Despite having a strong military presence in its circulation area, The Citizen in Gloucester this week adopted a highly critical line on the war in Iraq.
Under the headline “For God’s sake…get him out!”, The Citizen told the story of a Territorial Army soldier serving in Iraq whose mother, Madelaine Amos, is strongly opposed to the war.
Ian Mean, who edits the Northcliffeowned daily, said the paper did not have an anti-war agenda but wanted to open its pages to both sides of the debate.
“Gloucestershire, especially the Stroud area, was very much the centre of the anti-war protests early on,” he said. “In the past month or so we’ve had quite a lot of letters from people concerned about us staying in Iraq.
“Then we were contacted by the mother of a TA man who has been serving in Iraq for a month and is a doubleglazing salesman from Gloucester.
“She said ‘we really need to get out of this place’ – and we were responding to that.”
As well as the piece about Mrs Amos, The Citizen ran two pages presenting different viewpoints about the situation in Iraq and an article written by Major Alexander Bathurst of the Royal Gloucestershire Hussars.
In its leader, The Citizen said: “We urge the Prime Minister to think very carefully before sending any more troops into this cauldron of chaos.”
Mean said: “We feel the agenda now, with a possible Commons vote, is very much a debate and that’s what we want to encourage. I’m going to run stuff every day from all shades of opinion.
“We are four-square behind the troops but I think there’s growing concern that the longer troops stay in Iraq, the more we will get bogged down.
“As a newspaper, we’ve got to have this debate and I think people are really concerned about us getting into a Vietnam-style situation.”
By Dominic Ponsford