"I was pleased that the other journalists refused to go along with it yesterday," he said, referring to other high-profile journalists that boycotted the meeting in response to the ban.

"This is a strategy. This is what Trump is doing in an even more insidious way, this is what Putin does. It basically is a way of trying to say the only voices worth listening to are the voices in power. They clearly don't care."

Mr Campbell said his only press conference has been with children, to which James joked that he also does Facebook Lives with "carefully vetted questions."

Boris Johnson's senior aide Lee Cain (right) asked certain reporters to leave No 10.
Boris Johnson's senior aide Lee Cain (right) asked certain reporters to leave No 10. Picture: PA

He acknowledged it is very difficult to work out how to handle the media however he said, "This is very much them trying to say to the public you can't believe anything."

"Only what we decide you should think and see and talk about is what we will put out there," Mr Campbell said, likening this mindset to that of the Russian government.

"Part of the job of being a top flight politician is to be exposed to scrutiny from all sides and is to develop and deal with anything anybody throws at you," he said, referencing his own desire to improve discourse by enforcing Tony Blair's monthly press conferences and said Mr Johnson's government are now narrowing down the discourse.

"I think that is quite a dangerous thing to do."