Azara Blog: Blair complains about the media

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Date published: 2007/06/12

The BBC says:

Tony Blair has said the media can operate like "a feral beast" and its relationship with politicians is "damaged" and in need of repair.

The prime minister said relations had always been fraught, but now threatened politicians' "capacity to take the right decisions for the country".

The arrival of web-based news and blogs and 24-hour television news channels meant reports were "driven by impact".
He said fierce competition for stories meant that the modern media now hunted "in a pack".

"In these modes it is like a feral beast, just tearing people and reputations to bits, but no-one dares miss out," he said.

The result was that the media was increasingly "and to a dangerous degree" driven by "impact" which was, in turn, "unravelling standards, driving them down," he said.

Mr Blair, who will step down as prime minister on 27 June, admitted that New Labour's own attempts to "court" and "assuage" the media in the early days of his government may have contributed to the problem.
The associate editor of the Sun newspaper, Trevor Kavanagh, said Mr Blair's comments were rather "sour" and "ill-advised" and out of character.

He added that Mr Blair and his government had received the most benign coverage of any leader in recent years.

That benign coverage only changed after the self-confessed "mistakes" made in putting the case for the Iraq war, not because of any change in the way the media operated, he said.

Kavanagh is correct. Of course it was the Sun and the other Murdoch papers that were glowing in their praise for Blair up until recently largely because Blair sucked up to Murdoch (and similar ilk) and had policies which Murdoch liked. As everyone knows full well, Blair's fall from grace came about because of the deceitful, illegal and incompetent invasion of Iraq (which Murdoch supported). It had nothing to do with 24-hour news and everything to do with Mr Blair putting the political interests of George Bush (and friends) above the interests of the citizens of Great Britain.

The media is not blameless. Journalists are, if anything, worse than politicians. They make things up and concentrate on personalities rather than issues. In 1997 and 2001 Blair had massive parliamentary majorities. He could have used them to squash the media's fascination with personalities. He could have allowed Labour Party politicians to speak their mind and to allow an open debate about issues. Instead Blair was a complete control freak. Labour politicians were not allowed to speak openly and honestly. This is the traditional British parliamentary game which the media loves, where everybody gets to pretend that gray is black or gray is white, where sex scandals get more attention than anything that matters, and where any hint of disagreement on policy gets blown up into a major incident where there is no discussion of the policy but lots of discussion of personalities.

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