European Press Review: Blair Victorious | Europe| News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 29.01.2004
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European Press Review: Blair Victorious

European editorials on Thursday examined the consequences of the Hutton report for British Prime Minister Tony Blair and his government as well as the BBC.

The Italian newspaper La Repubblica said the Hutton report aftermath has a clear winner and a clear loser. The former, wrote the paper, is Tony Blair who has come through what are likely to have been his toughest 48 hours battered and bruised but not beaten. The paper found that he is peerless in Europe when it comes to leadership and statesmanship. On the other hand the BBC has suffered a severe blow to its reputation and with it the almost mythical standard of British journalism, the paper concluded.

Austria’s Salzburger Nachrichten newspaper wrote that Tony Blair’s exoneration by Lord Hutton will not be enough to repair his reputation with the British public. The judge’s report was limited in its scope on looking at the reasons for going to war against Iraq, said the newspaper. However over the past months Tony Blair’s arguments in favour of the war have been unravelling fast, the paper said.

The liberal Danish paper Politiken said its somewhat of an ironic coincidence that Tony Blair’s victory comes in a week when the chief U.S. weapons inspector stepped down saying that Iraq has no weapons of mass destruction. Given that Blair’s justification for going to war was based on security concerns, that argument is becoming less and less credible, the paper wrote. Turning to the BBC, the paper said the mechanisms leading to its mistakes are a typical trait in the media. A journalist exaggerates what he’s been told by his source, if that source then remains anonymous and the only one, the story becomes increasingly difficult to verify.

To Labour party voters and members alike, Tony Blair is like a wolf in sheep’s clothing, according to the Dutch newspaper Algemeen Dagblad. His views and beliefs are generally treated with mistrust. His continued almost fervent conviction that Iraq had or has weapons of mass destruction just fuels the public’s suspicions of him further, the paper wrote. It also means that his credibility within the Labour Party will be further eroded.

The Spanish paper El Mundo commented that Tony Blair has emerged as a clear victor over the BBC, whose independence and defiance of the government had been widely praised in the matter. However, the paper added that quality journalism requires that the information spread around is adequately researched and sourced. The Watergate scandal, said the paper, was a milestone in establishing standards in the relationship between government and the media. This is also applicable to the Kelly affair, but this time the boot is on the other foot,

the paper concluded.