Wednesday, 2 May 2007

Selective quotation

In Prime Minister's Questions today, Tony Blair quoted from the Liberal Democrat document The State They've Put Us In. I'd already read it, but I hardly recognised the words Blair read out. In quotation after quotation, we apparently praised the Government's record in glowing terms, as a horde of Labour backbenchers cheered us on. At the climax Blair said that according to the Lib Dems, he had pursued an "ethical foreign policy".

The problem is that we said no such thing. We said that in 1997, "a Foreign Policy with an ethical dimension was announced", which is true. The rest of the document goes on to demonstrate how that promise was comprehensively broken.

Sometimes, I think we need to be more careful about how we phrase ourselves in leaflets, to avoid being misrepresented, as we were by this (Tory?) flyer:

(I'm sure we actually pledged to use the term "life sentence" only for an actual lifelong sentence, to avoid confusing and upsetting the victims of crime. We surely weren't suggesting that murderers should be let out earlier.)

Still, however carefully we express ourselves, I don't think there's much we can do when the Prime Minister misrepresents us on live TV. Unfortunately, he always gets the last word in PMQs, and if he saves his slapdown till the end, there's no real defence.

2 comments:

Greg said...

The good thing about this is that it will prompt journalists to read the whole document when it is put in front of them in the lobby by our press officers saying "this is the document Blair was talking about" - in effect free advertising for our attack docs.

Leo said...

Misquotation is a form of flattery.

They can find nothing wrong with the proposals or allegations in their original and true form, and therefore have to misrepresent them as something altogether more attackable.