The politics of the four participants is well-known but left out by the liberal newspaper
In assembling an election panel or ‘focused group’ to share its thoughts on Tony Blair’s speech on Europe yesterday, the Guardian newspaper appears to have hand-picked a group of right-wingers of various kinds, all of whom were likely to hate the former Labour prime minister.
Worse still, each participant was introduced merely as ‘author’ or ‘broadcaster’ instead of clearly stating their party loyalties – a very significant omission given the politics of the contributors. So let’s take a look at the panel.
First up is crime author Val McDermid, the most sympathetic of the group to Blair’s speech. McDermid is a supporter of the Scottish Nationalist Party, not just on last year’s independence referendum, but on its policies and record in office, citing ‘free prescriptions, no student tuition fees, social care for elderly people’.
She starts her response to Tony Blair’s speech like this: “When Tony Blair speaks these days, I grit my teeth. His legacy taints everything he says.” Not a fan then. Still, it’s nice to see she supports unity in Europe at least.
It’s worth noting also that despite the pose, the SNP is not a progressive force. As Left Foot Forward editor James Bloodworth wrote last year: ‘Nationalism isn’t progressive; it‘s nationalism.’
Then there’s ‘Kirsty Allsopp, broadcaster’. Allsopp, host of Location, Location, is the daughter of Charles Allsopp, 6th Baron Hidlip, a former peer in the House of Lords and ex-chairman of Christie’s auction house. Ms Allsopp describes herself as socially liberal but economically conservative, is a fan of David Cameron and Prince Charles, was mooted for a Tory peerage in 2010, and advised the Conservative party on housing in the last election.
In an interview in 2013, Ms Allsopp said:
“I didn’t vote for Blair because he didn’t convince me that he had changed the core of Labour. And as long as the unions control the party, then I could never vote Labour.“
A Tory foe of the only Labour leader to defeat the Tories in three consecutive elections. Who would have thought?
Then we have ‘Mike Reed, broadcaster’, a radio DJ and former Tory, who wrote a Calypso song in October to literally sing the praises of UKIP and Nigel Farage, in what he imagined was a Carribean accent. The second line of the song, which saw Reed accused of racism, went like this:
“Leaders committed a cardinal sin, open the borders let them all come in, illegal immigrants in every town, stand up and be counted Blair and Brown.“
Right. Moving on.
Last up is ‘Salma Yaqoob, psychotherapist’. Yaqoob was until 2012 the chair of the Respect Party, which she co-founded in 2004, and for which she was a councillor in Birmingham, though no mention is made of this in the Guardian feature.
The Respect party, lest we forget, is led by George Galloway, friend and employee of dictators and fascists, and was built on an alliance with Islamic fundamentalists. Ms Yaqoob used her position as spokeswoman for the Birmingham Central Mosque to urge its worshippers to vote Respect in 2004. Is it really a surprise that the reactionary chair of a party set up in opposition to Tony Blair should be critical of his latest speech?
So much for the Guardian’s focused group: a nationalist, a Tory, a Kipper and a religious demagogue. Stocking a panel with people like this to respond to Blair’s speech is like asking a panel of dogs what they think of the cat.
Adam Barnett is a staff writer at Left Foot Forward. Follow MediaWatch on Twitter
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