Archive for January, 2011

Why did the police not investigate phone hacking leads?

26/01/2011, 08:35:20 AM

by Tom Watson

I’m not a lawyer but the phone hacking scandal has meant I’ve had to act like one.

If you told me a year ago that I would have read Archbold, the criminal lawyer’s bible, inside out, I would have laughed. I’m the digi-guy. I read Clay Shirky, not boring legal text books. But then Tom Crone, the slick in-house lawyer for News International, tried to remove me from the culture, media and sport select committee. It was an act of aggression that finally convinced me that I had no choice but to get to the bottom of this murky affair, once and for all. Phone hacking took over from the future of the Internet as a policy preoccupation. I look forward to the day when I can return to Shirky.

When I read the section of Archbold on perverting the course of public justice, the whole hacking saga came into focus.

“The offence may be committed where acts are done with the intention of concealing the fact that a crime has been committed, although no proceedings in respect of it are pending or have commenced”,

says Archbold in the  2009 Edition, page 2631.

This week, the director of public prosecutions, Keir Starmer, confirmed that he would examine all new evidence in the News of the World phone hacking saga.

I’ve made the case that he should be investigating a potential attempt to pervert the course of public justice. As fragments of evidence have been forced out of news international and the metropolitan police service by civil litigants and Parliamentary enquiries, the case for a deep investigation by an outside force is now, I think, insurmountable. (more…)

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Wednesday News Review

26/01/2011, 07:02:17 AM

Osborne unwilling to consider alternative

A shaken coalition government today lashed itself to the mast of multi-billion spending cuts and rejected calls for a change of economic course in the face of shocking figures that showed the economy contracted by 0.5% in the last quarter of 2010. The figures, raising fears of stagflation – high unemployment and inflation with stagnant growth – mark the first serious challenge to the coalition’s political and economic edifice. In an attempt to reassure volatile markets, Mervyn King, the governor of the Bank of England, urged the cabinet to stand firm and warned of many shocks to the economy before it settled down to a consistent pattern of growth. The markets had been expecting growth in the final quarter of 2010 in the region of 0.3% and 0.7%. Ministers blamed the coldest weather in a century or a survey error by the Office for National Statistics. But even if the effect of the weather is stripped out, the economy was flat in the final quarter after a year of recovery.

David and Ed to team up?

David and Ed Miliband are combining to create a 10,000-strong “army” of community organisers in the first formal rapprochement for the pair since Ed beat David to the Labour party leadership. The Movement for Change, set up by David during his leadership campaign, is to be relaunched in March and expanded, initially under the wing of the Labour party. The brothers want to increase tenfold the 1,000 activists trained through that campaign to organise people, such as patients, parents and tenants, to resist change imposed by state or the private sector in their neighbourhoods. Lord Sainsbury of Turville is poised to donate £250,000 as the first stage of funding for the training. The move is significant because Sainsbury, a supporter of David Miliband who has bankrolled Labour with £13m in the last 10 years, is one of several big donors who have said they are not keen on continuing to back Labour with Ed in charge. – the Guardian (more…)

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Richard Drax MP and the disappearing blog post

25/01/2011, 05:22:07 PM

?Richard Drax, the Tory MP for South Dorset posted a rather interesting blog earlier today. In the post titled “Two + two = gay” he described the discussion of homosexuality in schools as “imposing questionable sexual standards” on young people. The Whips must have been on the phone sharpish as the post vanished from his site almost immediately. The compassionate Conservative mask slips again.

We managed to grab the text and a screen grab for posterity and the folks over at ChickenYoghurt have a timeline of the vanishing act.

Two + two = gay

Yes, if you can believe it, homosexuality will be on the curriculum for students studying maths, geography and science. According to the Sunday Telegraph, children as young as four could be included. Apparently, these lessons to “celebrate the gay community” are not compulsory and schools will be left to decide. This plan is ludicrous and pushes political correctness to new bounds. I would have thought raising educational standards and teaching our children to read, write and add up is far more important than imposing questionable sexual standards on those too young to understand their equality czars.

