Last month, John Lloyd accused me and the Mail on Sunday of inventing news. It all depends what you mean by "choreography"by Peter Oborne / August 20, 2003 / Leave a comment
Six weeks or so ago I was bemused to receive a furious letter from John Lloyd, contributing editor to Prospect. It accused me of various crimes and misdemeanours, and demanded reparation. I was pondering how to respond when, shortly after lunch, the phone rang. It was Lloyd again, still in a state of outrage.
He was aggrieved by an article I had written for the Mail on Sunday in the aftermath of the Iraq war. This article argued that Downing Street was using military victory over Saddam to repackage the prime minister as a wizened, grey-haired war hero who had been to hell and back. I felt that, at the end of a war in which 31 British soldiers (at that time) and thousands of others had died, this was indecent and improper.
There was plenty of evidence to back the thesis. Within days of the end of the war Tony Blair gave a vainglorious interview with the Sun, in which he made the questionable claim that he had been ready to quit had he lost the pre-conflict Commons vote.
The case of former Times editor Peter Stothard, embedded in Downing Street with a photographer for the duration of the war, also cried out to be taken into consideration. This was an unprecedented operation, though characteristic of a government which has always regarded presentation and substance as identical. Stothard has since published a book about his experience, in which he is too modest to mention the fact that he had recently received his knighthood courtesy of Blair.
I also mentioned the profile of the prime minister in the new Financial Times Magazine, which is edited by John Lloyd. I felt that it departed from the scrupulous, astringent, sceptical reporting that the paper has always aspired to. A hagiographical piece was accompanied by some photographic portraits of Blair striking a pose like some heroin chic supermodel.
I wrote that “none of the interviews or articles have come about by chance. All have been choreographed.” It was these sentences that inspired Lloyd to fury and caused him to accuse me of lying. According to Lloyd, I “exist in and further a culture which privileges excitement over accuracy, defamation over an effort to get at some part of the truth and politicised prejudgement over an attempt at sketching reality.”
This is nonsense. And I stand by every last word of what I…