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Wednesday News Review

06/07/2011, 06:42:50 AM

Cameron under pressure to hold investigation

David Cameron was today facing growing pressure to back calls for a public inquiry into the phone hacking scandal. The Prime Minister was urged to act as MPs held an emergency debate on the issue after more alarming claims emerged to the extent of the interception of mobile phone messages. Mr Cameron said the alleged hacking of murdered teenager Milly Dowler’s mobile phone had left him shocked. Mr Cameron said: “On the question of the really appalling allegations about the telephone of Milly Dowler, if they are true, this is a truly dreadful act and a truly dreadful situation. What I have read in the papers is quite, quite shocking, that someone could do this actually knowing the police were trying to find this person and trying to find out what had happened, and we all now know the tragedy that took place.” The News of the World said last night they had passed “significant new information” to police in connection with the hacking investigation. MPs will today hold a debate on whether to launch a public inquiry into the scandal. The row intensified as Labour MP Chris Bryant, 49, yesterday accused the News of the World of “playing God with a family’s emotions”. – Daily Mirror

Ed Miliband has called for Rebekah Brooks, the chief executive of News International, to “consider her position” and called for a public inquiry after it emerged the News of the World hacked into Milly Dowler’s mobile phone while Brooks was editor. It comes after David Cameron described the hacking as a “truly dreadful act” and urged police to “pursue this in the most vigorous way”. Police were due to meet with senior executives from News International on Tuesday morning, according to reports, with Brooks’s role coming under increasing scrutiny. The current News International chief executive has insisted she would not resign. Miliband joined the Labour shadow home secretary, Yvette Cooper, in calling for a public inquiry into the Guardian’s revelations that Milly Dowler‘s mobile phone was repeatedly targeted by the News of the World. The Labour leader said Brooks should “consider her conscience and consider her position”, as pressure mounts on the News International chief executive. Miliband said the latest revelations in the News of the World phone-hacking saga were a “stain” on news reporting in the country. He added that the hacking “represents one of the darkest days in British journalism”. – the Guardian

The revelations followed extraordinary allegations that, months earlier, Milly Dowler’s phone messages were hacked into and deleted by the News of the World, giving her family false hope that she was still alive. All this came on a day when: There was intense speculation that the newspaper might also have eavesdropped on Sara Payne, mother of eight-year-old Sarah, whose murder in 2000 prompted then editor Rebekah Brooks’s controversial campaign for the right to know if a paedophile is living locally; Labour leader Ed Miliband led calls for the resignation of Mrs Brooks, who is now Mr Murdoch’s most senior UK executive; Senior politicians threatened a public inquiry, led by a judge, into press standards and regulation; Pressure grew on Culture Secretary  Jeremy Hunt to block Mr Murdoch’s  bid to take full control of the broadcaster BSkyB; Ford announced it was withdrawing advertising ‘indefinitely’ from the News of the World, while  other leading firms – including Easyjet and Tesco – said they might do the same; Commons Speaker John Bercow granted a highly unusual emergency debate on the affair today; Glenn Mulcaire, the private investigator at the centre of the scandal, issued a public apology but claimed he had been under ‘constant demand for results’ from the News of the World; There were reports that detectives are contacting some of the 52 families of the victims of the July 7 bombings in London in 2005, whose names or phone numbers appeared as part of their enquiries. Journalists may have been seeking to access messages left on phones as family members waited to hear news about their loved ones. – Daily Mail

Ed’s first landslide

The PLP have backed Ed Miliband’s plans to abolish shadow cabinet elections. Turnout was 92.2%, and 83% of the PLP voted in favour of the plans (196 in favour, 41 against and 20 did not vote). Ed Miliband responded, saying: “This is an excellent result for the party. We have an important job to do in holding the government to account and preparing for the next election. To do that job properly we need to spend our time talking to the public and not ourselves. “Labour under my leadership will be a party that looks outwards and not inwards.”Labour List

Ed Miliband won the first round of his battle to modernise Labour’s traditional practices last night when the party’s MPs voted overwhelmingly to allow him to choose his own Shadow Cabinet. Mr Miliband, who has described the elections as a distraction, wants to sharpen up the performance of his top team and ensure they spend less time lobbying for the votes of backbenchers. Last night his proposed reform was approved by a margin of 196 votes to 41. The turnout among Labour MPs was 92 per cent. Mr Miliband said: “This is an excellent result for the party. We have an important job to do in holding the Government to account and preparing for the next election. To do that job properly we need to spend our time talking to the public and not ourselves. Labour under my leadership will be a party that looks outwards and not inwards.” The move needs to be approved by Labour’s National Executive Committee this month and its annual conference in September. After that, Mr Miliband will be free to reshuffle his frontbench team whenever he wants. Although aides played down the prospect of a shake-up immediately after the conference, the Labour leader is expected to reshape his Shadow Cabinet to give fast-track promotions to the “new generation” of MPs he would want to see in his first cabinet if he wins power. – the Independent

