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John Rentoul

John Rentoul is chief political commentator for The Independent on Sunday, and visiting fellow at Queen Mary, University of London, where he teaches contemporary history. Previously he was chief leader writer for The Independent. He has written a biography of Tony Blair, whom he admired more at the end of his time in office than he did at the beginning.

"The Independent's must-read man" - Daniel Finkelstein

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Over-espresso at Coffee House

Posted by John Rentoul
  • Tuesday, 30 June 2009 at 02:11 pm
It's all getting a bit over-espresso at The Spectator's Coffee House. Fraser Nelson, the magazine's political editor, and James Forsyth, its top blogger, seem to have taken on themselves to run the "lie" word against the Prime Minister and his Cabinet adjutant, Ed Balls.

I don't like Gordon Brown and Ed Balls's contempt for the electorate in misusing numbers, but I think the l-word is in poor taste. Worse than that, it is a mistake. It may be all very jolly to provoke Balls into making the schoolboy error of phoning Nelson in person to demand that he take his blog post down. But it demeans one's own motives to start calling one's opponents liars.

In particular, I don't think it was wise for The Spectator to accuse people of lying, when it has just had to apologise to Alastair Campbell and make a donation to charity for libelling him last week - in an article by John Kampfner which also made unsubstantiated allegations about Peter Mandelson and Tony Blair.

I didn't agree with it when the world, his wife and Michael Howard called Blair a liar. I don't agree with it when it is applied to Brown, of whom my opinion is rather less favourable. David Cameron was quite right to avoid the word yesterday. It is so much more effective to expose Brown's selective use of figures without descending to vulgar abuse.