One of the most brilliant myths fostered by Alastair Campbell is the idea of our nihilistic media attacking the government morning, noon and night. It is utter bunkum. Until the Iraq war the BBC gave Tony Blair the benefit of the doubt in scandal after scandal. Among newspapers, the Prime Minister could count on the support of the Murdoch press, the Daily Mirror, the Daily Express and, for much of the time, the Guardian and the Independent. The prospect of the war against Iraq, and its aftermath, changed things somewhat. The Independent, Guardian, Daily Mirror and Daily Mail constituted the opposition, but they were outweighed by the Murdoch newspapers and the Daily Express, which were joined by the Daily Telegraph, a traditional Blair foe. Even the BBC was only cautiously and subliminally antiwar. During hostilities it carried many gung-ho reports extolling the bravery of our troops.
Whatever Mr Campbell may say, Mr Blair has enjoyed a great deal of support in the media during the war and the subsequent row about weapons of mass destruction. This support is still very much forthcoming. Last week the Prime Minister made what was by any standards an extraordinary admission. In reply to a question from a Tory MP in the Commons, he admitted that when this country went to war against Iraq on 20 March last year he did not know that the so-called weapons of mass destruction were battlefield weapons which could only be fired a short distance. This admission was entirely at odds with the infamous September 2002 dossier, and several speeches by Mr Blair. It is true, as the government maintains, that weapons of mass destruction were not mentioned in the crucial Commons debate of 18 March, but this scarcely matters given the many previous occasions on which they were held out as representing a probable threat to Britain.