Posted on 25 January 2011 by Richard Drax


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Economic slow-down: it’s not the snow, it’s confidence

25/01/2011, 04:00:02 PM

by Pat McFadden

When this government was elected they decided to cut public spending sharply and ditch Labour’s industrial strategy at the same time. The first obviously got the lion’s share of the headlines, but two events in recent days have highlighted the folly of their second decision.

First, Sir Richard Lambert chose his final speech yesterday as director general of the CBI to bemoan the lack of vision from the government on what the future UK economy might look like, or any plan for the future. He talked of politics triumphing over sensible policy on a range of issues from aviation policy to the immigration cap to the cash starved local enterprise partnerships, which are being set up in place of regional development agencies. As Sir Richard pointed out, “it’s not enough just to slam on the spending brakes. Measures that cut spending but killed demand would actually make matters worse”.

Second, this morning’s GDP figures came as a shock to markets. And George Osborne’s attempt to blame the snow will fool no one. The really worrying thing about today’s figures is that they come before the impact of the VAT rise and the spending cuts which will kick in from March. Rather than snow, I suspect the real impact has been on confidence, which is why responsibility must lie at the door of the government. (more…)

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“Trust the party” update: the 18 minute PLP elections

25/01/2011, 01:06:59 PM

A resignedly amused member of the PLP forwarded the below email to Uncut yesterday.

At the top, our friendly MP wrote:

This is hilarious.

I think this was the first notification – although I may be wrong.

So much for the new inclusive “trust the party” approach.

His point is that this “reminder” about the noon close of nominations for these single place elections was emailed to MPs at 11.42. Giving interested parties a whole 18 minutes to consider their options, canvass opinion, build coalitions, and so on.

If this was, as our correspondent believes, the first emailed notification sent to MPs, then the PLP aparat truly is approaching Ceau?escu levels of trust and inclusivity.

From: PLP Resource Centre

Sent: 24 January 2011 11:42

Subject: REMINDER: PLP Elections (NEC and Parliamentary Committee) – Close of Nominations TODAY at 12noon

Importance: High

To Labour MPs

Dear Colleague

Please note, NOMINATIONS for the following vacancies, will close at 12noon TODAY, Monday, 24 January.

  • ONE vacancy for a backbench representative on the NEC (please note this vacancy must be filled by a woman)
  • ONE vacancy for a backbench representative on the Parliamentary Committee

If interested please contact Martin O’Donovan on xxxxx or email xxxxxxx asap.

UPDATE: A disgruntled Labour spinner has been in touch to say that “the timetable was in the whip two weeks running and read out at the packed PLP meeting last Monday.”

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Ed Cojones: is he really Zorro, or is he Don Diego Vega?

25/01/2011, 07:00:31 AM

by Dan Hodges

Just when did Ed Balls become Ed Cojones? What was the time, date and place we first set eyes on the dashing, marauding, Cordobes-clad  conquistador?

There are few clues in his childhood. He was born in Norfolk. Very flat, Norfolk.  He attended a private, all boys school, where he reportedly enjoyed the violin. Bit girly, the violin.

At Oxford, he studied PPE, and then went on to Harvard. All very Ivy League. Finally, he came home and joined the Financial Times. Not much by way of tits, sport and Freddie Starr’s hamster at the FT.

Let’s not beat around the bush. Ed Balls has the biography of a wimp. A number-crunching, classical music-playing, pretty boy from the sticks.

Now contrast with some of the headlines from the weekend. “Ed Miliband’s rottweiler Ed Balls”;  “Ed balls loves to knee cap his opponents”; “Ed Balls; aggressive, passionate, smart”.

