The Thick of It

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Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Tony Blair and Channel 4's Dispatches hatchet

When I was growing up I looked forward to investigative political programmes on TV such as ITV's World in Action, BBC's Panorama and Channel 4's Dispatches. Unfortunately there isn't much left of that once great axis of investigative journalism. Last night's Dispatches about former PM Tony Blair's activities since leaving politics is a sad example of that decline, a cheap re-hash of similar Daily  Mail articles by the same author.

I've been used to Channel 4 giving up its Dispatches programme for biased political hatchet jobs over recent years. Ken Livingstone, Boris Johnson and climate change have all been victims of poorly researched, politically motivated attacks. Oborne, like many committed Tories is a fervent Blair opponent, much as Polly Toynbee doesn't like David Cameron very much. Imagine the right wing derision if she led a documentary against their Tory pals?

Blair is an easy target because many people hate Labour, hate Labour being successful and hate Blair for his role in that. Some dislike him for the Iraq war too, which I understand. Right wing Daily Mail and Daily Telegraph writer Peter Oborne likes to link the two, for political purposes.

In last night's programme Oborne claimed that Blair has lobbied on behalf of Palestinian telecom firm Wataniya because of links with investment bank JP Morgan. This is untrue. In his role acting for the Quartet, Blair is charged with enhancing the Palestinian economy. Therefore attracting foreign investment for the project is part of his role, one he has been asked to undertake by the Palestinians. One can read about this on Blair's website.

Oborne was critical of the sums Blair is meant to have earned after leaving politics. Blair's advisers have confirmed to me that these figures are incorrect. Aside from that I don't think it is anyone's business what someone earns after leaving politics - provided they are not in conflict with their previous jobs.

In the light of the Libyan revolution it has become easy to hit Blair for trying to build bridges with the former regime when he was in power. I'm sure Blair would have preferred a more democratic regime to have been in place, but he had to deal with the situation as it was. He should be praised for helping to persuade Gaddafi to give up his chemical and nuclear weapons programme.  It is also preposterous to suggest he had anything to do with the release of Megrahi. Blair has also never had any commercial  relationship with any part of the Libyan government or company.

John Major has made millions since leaving office in his role as a director of the Carlyle Group that made a mint from privatised British defence contracts. Where is the Dispatches about that?

Oborne is obsessed with Blair and has been peddling many of this nonsense for several years in his Daily Mail  and Telegraph columns. It disappoints me that Channel 4 thought it worthy of an hour of their airtime last night.




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