Tuesday, 31 August 2010
Biographers in blogging bust-up: Should the BBC say Tony Blair has been 'dubbed a war criminal'?
Bit of a blogging bust-up over Tony Blair by two of his biographers, Francis Beckett (left) and the Independent's John Rentoul (right), following their appearance on BBC1's Sunday Morning Live.
Beckett accused Rentoul of trying to censor the BBC by objecting to the way a presenter said Blair "had been dubbed" a war criminal and the phrase was picked up by another guest, Anne Atkins.
Beckett asks on his blog: "What's wrong about the presenter saying it? I don't happen to think it's a proper description - like John, I think you devalue the phrase by using it of Blair. But it's manifestly true that he "has been dubbed" a war criminal, and by a reasonably number of people too.
"So I still think John was wrong to attack "the BBC" for "peddling" this line - if only because it sounds dangerously like those dark days when Blair and his henchmen stifled BBC reporting, and forced it to fire both the reporter and the director general for making a statement which everyone now knows to be true, but which was inconvenient for the government."
Meanwhile, John Rentoul has hit back at Beckett on his blog, claiming of the guests on the programme: "Still trying to understand the socio-psychology of Blair rage, I took part (by webcam from home, which is a first) in the BBC’s Sunday Morning Live. The guests in the studio included Francis Beckett, who hates Tony Blair because he is not “Clement Attlee”, and Anne Atkins, a Conservative who called him a war criminal, presumably as an insult rather than because of the meaning of the words, but had to interrupt her own diatribe to praise his achievement in Northern Ireland.
"I put Clement Attlee in quotation marks because Beckett’s hero is not the actual Prime Minister who oversaw the creation of the welfare state, the adoption (in secret) of US nuclear weapons and the partition of India in which perhaps half a million died, but the figment of rose-tinted Labourist imagination who didn’t say very much and was very modest.
"I didn’t gain much insight there, but suggested that the BBC should reserve the term war criminal for people such as Slobodan Milosevic and Saddam Hussein who committed war crimes or attempted genocide rather than Blair, who stood against them."