LETTER from THE EDITOR

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The Independent Online
I am being outed. The Conservatives have put me on a list of allegedly Blairite intellectuals. The intellectual bit is nice, though this company is curiously mixed - it includes one radical Tory and an admirer of Sir James Goldsmith. The common thread seems to be that we have all written books critical of the government and constitution and so created ''an environment in which Blairism can flourish''.

Quite right: it is time to come clean. The Islington Eight have been meeting in a basement below Granita restaurant. There we thought up the famous and brilliant slogans (''new Labour, new Biscuit''; ''Stakeholding when conditions permit''; ''If you want a barrister for a neighbour, vote Labour''). There, Simon Jenkins, that well-known incendiary from the Times, poured the Lapsang Souchong, while the sinister figures of Frank Field, Will Hutton and Professor David Marquand were busily mass-producing woolly cardigans and sniggering about how they were going to undermine John Major with a Bill of Rights and self-government for Huddersfield. What visions we had! Ah, well ...

Seriously, though, some readers complain that the Independent is too cynical about Labour; others that we are overtly pro-Labour. The truth is, we will never be the bag-carriers or loyalists of any party; and Blair, I fear, hasn't even read my books. On joining the Independent, before it launched, I was instructed by Tony Bevins, the political editor, that unless all the party headquarters were furious about the paper, we weren't doing our job. This seems a high ambition - but a worthy one.

Very many people have written in about last week's letter, when I raised the problem of how far we should go as a newspaper in reporting the details of horrible crimes. There were strong words from both sides of the argument. One letter came from an infant school teacher who had found the Dunblane tragedy almost unbearable. She wrote that ''in order to cope with this tragedy we did need information about it'.' But that didn't mean knowing everything. She questioned the prominent front-page pictures of the children who died, adding: "My son wanted to know what they had done to get on to the front of our paper. I replied that they were very special children. Never forget that six-year-olds can read pictures and that newspapers lie around in houses in a way that books need not.'' Another writer said that wanting to know everything was a primitive instinct which was damaging and contagious, while a third wrote that the Independent should be for ''the responsible, socially conscious citizens ... The grisly details disgust them".

But others didn't agree at all. One Asian reader said he read this paper because it was ''candid, blunt and sometimes excessively informative, rather than selectively informative ... I would advise against self-censorship.'' He noted, rightly, that Western papers were far readier to use pictures of dead foreigners. Another agreed: ''I don't think you should exclude 'the nasty bits' in the Sophie Hook murder case. Readers are entitled to all the facts and will seek them in other papers if they feel they are being over-edited.'' So, no final conclusion, though my instinct remains cautious and will we carry on erring that way.

Finally, apropos the return of the Stone of Destiny to Scotland, the leader of the SNP, Alex Salmond, was being interviewed by a Scottish radio reporter. Right, she said challengingly, now that the Scone Stone is coming home, don't you think it's time to return the Elgin marbles to Elgin?

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