Friday News Review

The ‘net’ goes wider

Nick Brown, the former chief whip and key political ally of former prime minister Gordon Brown, became the latest public figure yesterday to say that he believes his private calls and messages were eavesdropped. The Newcastle MP revealed that he believes his landline was the subject of an “amateurish” bugging operation around the time his homosexuality was made public in 1998. Five years later, he was also approached by police investigating voicemail hacking claims and warned that his mobile phone may have been illegally accessed. The former Cabinet minister is the latest senior Labour figure to come forward with claims that his phone calls and messages were hacked. Tessa Jowell, the former culture secretary, revealed that her phone may have been accessed as recently as this week and she has hired lawyers to discover who hacked into her messages on 29 separate occasions in 2006. Although it is not known in both cases who was responsible for the hacking, the claims will further fuel the phone hacking scandal engulfing the News of the World (NOTW), which is now the subject of a new police investigation following the decision of the Sunday paper to sack its head of news, Ian Edmondson. – the Independent

Nick Brown, the former Labour chief whip and a close ally of Gordon Brown, said today he believed his phone had been hacked. He told the Newcastle Journal the police had warned him several years ago his mobile phone might have been illegally accessed. Brown said he became suspicious his landline calls were being monitored after a phone conversation with a prominent person. “I picked up a landline telephone very quickly … to make another call straight away,” he said. “The line clicked and then I heard my last conversation played back to me, which was quite eerie.” Brown said he contacted BT, which said his line “showed every sign of being intercepted manually”. Brown said: “It was an amateurish attempt involving the physical intervention of the line with a recording device.  In the Guardian the shadow culture secretary, Ivan Lewis, likens the hacking to the seismic moment of the MPs’ expenses scandal: “The dramatic events of the past few days should similarly be a catalyst for serious debate not only about the conduct of News International but the power and the responsibility of the media. “A healthy democracy depends on the professionalism and integrity of the vast majority of journalists, editors, executives and proprietors [and]on the courage of politicians to stand up for the public interest free from undue pressure or fear of reprisal.” – the Guardian

Strikes on the horizon

Unionleaders yesterday warned the ConDems to expect strikes as workers defend their jobs against the spending axe. Brendan Barber, TUC general secretary, said: “No one is talking about a general strike but these attacks on our members could give rise to industrial action.” As union chiefs met in London, Unison’s Dave Prentis said 500,000 members faced the axe and had “no choice”.Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude said the Coalition could tighten industrial laws to halt co-ordinated strikes. – Daily Mirror

The warning came after a meeting to discuss co-ordinated action against the Government’s spending cuts. Officials from the country’s biggest trade unions, representing workers in the public and private sectors, met in London amid growing anger at the impact of the Government’s cuts on jobs and services. TUC general secretary Brendan Barber said later: ”The Government’s agenda is doing huge damage to the economy and vital public services. The TUC is mounting a wide campaign against these mistaken policies. ”Today’s meeting was to consider the appropriate industrial response to the volatile cocktail of issues that face union members across the public sector – the pay freeze, job cuts and attacks on pensions. No-one is talking about a general strike, but of course these attacks on our members could well give rise to industrial action around specific disputes.” – Daily Telegraph

Here we go again

Labour has selected a former Major in the Paras to fight a by-election. Dan Jarvis, who has served in Iraq and Afghanistan, was picked on Thursday night for Barnsley Central. He spent 15 years in the Paras, including a spell as company commander in the Special Forces support group in Helmand, Afghanistan. The dad-of-two was recently widowed after wife Caroline lost her battle with cancer.  The by-election was called after Labour MP Eric Illsley admitted fiddling expenses. Mr Jarvis said: “I am proud to have served in the Army and I am proud to be Labour. “The Army is built on the values of service and selfless commitment to the public good. These are Labour values, too.” – Daily Mirror

