Tin Ear

Last Wednesday Jonathan Freedland reported for the Guardian on Tony Blair’s final speech to the Labour Party conference.

According to Freedland the audience in Manchester weren’t appreciative of the Labour leader’s foreign policy positions on Afghanistan and Iraq and demonstrated it by failing to applaud him when he spoke:

when Blair said that a withdrawal from Iraq or Afghanistan would be “a craven act of surrender”, he said it to silence.

Norm, amongst others, didn’t think that sounded right and questioned the ‘silence’ that Freedland assured us had greeted the Prime Minister’s words.

Yesterday the Guardian was forced to come clean:

In a Comment piece headed A storming send-off – but the silences show why he had to go, page 29, September 27, we said that Tony Blair’s statement that a withdrawal from Iraq or Afghanistan would be “a craven act of surrender” was received by conference delegates in silence. That was not the case. As our “clapometer” recorded on page 6 of the same issue, the statement drew 11.44 seconds of applause.

Even if Freedland’s hearing aid had malfunctioned for a full twelve seconds one might expect the reporter to have witnessed the massed palms of the delegates’ left and right hands being brought together in the universal physical gesture of agreement and approval for the same amount of time.

Doing so, however, would have meant admitting that the view common among metropolitan journalists that Labour foreign policy is hugely unpopular with Party members isn’t supported by the facts though.

Update: Thanks to Anthony for providing this link to what he calls ‘The Sound of Silence’.