Monday, October 23, 2006

Blair: Fleet St's flops

On Iraq the admirable Henry Porter asked in The Observer yesterday: "Why is Tony Blair still Prime Minister after leading his country into such a disastrous war? Any large company would by now have got rid of a managing director guilty of a mistake on that scale. Any institution you care to name would have done the same. Why is Blair immune from the normal requirements of high office?"

The answer is simple. No mainstream newspaper has formally called for Blair's impeachment - beyond the cacophony of columnists and bloggers who merely vent opinion and cancel each other out. And it would require a serious, sustained, newspaper campaign - with a proprietor's full backing - in the absence of any serious move within the Labour Party to overthrow Blair.

And no paper is likely to call for Blair's impeachment quite simply because there is no real sense of moral outrage in Fleet St at what's happened and happening in Iraq. On the day The Lancet reported that some 600,000 Iraqis had probably died to date, most of the papers were preoccupied with the ishoo of why Michael Jackson had dressed up as a woman in St Tropez - except it wasn't Jacko, but a hoaxer.

Each of the national newspaper titles seems stymied from going for the kill for various different reasons:

Daily Mail - demands Blair's resignation every day but has not called for any legal move against the PM over Iraq. Maybe because the Mail owner Lord Rothermere is friends with Tony and Cherie and would not countenance an editorial campaign for constititional or legal action. See the November edition of Vanity Fair for more on Rothermere and his lovely, new Dorset country pile in a feature by baubles expert Kate Reardon.

Daily Express - managed to trivialise The Lancet report into an obscene news item of about 15 short lines. That sums up this pathetic once great newspaper whose USP is Diana conspiracy fictions.

Daily Telegraph - irrationally supported the Iraq invasion and now calls for UK withdrawal because that's the fashion right now. Lost credibility over the Galloway libel case: perhaps new editor Will Lewis can restore some moral or political coherence when he's not obsessing over new media (as opposed to the message).

The Times, Sunday Times, Sun, News of the World - Murdoch's stable: only the Sunday Times has given Blair a few problems, but Murdoch would never OK an impeachment campaign against useful ally Blair. He gave his blessing to Iraq and now considers Muslims a grave threat (see The New Yorker interview story in past post).

The Independent - Robert Fisk describes tirelessly the futility of the Iraq war but this has not translated into a proactive campaign against Blair's position. The suspicion is that a paper that blacks up Kate Moss for its Africa edition probably is morally soft-focused. Editor Simon Kelner is temperamentally too much the Soho boulevardier to take his paper into hardcore controversy.

The Guardian - a hugely critical supporter of Labour but pulls its punches on Blair. Inching to the right.

The Mirror - editor Richard Wallace is Mr Showbiz. The paper just goes through the motions of supporting Labour but its heart's not in it anymore and it would never find the confidence to maintain a serious fight against Blair.

Financial Times - doesn't count, so to speak.

The Observer - ironic that Porter's piece appeared here given that the paper supported the Iraq invasion. Editor Roger Alton has said post-Iraq disaster: "I think Blair has done a fantastic job." A love that dares to speak its name. Like the Guardian, inching, if not yarding, to the right.

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