Tony Blair, ‘master of the dark arts’, has a point the Lib Dems could learn from

For all the pomp and circumstance that occurred around Tony Blair’s return to making the headlines, an awful lot of newspaper coverage has been given to not a lot. However, he did say some things which the Lib Dems could indeed learn from.

Ask yourself this question: If 0 is the Lib Dems have no friends in the mainstream media and the worst possible light is portrayed about the party and people within it every time something is printed about them (if they are lucky enough to get anything printed about them in the first place), and 10 is the Lib Dems have as many friends in the media as possible and the party and people within it are shown in a favourable light; what number would you currently scale the situation today?

Of course we would have differences such as the Daily Mail may get a 0 and the Independent may get a 6, but overall my guess would be somewhere near 3. At the general election it was perhaps somewhere closer to 6 or 7 at times but not so right now. I have tried to scan the papers since I started this blog for positive news stories about the Lib Dems and I have found it increasingly difficult to find stories in the last 6 months. Many will argue that we shouldn’t focus on the mainstream media as more people don’t read papers than do. I think that they are important opinion formers and perhaps more importantly opinion embedders and obviously so did/does Tony Blair.

Tony Blair said that it was revolutionary for Labour to be given a fair hearing by the Sun when he became leader of the Labour Party and he sought to make sure that Labour’s case was given a fair hearing by the media.

‘My minimum objective was to try stop them tearing us to pieces. My maximum objective was to try get their support’ – Tony Blair

If we forget his politics and his record for a second and think about what he set out to do, this is a very reasonable thing for a leader of any party to want. The fact that the party went on to win 3 general elections, and one of those was following the Iraq war, says a lot. What would the Lib Dems give right now to be given a fair hearing by the mainstream media? I don’t believe in compromising principles for favours but I do believe we deserve a fairer hearing than we are currently getting. I don’t expect the Daily Mail will ever give us a fair hearing but I do think the Guardian should; both seem to be a mouthpiece of hate for the party right now.

“Personally my advice to any political leader today would be: you have got to have a very, very strong media operation.’ –Tony Blair

Perhaps we need to think about our media operation? Perhaps we need to think about the opinion formers and embedders. Would Clegg be hated as much if his case were given a fair hearing in the media? If we were to rank the papers in terms of Lib Dem voters the Daily Mail and the Sun are top of the list, but we are not going to start our recovery by pandering to them. We need to regain our appeal and we need mouthpieces to express our case. The Independent is pretty much the only paper to give the Lib Dems a reasonable hearing of late but we need to expand our appeal from the smallest of papers. We need to find some friends in the papers, we need to get party members to write in the mainstream papers (like Vince did in the Sun), we need to have a fair hearing. To do this we could perhaps learn a thing or two from Mr Blair – we just need to stay true to who we are in the process.

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3 Responses to Tony Blair, ‘master of the dark arts’, has a point the Lib Dems could learn from

  1. Art says:

    We should be targeting key opinion-formers. Not the papers themselves, but some of the key, open-minded commentators (Oborne, Jenkins come to mind – although both may have too much anti-LD prejudice inside them). There’s no point trying to court the Murdoch press as an entity (see and there’s little point with the Guardian – we forgot during the New Labour years how much that paper is just a little in-house rag for the party. But we could target the columnists who aren’t wholly-owned subsidiaries of their party (forget Toynbee). That would be a start.

    • Hi Art, thanks for the comments. That is a very good point and perhaps this should be a strategy the party should follow. This was a little like the Guardian though at the last general election as the editorial board wanted to support the Lib Dems but the journalists didn’t. There needs to be a way of embedding the opinion and that is what is good about a whole paper as the same message is reinforced over and over

  2. The Lib Dems have twice voted at their conferences to reject proposals in the justice and security bill that expand the use of so-called secret hearings into the main civil courts.

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