Press Gazette, the Fleet Street trade mag, admits that its list of top 50 political journalists was designed to be fun rather than scientific. Still, good to see all four members of the FT’s lobby team in there.
Our political editor, George Parker, came in at fourth.
However, I’m not sure George will ever repeat his 1997 front page FT scoop that Tony Blair had altered his bouffant hairdo after focus groups showed it didn’t appeal to women. The story – and the reaction – was New Labour at its most control freakish.
As the Guardian wrote in July 2007 in a piece about Alastair Campbell’s diaries:
“We put together a press release saying the FT had gone mad,” writes Campbell, after a story appeared in the newspaper by reporter George Parker, claiming that Tony Blair had changed his hair to woo women voters.
Campbell was annoyed at having to deal with the article, which he said was “one of those irritating stories with the power to connect and damage“. He put out a press release in which we “changed everyone’s name to have a hair connection – Trim Allan, Hilary Cropman, Tony Hair etc.” Blair, visiting Great Ormond Street hospital, was “fuming”.
“All anyone will want to ask me about is my bloody hair,” he tells Campbell.
“I’ve still got Alastair Campbell’s press release on my toilet wall,” says Parker, now the FT’s Brussels bureau chief. “They called it a black day in the history of FT journalism and they completely overreacted to the story.” Parker says the story was not about Blair’s appearance but the fact that Blair had consulted a panel of women in order to make himself more attractive to voters.”