Both the Daily Mirror and the Daily Mail have described as "pathetic" Downing Street’s attack on the press over its treatment of Cherie Blair and her links to fraudster Peter Foster.
The Mail said it was an attempt to divert attention from "lying at the heart of the government’s press machine". Piers Morgan at the Daily Mirror vowed it was "gloves off" in his dealings with New Labour.
Tony Blair’s spokesman called the media coverage a "deliberate campaign of character assassination" and said: "The media is flinging so many allegations at Mrs Blair in the hope that people lose sight of the fact that none of them turn out to be true and mud sticks." The allegations were unfounded, he stated.
The attempt to blame the media for the crisis of trust that assailed the Blairs this week received short shrift from newspapers. Morgan said: "It’s typical of this New Labour government when they are caught absolutely properly by newspapers behaving in an absolutely improper way, and when they are lying to the press and the public, their reaction always is to try to trash the media."
Morgan said he thought the government should spend less time "squealing" about the media and more time telling the truth and being honest .
"I’m afraid I see this as gloves off all round. If they want to tear into the media when they are caught with disgusting little conmen like Peter Foster, turn a blind eye to their own behaviour and pour a bucket of abuse on the press, so be it. The public aren’t stupid."
A Daily Mail spokesman said: "The Daily Mail makes no apologies for exposing the e-mails which prove No 10 lied to the media. We treat these pathetic attempts by No 10 to divert attention from the lying at the heart of the government’s press machine with the contempt they deserve.
We are a newspaper just doing its job."
Both papers were equally unsympathetic to Mrs Blair’s dramatic public admission that she had made mistakes but that she had been trying to protect the privacy of her family.
The Daily Mail described her speech at a charity event as "a moment of pure theatre" and "an electrifying piece of political theatre", and said that her statement left many unanswered questions.
The Mirror’s front page asked of her tears: "Was it real remorse or more spin to save her skin?" It also listed 15 questions that it insists still needed answering.
Other newspapers were more inclined to take her emotional speech at face value. The Sun’s political editor, Trevor Kavanagh, said she won the hearts of every mum in the country, and a Guardian leader said she had routed her critics, while maintaining that she had still not given a full account of the use of the Blairs’ blind trust to buy the Bristol flats.
By Jean Morgan