Comment at end
3rd April, 2010
C4 and BBC: coverage of Tony Blair at Trimdon
From fellow-Blairite John Rentoul, Chief Political Editor of The Independent –“Blair speaks and the BBC tells you what he said” – comes this Channel 4 video link on Tony Blair’s appearance in Sedgefield last week.
This video shows without doubt what Trimdon Labour party members thought of the return of The Blair.
ALL VERY POSITIVE.
Yes, they are party members and yes, they were his constituents. But they are still worth listening to. None of those interviewed after he spoke (watch video here) seemed to have any doubts regarding the wisdom of Mr Blair returning to the stump. And, clearly, more than a few would love to have him back.
THE ‘STAR DUST’ OF ‘THE MOST SUCCESSFUL (LABOUR) PRIME MINISTER EVER’
From Jon Snow’s ‘Blair was wrong on Iraq’ home-from -home.
Snow actually plays a fairer hand here than I have seen him on many occasions regarding Tony Blair.
He leaves the ‘anti’ argument to Anne McElvoy, the Executive Editor of the London Evening Standard, and she has a fair crack at it. For instance throughout her contribution she sprays some choice descriptive words and phrases around the former PM’s name. Words like “Iraq”, “unpopular war”, “his money”, “weird half-life” and “the question is do people want to listen to … Mr Blair?”th
So we have Rentoul pro, and McElvoy anti. Fair enough.
Snow introduces is discussion with this to Rentoul –
“…the great communicator, but er … the Mummy’s back …I mean …erm … and one issue is clearly that he still has that communicative skill.”
[“The Mummy’s back”? One guess as to where Mr Snow (still) stands on the Daddy of ’em all. (Watch video)]
Rentoul responds with this :
“Yes, I mean it was nice, it was a joy to hear someone who can actually make an argument in a speech … again. We haven’t had that for nearly three years now. But I don’t think it was what he said that was so important. I think it was just the symbolism of his being there, because everybody knows that he’s had a difficult relationship with Gordon Brown, and it’s like the ice-cream moment in the 2005 election. Just seeing him and Gordon Brown working together sends a powerful message to the country about Labour’s unity and strength.”
Jon Snow: ” On the other hand, Anne McElvoy, it also brings back memories of how they hated each other.”
“Well indeed, I’m not sure that it does quite cash [cache(?)] out [Ed: odd expression!? No payment, no data exchange] as John suggests, because of two things really – what Blair’s there to do is to be the appeal to Middle England and the floating voters of Middle England who’ve never really warmed to Brown. So what you really do is remind them that they can’t have Blair back cos he’s really gone from the political stage to all intents and purposes apart from this little one night only at The Palladium that we had today, but if you want that then you kind of have to go to Mr Cameron who’s not that dissimilar from Mr Blair. I thought it was quite funny when Tony Blair said, ‘you don’t know what the Tories stand for’, because at this stage when he was coming into power that was exactly the charge that was laid at the door of New Labour.”
[Aside. Ed: I’m sorry, Ms McElvoy. Frankly I DO NOT recall “the same charges of ‘not knowing what [they] stand for’ having been made against Blair’s Labour at this point in 1997. They had clearly thought-through policies and had already changed the constitution of the Labour party itself by abolishing Clause 4. For Blair’s new government in 1997, the country was “gagging for change”, to borrow a strange and double-edged expression of Cameron’s on his own readiness to be PM. Of course the Conservatives don’t need their own Clause 4 moment. Do they? It’s changed organically, thanks to their inspiration – Tony Blair.]
Now, where were we…?
Snow: “An interesting point, John Rentoul. In effect the ‘Son of Blair’ is actually David Cameron.”
“Well yes, that’ s why Tony Blair’s argument today DID matter because I thought he took apart the Conservative case quite effectively and said this heir to me doesn’t actually match up to the standards that I’ve set for him and actually Gordon Brown is a better bet, a better guardian of my legacy.”
Snow: “I don’t know how many P.R. people it took to conjure Mr Cameron’s soundbite but he ‘s got a point. (Soundbite: “It is nice to see him making a speech that no-one is paying for”)
“Well, yes, because Mr Blair is now making a lot of money. Yes, a lot of people can’t stand the sight of Mr Blair, one must remember that, because as much as he is also remembered for the good things he is of course remembered for taking the country into an unpopular war and now he’s in this wierd half-life, he has an afterlife which some people think is more fitting for perhaps a post-presidential figure. Having said that he was putting his finger on a lot of Tory weaknesses. If I were the Conservative party I wouldn’t dismiss it I would go through it quite forensically. The only question is whether people want to listen to it from Mr Blair or whether they will think – well, hang on a minute you didn’t have much faith in Gordon Brown. You tried for a long to keep Gordon Brown out of power and –
“There was a bit at the backend of the speech where he started to say … ‘I want a fourth term … I want strong leadership for this country’ … and you thought – he’s going to take the job again. The idea that this was a ringing endorsement of Gordon Brown… I mean, you know, he was trying but I think some of the reluctance and the reservation still came through there and Mr Cameron can build on that.”
