The BBC’s Jon Sopel & ITV’s Robert Peston ride to the defence of Alastair Campbell

ITV's Robert Peston, next to Alastair Campbell and the BBC's Jon Sopel

For many, Alastair Campbell’s expulsion from the Labour Party is long overdue after his role in the Iraq war. Instead, his undoing was confessing to voting Lib Dem at the European elections.

But Campbell’s had plenty of support since the decision. And two defenders who’ve ridden to his aid are Robert Peston of ITV News and Jon Sopel of the BBC.

What Campbell did wrong

An outspoken critic of Corbyn’s leadership of Labour, Campbell was asked by the BBC which way he voted in the European elections:

I voted Liberal Democrat. I didn’t vote Labour for the first time in my life.

For this, the party expelled him (a decision Campbell says he will appeal). Labour’s press team clarified:


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Campbell’s protests at Labour’s decision are strange considering he recognised the potential consequences of his actions during an appearance with Jeremy Vine on Channel 5 on 20 May:

He also showed that he knew this wasn’t allowed in a previous interview with Owen Jones. Jones tweeted a copy of the Labour Party rules Campbell had broken:

The media rushes to his defence

Many have rushed to Campbell’s defence, including Labour deputy leader Tom Watson.

But members of Britain’s media have as well. And both Sopel and Peston used similar arguments:

Social media responds

Twitter reacted strongly to what it saw as partisan commentary from key figures in the media.

Novara Media’s Aaron Bastani highlighted the hypocrisy of Sopel focusing on the Labour Party:

Bastani was referring to the Conservative Party removing the whip from Michael Heseltine for also pledging to vote Lib Dem in the European elections. This was arguably not portrayed as an unjust purge the way it was with Labour

How Labour dealt with dissent under Campbell’s watch

Mark Seddon, a former member of Labour’s National Executive Committee (NEC) and critic of British policy in Afghanistan during the Blair years, reminded Sopel of his treatment when Campbell’s team controlled Labour:

Others highlighted the petty reasons the party used for some expulsions while Labour’s right-wingers still held power:

Was there media outrage when Labour’s shadow chancellor John McDonnell accused the right of the party of conducting a “rigged purge” of Corbyn supporters prior to the 2016 leadership election?

Comparatively slow handling of anti-semitism?

Bastani also addressed Peston and Sopel’s dig contrasting the speedy expulsion of Campbell against the allegedly slow handling of antisemitism cases:

And Seddon clarified why Campbell’s expulsion was so rapid:

 Campbell, a friend of the media?

 Others have speculated about why such journalists seem so fond of Campbell:

Former Labour MEP David Hallam gave some insight into the friendly relationship Campbell had with the press. He highlighted an incident involving him that actually appears in one of Sopel’s books:

The media’s rehabilitation of Campbell

Writer Tim Holmes argued in a 2012 openDemocracy article, Britain loves a war criminal, that after Campbell’s role in the Iraq war he should never have been welcome in the media again.

And yet today, senior broadcasters are defending him for undermining his own party, and have completely forgotten his role in Iraq.

Featured image via YouTube – ITV NewsYouTube – Good Morning Britain / YouTube – University of Southampton

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