Did you see that Trevor McDonald Tonight ‘special’ with Tony Blair and “an audience of women” the other night on ITV? The listings sold the show on how Blair had won a lot of support from women in the past two elections but now risks losing that backing due to his position on Iraq. Sounded interesting to me so I tuned in. I switched off after about 15 minutes in disgust at what was little more than a show trail by tv.
It was as if the jury had been hand-picked by the Stop the War Coalition (well, at least if they had suddenly devoloped some imagination). As Polly Toynbee puts in the Guardian today: “One woman was in the Bali bombing, her boyfriend blown to bits. One mother had three sons at the front in the Gulf. One woman’s husband was a human shield at an Iraqi oil installation – would Blair promise not to bomb him? He writhed. An Iraqi victim of Saddam begged him not to attack her people. Worst of all, one mother lost her only child in the World Trade Centre and could not bear any other mother to suffer her agony. Their vehemence left him with a hunted air, his eyes flickering here and there, looking for escape. What’s more, against all the rules of balance, Trevor McDonald himself weighed in with “Aren’t you just Bush’s poodle?” questions. It was unfair and impossible. ”
It was emotional and it was simply impossible for Blair to challenge the raw pacifist arguements with any force without appearing to be callous. The programme had nothing to do with democratic debate about a vital issue – it was about hitting Blair hard and making him suffer as much embarassment as possible. It was the English media at their most vicious and unedifying. There is nothing they like more than sticking the boot into someone who is struggling – just watch will happen to nice Mr Sven Goran Eriksson when the tabloids finally turn fully against him.
Maybe the public enjoy this sort of humiliation of important people – but there are plenty of people who turn out to watch public stonings in some countries – is this not our own version?
We get the media we deserve of course and the real question for Blair is how on earth did he walk into such a trap? Why did he agree to such a programme or was he really stitched up. In which case, why haven’t we heard anything from his spokesmen again?
Toynbee again: “It is a sign of sudden loss of authority that a programme could ambush the prime minister with not one word of complaint issued from Downing Street afterwards. Alastair Campbell was there in the next room watching this hiding-to-nothing on a monitor and saying not a word. Now it is open season and the prime minister was harpooned – again.”