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Wednesday 31 December 2014

Blair Intervention Over-Inflated Again

Whenever a former Labour leader makes any comment, it is picked over by the right-leaning press for ways in which it can be used to pass adverse comment on Mil The Younger. So when Tone gave an interview to The Economist, this was immediately used to suggest that Blair has forecast that Young Dave and his jolly good chaps will win next May because Labour is now irredeemably left-wing.
However, and here we encounter a significantly sized however, the content of Tone’s remarks has needed rather a lot of creative spin applying to support the headlines that have already been written. Consider this from the Telegraph: Blair “said that May’s general election risks becoming one in which a ‘traditional left-wing party competes with a traditional right-wing party, with the traditional result’” [my emphasis].

Here’s another excerpt from Tone’s interview: “I am still very much New Labour and Ed would not describe himself in that way, so there is obviously a difference there … I am convinced the Labour Party succeeds best when it is in the centre ground”. So how does that stand up the headline “Tony Blair: Ed Miliband will not win the general election because of lurch to the left”? Hint: it doesn’t.

The problem here is twofold: first, there is a need for papers like the Tel to reassure their often deeply traditionalist and conservative readers that they need not worry about all those rotten lefties getting their hands on the levers of power, and second, Blair, as the Tel’s James Kirkup correctly deduces, is the master in couching his comments in terms which can be interpreted in more than one way.
That means the press has to be yet more creative, and the Mail has brought us whoppers such as “In the interview, Mr Blair rejected the analysis made by senior Labour figures that the financial crisis means British voters want a more Left-wing government” and the magnificently dishonest “Labour’s lead in the polls has evaporated this year. It is now neck-and-neck with the Tories”.

Over at the Tel, the spin is slightly different: “Although Labour has a narrow lead over the Conservatives in most opinion polls, some Labour politicians are worried that lead will not survive ever more intensive Conservative attacks on Mr Miliband’s credibility in run-up to the election”. This “narrow or non-existent” poll lead was 5%, 2% and 4% in three successive YouGov polls before Christmas (HERE, HERE and HERE).

The sad reality for those backing the Tories is that this attack is so desperate that allegedly quality papers like the Tel have resorted to the “look at him eating that bacon sandwich” line, because what they have from the Blair speech is not enough on its own to sufficiently frighten those readers who fear the rotten lefties, nor to reassure those wanting to be told that it will all be alright on that May night.

Blair will not influence the General Election. This is not easy for the press to comprehend.

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