Saturday's newspapers and Labour's big beasts respond to Lord Ashcroft's attack on Ed Miliband's spin doctor
By Tim Montgomerie
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Yesterday's article from Lord Ashcroft - attacking Ed Miliband for employing Tom Baldwin - was one of the most viewed articles ever posted on ConservativeHome. It's widely reported in this morning's newspapers...
The Sun focuses on Mr Baldwin's alleged drug habit: "Labour leader Ed Miliband was last night asked whether his chief spin doctor had a serious cocaine problem. Tory peer Lord Ashcroft has accused Labour's Director of Communications Tom Baldwin of having been a heavy abuser of the drug for years in the past. And yesterday he made new claims that Mr Baldwin may have broken the law while working as an investigative journalist. Asked about the cocaine allegation, Mr Miliband replied: "I'm not going into what people did in their private lives. If he has evidence, he should come forward with it.""
The Mail focuses on Mr Baldwin's dirty style of journalism: "In an extraordinary parallel with the accusations levelled at David Cameron’s ex-communications chief Andy Coulson, former Times journalist Tom Baldwin was accused of practising the ‘dark arts’ when he worked for the Murdoch empire. Mr Miliband has repeatedly demanded Mr Cameron apologise for giving Andy Coulson a job in Downing Street. But last night claims about Mr Baldwin’s behaviour sparked grave concerns from prominent figures in his own party. Former Tory donor Lord Ashcroft yesterday accused Mr Baldwin of hiring a private investigator called Gavin Singfield to ‘blag’ details of payments he had made to the Conservative Party from unsuspecting bank officials in 1999."
The Mail's Tim Shipman goes on to report how John Prescott and Sally Bercow are nervous about Tom Baldwin's role at the heart of the Miliband operation:
"John Prescott expressed doubts about Mr Baldwin’s appointment. He said: ‘I was a bit concerned. I’m very suspicious of most people from News International.’ Even the highly partisan Sally Bercow, the Labour activist and wife of Commons Speaker John Bercow, expressed concern that Mr Baldwin’s presence at Mr Miliband’s side was undermining his criticism of Mr Cameron, writing on Twitter: ‘Oh God, *please* don’t say we’re throwing stones from a glass house.’"
Mehdi Hasan at the New Statesman also notes Eds Miliband's two-faced approach to News International: "In December, he hired the ex-Times journalist Tom Baldwin as his chief spinner. Baldwin would later warn shadow cabinet ministers against linking Murdoch's bid for BSkyB to the phone-hacking scandal and "against anything which appears to be attacking a particular newspaper group out of spite". In April, in a cringe-inducing interview with the Sun, Miliband proclaimed: "I will stand. . . for Sun readers and for their concerns." And, on 16 June, Miliband arrived at News International's summer party to meet Murdoch for the first time. Shamefully, senior Labour figures - including Ed Balls, Yvette Cooper, Douglas Alexander and the Miliband aides Tom Baldwin and Stewart Wood - outnumbered Tory ministers at the bash."