Magazine article The Spectator


Magazine article The Spectator


Article excerpt

Deluding themselves

From George Bathurst

Sir: Melanie Phillips is right to assert that Blair is not a liar ('Honest Tony', 27 September). She's wrong to think that that's OK then. Blair is a dissimulator. He and his henchmen choose their words very carefully to project a false impression using true statements. If they do lie it is only ever by accident. The trouble is that most people don't know what dissimulation is and rather than using a precise, lawyerly word for it they just lump all deceit together and call it lying.

What makes the spin doctors' behaviour so ironic is the fury with which they defend the distinction - it's like somebody doing 120 on the motorway and swearing at other people's lane discipline. We'll never see the end of spin from Blair, as his whole project is to convince us that Labour is something that it is not.

George Bathurst

Windsor, Berkshire

From Peter Snape

Sir: At last a journalist is prepared to concede that, on the evidence available, the Hutton inquiry not only vindicates the Prime Minister but lays bare the shoddy behaviour of Andrew Gilligan. Melanie Phillips is dead right in her comments that 'much of the evidence has been downplayed, omitted or perversely interpreted to a degree that suggests a mass abdication from reason, logic and objectivity'. Put another way, the reporting of the Hutton inquiry has been a typical example of present-day British journalism (not least in her own newspaper, the Daily Mail) where the evidence is ignored and the 'get Blair' campaign roars on.

Of course, as she says, 'some journalists feel sympathy for Andrew Gilligan on the basis that their own stories couldn't bear similar scrutiny'. You bet they couldn't. Which is the reason why our newspapers and their journalists are derided by their peers in most other democracies around the world. 'Fitting the facts to fit the philosophy' really is the doctrine followed by Britain's newspapers these days.

The real losers from the inquiry, sadly, will not be the hacks and their editors but the BBC and the government's integrity. When Lord Hutton fails to erect the gallows for either the Prime Minister or Alastair Campbell, he can expect to be denounced as a stooge. Any criticism of either, no matter how mild, will be wildly exaggerated and the toppling of Iraq's mass murderer ignored.

Peter Snape


From Dr Derek Hawes

Sir: One of the minor myths emanating from the Hutton inquiry is that it is somehow outrageous or a breach of protocol to suggest questions that a select committee should ask. This is nonsense. As one who has followed the progress of these committees since their inception in 1979, I can cite hundreds of examples where committees have invited questions from informed or expert members of the public. Whatever else Andrew Gilligan may have done, he has not behaved improperly to the foreign affairs committee by suggesting questions they should ask.

Derek Hawes


In denial

From C. Francis Warren

Sir: In the last two editions of The Spectator, we have had detailed examination of the BBC's EU bias, even if, as Peter Hitchens says, it is not only 'immensely subtle' but also perhaps 'almost never intentional' ('Reform the BBC, don't kill it', 20 September). Rod Liddle, as a former BBC official, kindly provides us, even if again unintentionally, with proof of this state of denial. In The Spectator on 5 May 2001, as the then editor of the BBC's Today programme, he nonchalantly reacted to accusations of EU bias with the supreme understatement: 'Yes, we probably underplayed the Eurosceptic cause a little' [my emphasis]. Contrast this with his recent admission as commentator that the BBC had shown 'lamentable bias [my emphasis] against the Euro-realists' (Thought for the day, 20 September).

C. Francis Warren


A lot to ask

From Michael Bright

Sir: I would like the Conservative party conference to bring back Mr Nasty. …

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