Media attacks tested me, says Dame Suzi Leather

Charity Commission chair speaks about pressure from the press

Dame Suzi Leather, chair of the Charity Commission, has spoken about how persistent personal attacks in the media last year tested her personal resilience and her sense of her own identity.

In a candid interview broadcast on video-sharing website YouTube from this week, she describes 2009 as "the year of the personal".

The right-wing media has regularly portrayed Leather, a member of the Labour Party, as a stooge of the Government, particularly as the debate on the public benefit test and independent schools intensified.

In the film, Leather says that people have a right to know what she spends on hotels and taxis, but "it still feels difficult when that is put in the public domain".

She adds: "It's not without a personal side. For instance, when journalists ask 'where exactly does she stay in London; what is her address?', I personally feel I don't want people to know exactly where I stay. That does feel quite private."

Leather says the attacks had wider implications. "Regardless of what you think about what people are saying - and they can be telling absolute lies - it begins to challenge your inner narrative about who you are. And I think it's a real challenge to your personal resilience."

Leather is one of 12 leaders who have been interviewed by Julia Middleton, chief executive of the not-for-profit leadership organisation Common Purpose, about the lessons learned about leadership in 2009.

Read Stephen Cook's blog on Dame Suzi Leather's treatment by the media.

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