A new understanding was broached. Mr Brown was keen to end the air of hostility. The Telegraph political side was full of Tories and the odd Blairite. Brownites were thin on the ground, if there were any at all. The Prime Minister proposed a fresh start that would lead to the paper being within a loop from which its unsympathetic attitude had previously excluded it. This means, we may assume, that it would be given stories.
We would be very rash to link this or any other exchanges with the subsequent appointment of Mr Porter, a political journalist on The Sun, as the Telegraph’s political editor in place of George Jones. It is very possible that Mr Porter had already been identified and hired. Mr Jones was certainly due to retire. We should note again, though, that Mr Porter is well known to Damian McBride, as he is to Ed Balls, Mr Brown’s right-hand man. And we cannot overlook the fact, as I mentioned last week, that the Telegraph’s political coverage has recently been friendlier to Mr Brown than it used to be, though it is by no means ecstatic.
Here is another extraordinary fact. The Daily Telegraph was organising a fringe meeting at the Labour Party conference, on whether there should be a referendum on the new European Treaty. The meeting had been publicised. Speakers, including the Labour MP Gisela Stuart, who is in favour of a referendum, had been lined up. Then, at the last moment, the event was cancelled by Mr Lewis.
Again, we would be unwise to jump to conclusions. It is nonetheless a plausible theory – I will put it no stronger – that Mr Lewis was persuaded by the Brown camp (the Prime Minister being adamantly opposed to a referendum) that any debate on the issue at a Labour Party conference would be unhelpful, and at odds with the understanding Mr Brown had arrived at with Mr Lewis. What other explanation could there be?