UK Politics

The only media they dared to bully….

Polly Toynbee is on the mark again in the Guardian today:

The tragedy is that both sides are right – in quite different ways. For those who support a Labour government and support an independent BBC, this has been excruciating.

Hutton was right to exonerate a prime minister who had been monstrously traduced, in a casual, flippant way. He was right because the government genuinely thought Iraq had weapons of mass destruction: everyone did, French and German intelligence as well as the US. Hans Blix and David Kelly thought so, as did Dr David Kay. Why everyone was so wrong was not for Hutton to judge. That is another story for another day.

But in that context, exaggeration of the wording of the evidence pales into insignificance beside the allegation that the prime minister knowingly tricked us all. In the big picture, Hutton was essentially right, even if some of his findings are bizarre. Demented “Whitewash!” headlines in papers from the Morning Star to the Spectator were predictable…..

And she is absolutely right about this:

Now too late, Labour wrings its hands at the damage media cynicism has done to trust in politics, peddling a culture of despair where “nothing works” and “all politicians lie”. Social democracy requires trust in government’s ability to do good: a Tory press is bent on destroying it. Campbell himself was the architect of a policy of cowardly appeasement and cunning ploys to fool them: both these strategies failed. They should have treated the enemy with contempt, defying Murdoch, mocking Rothermere, ignoring Black. Labour should have created a statutory Press Complaints Commission, giving its code teeth: self-regulation is a farce. They should have restored the media ownership laws that Mrs Thatcher allowed Murdoch to break, limiting how much any one magnate can own. (The US has such laws.) Given the government’s craven behaviour towards newspapers, it was cowardly to vent their fury on the BBC – the only bit of the media they dared to bully.