Press attacks put people off politics, says Cherie Blair
Focus on family members, as in the Mail's coverage of Ed Miliband's father, poses “a danger”
Cherie Blair: “The Daily Mail in particular didn’t like the idea of a girl like me coming from a working-class Liverpool Catholic family – I mean none of these things appeal to the editor of the Daily Mail.” photograph: jin lee/bloomberg
In the wake of the Daily Mail’s attack on late Marxist academic Ralph Miliband, the “Hated by the Daily Mail” novelty badges and slogan T-shirts have gone into production, while the “Are You Hated by the Daily Mail?” online game has been constructed so that essentially anyone who isn’t Conservative minister Michael Gove finds that they are.
One person who knows more about this subject than most is Cherie Blair, who was in Dublin this week to promote her charity and launch a Plan Ireland photography exhibition. “The Daily Mail is in the news again for its rather... shall I put it kindly and say their old-fashioned views?” she noted in a public interview conducted by independent producer and media consultant Helen Shaw.
“The Daily Mail in particular didn’t like the idea of a girl like me coming from a working-class Liverpool Catholic family – I mean none of these things appeal to the editor of the Daily Mail,” Blair said.
“The thing I completely understood was that I was fair game. I was grown-up, I had volunteered for that, but I was absolutely determined that my children should not be [fair game].”
People are being deterred from political careers because they don’t want to be tarred with the in-it-for-themselves brush, but also because they’re worried about the impact and nature of press attention on their families, she believes.
“That’s why the thing about Ed Miliband’s father is so bad, because okay, you accept criticism for yourself, but attacking someone in your family who can’t even answer back, it’s not just wrong in itself, I think it does put people off going into politics. And that’s a danger for our democracy.”
Still, the barrister’s views on the press were qualified by a quintessentially Blairite recognition that you need the media if you want to get your message across. “Even the Daily Mail has taken up some good issues,” she acknowledges afterwards. “It’s not as simplistic as saying Daily Mail all bad, and the Guardian all good.”