Rank hypocrisy over Bombardier contract

Britain’s last train maker slashed 1,429 jobs yesterday – sparking fears the firm could hit the buffers. Troubled Bombardier’s main contracts run out in two years. But the Government last month awarded the £1.4billion Thameslink project to German rival Siemens. Furious MPs and union leaders yesterday called on the Tory-led coalition to reverse the decision in the wake of the job cuts. They argued the contract could keep Bombardier’s 3,000 Derby workers busy for years. Labour’s Derby North MP Chris Williamson said: “This is one U-turn well worth making. The lame excuse Siemens offered better value for money simply won’t wash.” Bob Crow, of the RMT transport union, blasted: “We will fight this stitch-up tooth and nail.” Campaigners are furious after ministers met in Bombardier’s home city of Derby just four months ago and praised it as the best of British manufacturing. The Canadian-owned firm said 446 full-time engineers and 983 temporary staff must go. But it is feared 20,000 jobs in the supply line could be hit. The firm said it would have made lay-offs even if it had won the Thameslink deal to build 1,200 carriages. Transport Secretary Philip Hammond said: “Bombardier has had a fantastic run of success.” – Daily Mirror

Bob Crow may not be to everyone’s taste. The RMT union chief has a fine track record of bringing chaos to commuters. But when he’s not starting a fight, he can also start a debate. Yesterday’s subject? The plight of British manufacturing and whether the Government, for all its “Made in Britain” rhetoric, has anything resembling an industrial policy. A “scandal” was Mr Crow’s pithy assessment of the sobering news from the Canadian train manufacturer Bombardier. It reflected, he claimed, “a policy of industrial vandalism that would wipe out train building in the nation that gave the railways to the world”. Bombardier had just axed 1,400 jobs at its Derby plant after failing to win a contract. Not any contract, either, but one awarded by the British Government to build 1,200 train carriages for the Thameslink commuter service into London. Having assessed the bids, ministers awarded the £1.5 billion prize to a consortium led by Germany’s Siemens. German workers and component manufacturers will now get the work. The upshot is lay-offs at Bombardier, not to mention the wider supply chain – and the risk that Britain’s last remaining train builder could now be heading for the buffers, effectively closing a 200-year-old British industry. Another shipbuilding, perhaps. – Daily Telegraph

Scottish Labour to become a fizzy drink

Scottish Labour is to rebrand itself as the “Irn-Bru of modern politics” with distinctive “made in Scotland” policies that will set it apart from the main UK party, party insiders have revealed. The radical overhaul of the Labour image aims to turn the party into an iconic Scottish brand that will outflank the SNP’s appeal to patriotism. The plans are being considered in a radical review of the party after its devastating defeat at the Scottish elections, led by shadow defence secretary Jim Murphy and MSP Sarah Boyack. In their determination to root the party in Scotland, senior Labour figures have even studied how Scottish products like whisky and Irn-Bru retain a solid Caledonian identity while appealing to a wider market. Their ideas include creating an overall leader for the Scottish Labour Party who will be in charge of MSPs in Edinburgh and Scottish Labour MPs at Westminster for the first time. The Murphy and Boyack review will present its conclusions on reform by the autumn but the first stage of the party overhaul is set to be approved by MSPs and Labour MPs at Westminster this week. It will include a new contract for Labour council candidates in next year’s crucial local government elections, specifying minimum responsibilities for the party and voters. Iain Gray, the current Scottish leader, is under pressure to stay on as a caretaker until full agreement can be reached on a new party structure that will bring Westminster MPs and Holyrood MSPs together into one force. – Daily Record

Nothing indicated the nervous state of the Scottish Labour Party more clearly than its fear that it might lose the Inverclyde by-election. On the face of it, the fear was ridiculous. Unpopular governing parties have sometimes seen comparable majorities melt away at a by-election; opposition ones should have no fear of that. Admittedly, there was a 15 per cent swing to the SNP. So, while Labour feels relief, the SNP can also be happy. So Labour should remember that the wheel turns, the pendulum swings, and that one of the most common of political errors is to suppose that what is happening now will continue to happen and that tomorrow will be just like today. Consequently for Labour the first requirement is to hold its nerve. The party may need to change, but it should think carefully before deciding what changes are needed and not rush to judgment. Iain Gray, savaged by the media, had a poor election, and immediately announced that he would resign the leadership. This was in keeping with what is becoming a convention: that a party leader is allowed only one go. If the SNP had adhered to it, Alex Salmond would have been replaced as leader years ago, perhaps as far back as 1992 when the party’s slogan “Scotland free by ’93” proved so ludicrously wrong. If Labour engages in a Scottishness competition, it is being lured into a trap. The SNP will always win. The only way you can beat the SNP in a Scottishness competition is by becoming more narrowly nationalist, anti-English and anti-European, even racist, denouncing the “social union” that Salmond tells us will survive the end of political union. It would be ridiculous for Labour to take this course. – the Scotsman

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