Where did this guy spring from? How did Don Diego Vega turn into Zorro? (more…)

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Tuesday News Review

25/01/2011, 06:50:22 AM

Outgoing head of the CBI slams the government on growth

Richard Lambert has launched an uncompromising but constructive assault on the government’s growth strategy, or lack of it. He said: “The government is…talking about growth in an enthusiastic and thoughtful way… But it’s failed so far to articulate in big picture terms its vision of what the UK economy might become under its stewardship. What I feel is that a number of their initiatives – I’m thinking of the immigration cap, I’m thinking about their move on the default retirement age, about the carbon reduction commitment – have actually made it harder for companies, or less likely for companies to employ people. And what we want, actually, is a sense of direction, a sense of ambition.” It’s a common refrain. The Conservatives campaigned on the deregulation of small businesses at the last election; they are yet to deliver, something for which they are being criticised. In fact, several business bodies lament the onset of yet more regulation. – Spectator

Sir Richard Lambert, retiring boss of the CBI has had a fairly comprehensive blast at the Government’s “supply side” polices on the economy, and especially Vince Cable, asking the key question; “Where’s the growth going to come from?” He’s right to ask, and right to suggest some concrete things – genuine public investment – that only the state can do and which will yield real returns in the decades to come. Prime among these is boosting the UK’s electricity generation capacity, though Sir Richard ducks the great nuclear debate (my own view is that we may end with just no other choice in the matter, though I dread the risks). He is also probably right on the UK’s quixotic new bribery laws, another gift from us to French commerce. – the Independent

The government has struggled to develop a growth agenda. It cancelled plans for a White Paper on the subject. It published, instead, a list of problems rather than solutions. The chancellor and the business secretary are seeing ministers from every department in turn to ask them what they’re doing to help the economy grow. The fear in Whitehall is no longer a double dip recession but a jobless recovery. Ministers feel that they have won the debate on the deficit. Sir Richard Lambert’s speech is a reminder than they are not yet winning the debate about how to get the economy growing.- BBC

News Corp referred to Competition Commission but more questions for Hunt

Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt is likely to be the subject of fresh criticism today following the news this morning that he has granted Rupert Murdoch a stay of execution over a referral to the Competition Commission of News Corp’s takeover bid for BSkyB. Mr Hunt has claimed he is simply following legal advice but the move could prove controversial. Labour has questioned whether the Prime Minister broke the ministerial code of conduct by meeting the European Chairman of News Corporation, James Murdoch, just days after stripping Vince Cable of the power to decide the fate of NewsCorp’s bid for control of BSkyB. – PoliticsHome

The Crown Prosecution Service is to adopt a “robust approach” in examining “recent or new substantive allegations” of phone hacking. As David Cameron faced renewed pressure over his close links to News Corp, the director of public prosecutions, Keir Starmer, said he had agreed the approach with the leadership of the Metropolitan police yesterday. Last night’s announcement by the DPP came amid signs that the illegal phone-hacking scandal may be extending beyond newspapers in the Murdoch stable. Paul Marsden, a former Liberal Democrat MP, told the BBC last night he had begun legal inquiries to find out whether his phone was hacked by the Daily Mirror in 2003. Marsden, who defected to the Lib Dems from Labour in 2001, told Radio 4’s PM programme: “We have started those legal inquiries with a specific journalist and also the Mirror Group. If it turns out to be true, I would like it exposed in a court of law. I want to know the truth.” – the Guardian

DAVID Cameron was slammed yesterday for having dinner with James Murdoch as the Government considers whether to let his company take over BSkyB. The Prime Minister socialised with Mr Murdoch, son of News Corporation mogul Rupert Murdoch, over Christmas. Just days earlier the PM gave Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt the final say on whether the Murdochs’ £7.5billion takeover could go ahead. – the Mirror

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Watson formally requests Hunt to re-refer News Corp bid for BSkyB to Ofcom, on new grounds

24/01/2011, 07:03:19 PM

Tom Watson MP

House of Commons

London, SW1A 0AA

The Rt Hon Jeremy Hunt MP
Secretary of State
Department for Culture, Media & Sport
2-4 Cockspur Street

24 January 2011

Dear Jeremy,

In light of recent revelations I write to ask you to commission a further report from Ofcom, concerning the bid for BSkyB by Rupert and James Murdoch’s News Corp.

