Geldof: 'I made a stupid mistake'

By Dominic Ponsford

Bob Geldof has admitted he made a “stupid mistake” when he addressed journalists at the British Press Awards earlier this year.

And he has told Press Gazette of his admiration for the way the
British media has covered the issues of African aid, debt relief and
trade in the run-up to the July G8 conference in Edinburgh.

In
March Geldof was greeted with heckling when he criticised national
journalists at the British Press Awards and attacked their “scant
coverage of the continent of Africa”.

He said this week: “It was
a stupid mistake on my part. I’d never been to a press awards before
and didn’t know they were a yaboo thing – I thought they were
different, like the rock and roll ones.

“All I was saying was
could we focus on pulling together on the G8 and, regardless of our
political stand, focus on that. This is a point where we could do
something historic… I don’t think I got that out there.”

Geldof
is currently on an international tour to drum up support for action to
help Africa at the G8 conference. He said British press coverage of the
issues is far better than in the other G8 countries he has visited:
“The level of debate in this country is really extraordinary.

“The
CAP is about trade deficit dumping and that kills people. We’ve been
saying that for years, and now it’s all over the FT, The Independent
and The Guardian.”

Geldof shrugged off the increasing number of
articles which have been critical of him personally in recent weeks –
for example over his call to sail boats across the channel to take
French people to the proposed Edinburgh protest.

“I can’t moan
about the press. The unfortunate reality is we’ve got to do ridiculous
things. I’ve got to engage in gigantism and grab the attention.”

He feels the personal criticism is all “grist for the mill”, adding: “They may say ‘he’s a wanker, but hold on there’s a point’.

The
important thing is that we are having an argument about the poorest
people on the planet. Of course that criticism is going to happen, we
just keep it rolling.

But clearly it’s keeping the pressure on
and it is working. Europe have said they will double aid to Africa,
it’s what the Africa Commission called for and they said ‘yes we’ll do
it’.”

Geldof said: “Journalists must find it weird that something
as dry as trade injustice, Third World debt and aid flows are the story
du jour. But what’s happened is each paper has found its own way of
doing it, like The Sun sending a guy to walk to Edinburgh, or the
middle papers finding lots of criticism for individuals but coming out
in support of an essential issue like reforming the CAP – which across
the board everybody knows is economically illiterate and politically
stupid.

“We are on the side of history but we’ve got to make sure that 8 July actually becomes historic.”

Responding
to press commentators who have condemned his proposals on Africa as
unworkable in the face of African government corruption he said: “This
is about debt, trade and aid in exchange for governance. I am
withering in my scorn for the columnists who say ‘it’s not going to
work’. Even if it doesn’t work, what do they propose? Every
night forever watching people live on TV dying on our screens?

“Is
it that we sit back and, as Enoch Powell once told me, ‘let them go to
hell in their own way’? Do we sit back and do nothing and just let
these people die?

That’s simply not viable – human beings will
not be able to take that. We have got a chance to build a strong
continent we can trade with rather than one that sinks into more decay
and death. Let’s try and focus on this plan and put it into action and
if that doesn’t work try another plan.”

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