Revealed: Blair wanted to regulate papers for ‘accuracy’ of reporting, former top aide says
A key official in the team of former prime minister Tony Blair wanted to regulate newspapers for the “accuracy” of their reporting, according to newly-released official papers.
Files released by the National Archives show Mr Blair’s principal private secretary Jeremy Heywood (a future cabinet secretary) became exasperated by what he regarded as the inaccurate reporting of the government’s activities.
However his appeal for a system of “accuracy regulation” was swiftly shot down by Mr Blair’s advisers, who said it would be “suicidal” to try.
Writing in August 2001, Mr Heywood said: “I assume it is unthinkable to impose accuracy regulation on newspapers?
“No other industry would get away with the practice of making up stories that even our most serious newspapers indulge in.
“Is there no country in the world that has a successful model of newspaper regulation?”
Ed Richards, a policy adviser, warned against such a plan.
“Personally I think it is nigh on impossible to introduce controls on the newspapers of the kind that you propose (and probably suicidal to try),” he wrote back.
Frustration with the press was nothing new among Mr Blair’s inner circle.
In a presentation to a Cabinet awayday in 1998, the former prime minister himself said: “We have a serious problem with a juvenile media.
“The smallest decisions can become big headlines. They refuse to report the substance of what you do.”