Illsley confirmed he would stand down as an MP, triggering the byelection in the seat he has held for more than 20 years. But because he has not formally resigned from the Commons, the poll has not yet been called and no date has been set. Today, Labour confirmed that Dan Jarvis, a former soldier, had been selected as its candidate at a meeting in Barnsley last night. “Barnsley is a great community with a proud history and I’m honoured that local Labour party members have chosen me as their candidate for Barnsley Central,” Jarvis said. “The Tory-Lib Dem government is cutting too fast and too deep, and they haven’t got a plan for growth and jobs in Barnsley. This byelection is a chance for the people of Barnsley to send a clear message to David Cameron and Nick Clegg. “I will always stand up for Barnsley and do the right thing for this community.” Illsley, 55, announced he was quitting as an MP after his conviction earlier this month. He said he “deeply, deeply” regretted his actions and would be resigning before his sentencing next month. In a statement issued by his office earlier this month, he said: “I have begun to wind down my parliamentary office, following which I will resign from parliament before my next court appearance.” – the Guardian

Nash vs Quigley

Forget Miliband v Cameron or Balls v Osborne. Susan Nash against Christine Quigley is the political battle to watch. On paper, the seemingly prosaic prize is chair of Young Labour, the party’s “youth wing”. In reality, it’s a fight for the leadership of a new political generation. And it’s getting fractious. Over the past week the contest has been rocked by allegations of dirty tricks, internal party interference, whispering campaigns and threats of legal action. A leaked email sent by Quigley to key campaign supporters claims, “We know that there is a link between London Region controlling our delegation and Susan’s/NOLS campaign. Can we prove it?” Calling for proof that the Nash campaign is involved with “dirty tricks”, Quigley says she intends to “put in a formal complaint to the Head of Legal” if such evidence is forthcoming. She concludes, “We can’t run a whispering campaign – it looks so bad. However, if we can make the case that there are dodgy dealings and expose them publicly, it puts our reform campaign in a much better light.” Despite appearances, the contest is not a classic tussle between left and right. Both women voted for Ed Miliband in the leadership. Both are well-respected activists with a strong track record in Labour youth politics. Each campaign claims its charge is a standard-bearer for the new politics rather than the old radicalism. Christine Quigley is described by supporters as “the unity candidate”. She is said to have made great strides in bringing more young women into the Young Labour movement, and adopts a “pragmatic” approach to her politics. Susan Nash is “a campaigner” who, according to her followers, has led effective attacks on the coalition and its policies. She has reportedly been building up a strong national base and is also billed as “a unifier”. –New Statesman

Lights Camera Osbourne

Pump prices hit record levels today, piling pressure on the government to cut fuel duty. Fuel has now passed the previous high seen in the summer of 2008, pushed up by a combination of a near $100 per barrel crude oil value and a succession of tax increases. Motoring groups described the increased cost of motoring as the “road to misery” as fuel monitoring group Experian Catalist said the average price of a litre of diesel had hit 133.26p and petrol 128.6p. George Osborne has hinted in recent days that he is considering freezing duties that are due to increase further on 1 April. On Thursday the chancellor said: “We can override it. We are looking at that.” Pressure to cut prices increased when the RAC motoring organisation said it was joining the Fair Fuel UK campaign started by truckers and the Freight Transport Association. The AA said the new diesel price meant that drivers were paying 19.21p a litre more than a year ago, adding £9.61 to the cost of a typical 50-litre refill. “Hitting a new record for diesel is yet another milestone along a road of misery for drivers,” said the AA’s president, Edmund King. The soaring price of petrol can be expected to trigger anger against BPand Shell when they announce big increases in profits next week. US oil group, Chevron, has just reported a 72% increase in fourth-quarter income to $5.3bn. Today the price of Brent blend oil rose $2 to hit $99.60 per barrel as traders worried that violence in Egypt could spread to other bigger Middle East oil producing countries. But at the World Economic Forum in Davos the bosses of BP and Shell insisted they were not in favour of a very high crude price because it threatened to slow down economic growth and cut demand. Soaring fuel prices were among the key reasons behind inflation’s sharp rise in December, when the consumer price index (CPI) went up by 3.7%, against 3.3% in November. Much depends on the behaviour of oil cartel Opec, which is holding back production to keep prices up. The organisation’s secretary general, Abdullah al-Badri, said he was “sure 100%” the market had enough oil. Oil prices are still well below the record of $147.27 hit in July 2008, and analysts predict an average of slightly more than $90 for the year as a whole. The Fair Fuel UK Campaign is calling for the planned fuel duty rise in April to be scrapped and for the government to look at further ways to stabilise the price. – the Guardian


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One Response to “Friday News Review”

  1. ‘cpi and rpi on the rise’

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