Sunday, October 14, 2007

The return of the TBGBs - or an attempt by the press to stir up trouble?

The Sunday Times leads today with the dramatic headline Blair rounds on 'empty' Gordon Brown but the article itself contained no such comment from Blair. Instead they quoted a conveniently un-named "friend" of Blair.

The Guardian too headlined with breathless speculation that the old Blairite trio, Byers, Milburn and Clarke are thinking about speaking out. But even the Guardian stops to add that

last night Blair's spokesman said: 'When he stood down Tony Blair said he would be completely supportive of Gordon Brown and that is what he continues to be.'

This view is confirmed by Matthew D'Ancona in the Telegraph who says that

Tony Blair has been telling his allies that they must under no circumstances join in the Gordon-bashing that is now all the rage.

This is probably correct. New Labour watched with horrified fascination when a deposed Thatcher helped to destroy the Tory party. The whole business of the seamless transition, painstakingly engineered earlier this year, was to prevent the type of bitterness caused by Thatcher's decapitation, and Blair certainly has a horror of being thought of as being so needy and desperate for power that he tries to do a back-seat driver number on his succesor the way Thatcher did to Major.

So where have these stories come from? We get a clue from John Rentoul in the Independent:

I have spoken to some of Blair's most loyal lieutenants who have been inundated by media requests for interviews – more than 200 in one case. Would they like to speak about the election timing or the Pre-Budget Report? No, they would not. They know that their interviewers are interested in only one story: Blair says Brown is useless.

200 requests for interviews! Undoubtedly one person has succumbed - but he probably speaks only for himself.

As for the Sunday Times and the Guardian, they have their own agendas. The Sunday Times is openly hostile to Labour and has been for some time. The Guardian isn't really a Labour paper, it's SDP, and since the demise of the SDP they've grudgingly given Labour some support, but always managed to find some excuse to fall out with the party. They fell out with Blair and campaigned strongly against Brown becoming leader while fawning over David Cameron in the first year after he became leader. Hardly the behavior of a Labour paper.

There is only one Labour paper, and that is The Mirror (which very helpfully broke the story of David Cameron's Lexus following his bike to work). The rest are at best lukewarm and at worst openly hostile. This is how it's been for ages, and we'll have to live with it. One thing Labour should do is not give ammunition to hostile papers that don't have our interests at heart. Blair's "friends" should take notice of Blair when he says Don't Talk. He really means it.

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