Monday, 1 February 2010


“Even if you look back now it was better to deal with the threat,” he said. Whether you agree with the Iraq War or not, Tony Blair put in a superbly slick performance at the Chilcot Inquiry on Friday. It was gripping television and reminded me how far the government’s credibility has fallen since he handed over the reins to Gordon Brown. The Campbell-Blair duo were master wordsmiths and able to make anything sound reasonable. Friday’s hearing was a nod back to the days of Labour’s communication strengths in the late nineties and early noughties.

The Times acclaimed his pure image, power dressing and personal grooming, which made him seem strong and authoritative in front of the inquiry panel. In fact, Blair [pictured, BBC] ended up asking the panel questions, such as what would have happened if Saddam had been left in power, and he had clearly done his homework. The difference between Brown and Blair is that the latter knew how to convince people of anything, which made him a strong leader. It’s no wonder Labour were so strong ten years ago, but are now being overtaken by the Tories. Bring on the election...

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“The citizen little realises the vast machinery put in motion for him in exchange for his morning penny,” said Lord Copper in the 1938 novel Scoop, by Evelyn Waugh. Now the challenge 72 years on is to make readers realise the value and effort involved in online newspapers, and charge for the content. Occasionally somebody comes up with a great idea for making this happen - so step forward Peter Preston [pictured, University of Sheffield], in yesterday’s The Observer.

He said: “Watch as 10 million Sky subscribers get an offer they can't reasonably refuse. How about beyond-the-wall access to four big British papers [for] as little as 50p extra a month? £6m a month for that is £72m – in a trice the losses on Wapping's more upmarket offerings are turned to profit.”

What a fabulous idea. Sky has already proven it can get customers to buy phone and broadband with televisions, so why not newspapers? News International owns The Sun, News of the World, The Times and The Sunday Times, so a 50p monthly fee to read those online could work wonders. It seems simple enough and could save those four papers. Where it leaves everyone else is another matter, which gives weight to the argument that all newspapers should work together online to ensure their joint survival.

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I do feel a little bit sad for John Terry [pictured, BBC]. We all make mistakes, and - as Tiger Woods knows - a sexual slip-up can have a damning effect on sporting careers. We know why the super-injunction was passed over the media - he wanted to protect himself and his family from adverse publicity - but the use of these in court is becoming a problem. Even the government say they are “very concerned” about it. The fact is that if you are a public role model (and have been voted ‘Dad of the Year’ by a sauce manufacturer), the public have the right to know if you’re not as good a role model as was once thought.

The other issue is of how this affects Terry’s England captaincy. He has been a strong leader of the national side over the last few years, but there are other players who could take the captain’s armband. Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard would both be possibilities. Putting both Terry and Wayne Bridge on the plane to South Africa must be causing a headache for the England management, but if they had to choose either, I think Terry will get the nod. But we’ll have to wait and see.