As you know, the News Corp proposal was investigated by Ofcom under the public interest provisions of the Enterprise Act 2002. There are three sub-clauses: ‘plurality’, ‘range of broadcasting’ and ‘commitment to broadcasting standards’. The original referral only looked at ‘plurality’.

I would like the transaction investigated under the ‘broadcasting standards’ category.

Section 58 of the Enterprise Act 2002 provides the Specified Considerations of which 2 C specifies:

“The need for persons carrying on media enterprises, and for those with control of such enterprises, to have a genuine commitment to the attainment in relation to broadcasting of the standards objectives set out in section 319 of the Communications Act 2003”.

Section 319 of the Communications Act contains the Ofcom code.

Paragraph 2 a) states “that persons under the age of 18 are protected”.

Paragraph 2 b) of the code states “that material likely to encourage or to incite the commission of crime or lead to disorder is not included in television and radio services”.

Paragraph 2 d) of the code “that news included in television and radio services is reported with due accuracy”.

The investigation is entitled to study whether the acquirer has shown evidence of bad practice in its other media companies.

In terms of generally criminal conduct; you will well know of the News of the World’s industrial use of material acquired by illegal phone-hacking.  Two individuals formerly employed by the News of the World have been imprisoned for offences related to this practice and two current employees are suspended following material obtained by civil actions against the newspaper.  The police have re-referred the matter to the CPS. There is no doubt that there is much more yet to come to reveal the extent of the activities. (more…)

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Cameron’s Blair delusion

24/01/2011, 04:15:22 PM

by Jamie Reed

Among the attributes any politician might both posess and publicly display, delusion is perhaps the worst. A product of vanity and arrogance, delusion is an attribute immediately detectable to the public. More importantly, public displays of political delusion mark the point where the voter and the politician part company; it is the point where the voter separates rhetoric from reality and where political language becomes hollowed of all meaning. Essentially, it is the point where the voter acknowledges that the politician in question sees himself, and the world, very differently.

The principal delusion which afflicts David Cameron is his conviction that he is “the heir to Blair”. This delusion is so deep seated that its effects are visible across the government’s entire programme – from Europe to the NHS and beyond.

LIke all delusions, it bears no serious analysis. Tony Blair (alongside Gordon Brown and Peter Mandelson) transformed the Labour party politically, intellectually and culturally. This was a hard, painful process but it was done in the public glare and was very real. In contrast, David Cameron hasn’t changed the Tories at all; a largely unimpressive Parliamentary party is held together through inexperience and necessity, not conviction and belief. Even now, the old fissures are real and threaten, at any point, to erupt on issues like Europe, immigration and gay marriage. As a result, Cameron doesn’t have the authority he craves within his own party, let alone among the country at large. For at least his first two terms, the same could not be said of Blair. (more…)

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Can we please just ignore the Lib Dems?

24/01/2011, 10:30:40 AM

by Rob Marchant

While recent headlines may have all but obliterated from memory Ed’s recent fabians speech, it is also worth lingering on his more prescriptive, post-Oldham Guardian article from the day before. If Ed did not go as far as Neal Lawson did and metaphorically throw open the gates of Victoria Street to Lib Dem members to invite them in for tea, he certainly signalled a rapprochement which might live to be seen as unwise. Unwise because it seems doomed to fail, and unwise also because such a failure would be likely to come back and bite us. When you attempt to woo, rejection leaves you looking undesirable.

There are some important barriers to cooperation. First, the Lib Dems themselves: as the FT wryly observed, if you want to cooperate with another party, best not filibuster it in the Lords on its touchstone issue (voting reform), or describe it as “tragic”.  Also, be aware that it may be counterproductive: some Lib Dems may just react angrily to what they see as an opportunist attempt to split their party. Or it may simply be ignored, by most. (more…)

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