Snow: “There is, John Rentoul, some difficult treacle then for Tony Blair to wade through. For months and months we’ve been besieged with huge figures that he’s earning and even the dodgy characters who may have paid him. Under those circumstances is he really an asset?”
“I don’t think Gordon Brown would have invited him to do this today if … Gordon Brown hadn’t wanted him to. The reason he’s doing it now is partly just to test the water – if the reaction is all poison and bile then perhaps we won’t see so much of him through the campaign itself […] and I think that means that we will see more of Tony Blair, we might even see him with Gordon Brown in person.”
[Ed: I disagree with Mr Rentoul on this – “If the reaction is all poison and bile in the Daily Mail tomorrow then perhaps we won’t see so much of him in the campaign itself.”
It WILL be bile. Er… was.
“There certainly will be bile and negative reaction … he is star dust … people listen to him. He’s tainted star dust but he is still star dust and that’s a very valuable commodity in a campaign where frankly the greatest risk is that it ever gets boring.”
Snow: “Isn’t there a danger John Rentoul, that Gordon Brown may look less user-friendly than he’s even regarded as ”
Rentoul dismisses that and gets in the last word:
“You’ve got to remember that Tony Blair was the most successful Labour Prime Minister ever.”
I used an incisive article from Anne McElvoy here on ‘TB for EU President’ (remember that?)
She was right about this: ‘It’s a funny thing about Mr Blair: he’s been gone from power for more than two years but he never quite goes away. I rather doubt he ever will.’
Rentoul’s post pointed to this from Max Atkinson who said: “Most important in all this, of course, was the BBC’s political editor, Nick Robinson, who had more to say than Blair, Cameron and Clegg put together and managed to bag almost half the coverage (48%) for himself.[…] But am I alone in being irritated and worried by this kind of reportage?
You’re certainly NOT alone, Mr Atkinson. This press-power is deeply undemocratic. As regards Tony Blair the press can try, and they will, to bury him again and again and again. If they are, as they pretend, interested in what real people think, they should remember this.
Another BBC (Newsnight) presenter’s bias on display
‘Did he actually use the word “wonderful” to the Trimdon working men’s club? As in “it’s wonderful to be back”?’
Er …yes. Your point, Ms Maitlis? Isn’t ‘wonderful’ English English any more? She went on …
“I never knew what a transatlantic accent actually sounded like before Tony Blair reappeared in Sedgefield this week.”
She’s led a sheltered life. She could have made the point that it sounded American – “wunnerful”, but she didn’t. The BBC clearly can’t get the staff these days. She went on …
“His accent was less startling than his colour, admittedly, which was – in the immortal phrasing of my colleague David Grossman – a “do not adjust your television sets” moment.
Briefly, Gloria Gaynor lyrics sprang to mind: “And so you’re back, from outer space, I just walked in to find you here, with that sad look upon your face.”
Until I realised that actually, whatever you think of Tony Blair politically, he must be credited with one undoubted success.
The 1997 election victory had the best theme tune for decades. D:Ream Things Can Only Get Better is, actually, the only campaign song anyone can ever remember.”‘
WOW! How observant these BBC presenters are. Never mind the policies, feel the mooosic, man! Tony Blair will go gown in history as the ‘Things Can Only Get Better’ man.
Then again, she may be right, though she didn’t mean to be.
- 1. Rentoul debate on Tony Blair, 2025 – Mile End Group (transcript) and (listen to audio here)
- 2. Fiona Phillips – “Like Take That without Robbie, they’re fine without Tony. But they’d be so much better if he came Back For Good.”
- 3. Mandelson: “Cameron is certainly not the heir to Blair”
- 4. Mandelson: “Vote Brown whether he stays 5 years or not
- 5. Mandelson, Life & Times – the ‘de-facto Deputy Prime Minister’ (video)
- 6. Labour revolt as Mandelson’s friend gets ‘safe’ Stoke seat
- 7. Lord Mandelson blows it with business
- 8. Mandelson says Brown may not be PM for long, even if Labour wins
Labour’s latest poster, as suggested by a member. Good idea in principle. Cheaper than Saatchi & Saatchi. But I’m not so sure. Too narrow a range of association, and could backfire.
Tags: Anne McElvoy, C4, channel 4, Conservative party, David Cameron, Emily Maitlis, Fiona Phillips, Gordon Brown, John Rentoul, Jon Snow, labour party, Labour poster, Malcolm Boughen, Max Atkinson, Peter Mandelson, Tony Blair, Trimdon, videos