Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

Blair Lashed over Culture Bid Verdict

Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

Blair Lashed over Culture Bid Verdict

Article excerpt

Byline: By Amy Cartmell

While judges who awarded Liverpool the European Capital of Culture 2008 crown today praised Newcastle-Gateshead's bid, local politicians launched a broadside at their verdict.

Tyne Bridge MP David Clelland lashed out at Tony Blair for not playing a role in the decision - and he was joined by Newcastle City Council leader Tony Flynn in criticising the Government's handling of the affair, comparing it to the Eurovision Song Contest.

He said the decision should have been made by the Government and not left to the panel of 12 judges.

Panel leader Sir Jeremy Isaacs refused to reveal which of the six shortlisted cities was the judges' second choice, but revealed their final decision was not unanimous.

He praised the Newcastle-Gateshead bid, saying its case was "in there to the very end, arguing for itself."

But a huge sense of disappointment on Tyneside yesterday was followed by Mr Clelland's scathing criticism of the Prime Minister's role.

He said that because the race was so close and millions of pounds of regeneration cash was at stake, it should have become a political decision taken by Mr Blair in consultation with senior ministers responsible for regeneration and employment.

Mr Blair has insisted he had nothing to do with the choice.

But Coun Flynn said today: "I think the Government should have made the decision. As soon as they got a so-called independent panel of judges they lost control of what it was all about.

"There are certainly questions to be asked about the process and whether, through the Department for Culture, Media & Sport, there should have been an assessment by the Government.

"A lot of people feel that leaving it to a panel made it a bit like the Eurovision Song Contest."

Coun Flynn added that to some extent Newcastle- Gateshead was a victim of its own success and that the decision had been made to award the title to a city which had not achieved the same level of success. …

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