13 June 2007

Blair blasts press.

Blair is still running scared of the press but in his final days he has finally found the courage to fire a shot across their bows. It is just a speech (AND I URGE YOU TO READ HIS ACTUAL SPEECH BEFORE MAKING A JUDGEMENT OF IT) but a well aimed one and if reported properly (it mostly won't be - compare what he said with the inevitable spin the Mail and Sun put on it) it highlights a very real problem with the press. It is a cutting analysis so typical of this great communicator and leader.

Blair shows once again he has his finger on the pulse and it would be nice if his thoughtful speech ignited a real deep debate about what we want our press to be doing.

Blair admits that he is partly to blame for the acceration in the decline in standards. For Labour to survive the media they had to know how to get their message through and especially in the early days, Blair did this to the full.

Blair highlights the feral nature of our press where accuracy is secondary to getting 'a story'. Who wouldn't agree with this analysis (except the media barons)? He suggests that sales figures are not enough of a control on what the press produce and some sort of quality control is also needed.

The crucial admittance is that the press is now so influential, it is preventing our politicians taking the right decisions. This should worry us all.


  1. I have read Tony's speech and he makes some good points, though I fear he's only highlighting something we've all know for ages. I notice he singled out the Independent in particular, rather than any of the Murdoch papers, which in my view have a far more lamentable record. I never thought I'd defend the Indy as their spelling and editing is very sloppy, but it is truly strange that Tony should pick them out. Could it be anything to do with their unfriendly reporting of his disastorous warmongering? Of course not.

  2. I think Blair was actually being kind - must have boosted Indy sales - and he knew he couldn't attack the Mail or Sun which have been far more hostile to him than the Indy because it would look like sour grapes.

    Blair was making the more general point that even a newspaper called the Independent could not keep to its original balanced remit.

  3. Fair enough - but as the paper pointed out (and I was an avid Indy reader in the early days) they never claimed they wouldn't have an editorial line on things - they just wanted to provide a balance to the tired old vested interests of the press at the time and I think they have done a reasonable job. I don't often read the Mail or Sun since I rely on copies left on the train, so I'm no expert, but the Sun hasn't been overly hostile to Blair as far as I can make out - especially over the war. It seems The Mail would blame him for anything - so why not have a go at them - they are pretty good at offering a picture of the "news" distorted by opinion.

  4. The Sun has been very hostile to Labour and slightly less so Blair - not as hostile as the Mail admittedly, but it would take some to be as bad as them.

    Blair didn't need to make this speech - he has won 3 elections, so any claims it is sour grapes don't ring true - he is hardly a loser is he?

    No, I think he made some valid points and it is not just the national media either. Walk around any town and look at the headline boards for the local press. 95% of the time it is a screaming hysterical negative headline. People are bound to be affected by all this daily crisis after crisis talk in the press. I know this has always been the case. You can go back to Robert Tressell and see the corrosive effect of the press, but over the last decade or so I have certainly seen a deterioration and the 24/7 multi-channel situation has exacerbated things.

    So. What do we do about it? I think we need a body with clout - that really can hit papers that print inaccuracies and outright lies. Whether anything will change I doubt - but I am glad Blair raised the subject even if he was too scared to do anything about it.