Posts Tagged ‘News International’

Is the Leveson Inquiry about to re-open?

24/10/2012, 07:00:25 AM

by Atul Hatwal

On Monday night a big news story broke. Yet it received scant coverage in the print media.

The first claims were filed at the High Court against  Mirror Group for hacking. While this story was running number two on the BBC website through Monday night into Tuesday morning, it was accorded considerably less prominence on the websites of the newspapers and received extremely modest coverage in their later print editions.

Quelle surprise.

The last thing most of the print media want are the gruesome details of new hacking revelations thrust before the public, just as the newspapers prepare to decry the Leveson report as the greatest assault on freedom since the doodlebug.

But this is important.

This is the first time a news organisation other than News International has been in the legal firing line. The “one rogue organisation” defence has never looked so shaky.

This post-Leveson update of the “one rogue reporter” line will be mounted by the non-News International newspapers in the days and weeks following the publication of the judge’s recommendations.

After the initial shock and awe of wall to wall headlines proclaiming the death of liberty, the majority of the non-Murdoch press will fall back to their second, and ultimately more robust, line of defence.

They will say that the evidence presented before the Inquiry proves only one thing: that News International was rotten. Not the press as a whole, just Murdoch.

Yes there might be lessons to be learned for all of the print media, but on the basis of the facts as presented, the case for statutory action only applies to New International. One rogue organisation. To sacrifice the freedom of the press for the actions of Rupert Murdoch would be disproportionate, illogical and excessive.


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Mad Uncle Rupert unsettles anti-Leveson lobby journalists

16/10/2012, 03:41:33 PM

Whispers reach Uncut of disquiet in the lobby on the right approach to oppose Leveson.

The overwhelming majority of parliamentary journalists view the Leveson report as something to be feared and distrusted. The span of opinion ranges from Leveson’s anticipated proposals presaging the end of civilisation to simply sounding the death knell for freedom.

But signs are emerging of a split between the vituperative stance adopted by senior management at some of the leading anti-Leveson titles and the footsoldiers of the lobby.

A recent Mail editorial calling for the Leveson to investigate the BBC, following the Saville revelations, was seen to have made the right point in the wrong way.

The opening paragraph laced into anti-hacking campaigners, Hugh Grant, Steve Coogan and Max Mosley, branding them “three harpies from hell”. One hack at another paper, sympathetic to the  Mail’s position said,

“It was way too over the top. The point is about judging the BBC and the press by the same standard, but personalising it like this makes it seem like they’ve got a vendetta and undermines the case. People will think its sour grapes. Dacre needs to button it.”

Then over the weekend, Rupert Murdoch tweeted “Told UK’s Cameron receiving scumbag celebrities pushing for even more privacy laws.” Labelling victims of hacking that News International has had to pay substantial sums, as “scumbags” was widely viewed as a major mistake.  One journo murmured,

“He’s basically the mad uncle, locked in the attic, crashing about. Now he’s got twitter, the window is open and everyone in the outside world can hear him. Noone needs that.”

Another scribbler worried about the effect that the almost inevitable divestment of News Corporation’s British stable of papers will have on Rupert Murdoch’s behaviour,

“It’s alright for him. He knows he won’t even have any British newspapers to bother about soon, he can spout off as much as he likes. It’s the rest of us that will have to live with the consequences.”

With journalists from at least one paper under strict instructions to not even tweet about Leveson before the report is published, the signs are that the anti-Leveson lobby is feeling jittery.

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David Cameron is a second rate Ted Heath

17/08/2011, 12:00:04 PM

byJonathan Todd

I’m not the first person to compare David Cameron with Ted Heath. Iain Martin has made this parallel. Martin asked last year whether Philip Ziegler’s biography of Heath had been read in Downing Street.

“It should be. Ted Heath was a relentlessly pragmatic Tory leader who had poor relations with his party in Parliament and in the country. He began in government seemingly fixed on a clear course of reform and modernisation. But then he hit stormy waters and, lacking an ideological compass that might have helped guide him through, was blown over. Having failed to build good relations with his colleagues, he had no reservoir of loyalty on which to draw. When Margaret Thatcher emerged he was sunk.”

Heath, though, did have an objective for his government. He wanted to pacify the trade unions and draw them into a corporatist national project that would make us less like the US and more like France, not simply through being part of the common market, but also in terms of industrial policy and organisation. While one might have misgivings about this, it seems a more substantial project than whatever the defining purpose of Cameron’s government is. (more…)

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Murdoch – sympathy for the devil?

02/08/2011, 09:05:22 AM

by Kevin Meagher

Ever since that bright Friday morning on 10 April 1992 I have maintained a blood oath. As I woke following Labour’s fourth consecutive general election defeat – robbed by Rupert Murdoch’s tabloid snipers at The Sun – who picked off our leaders and traduced our policies with heartless precision – I swore revenge.

So, in the spirit of “think global, act local”, I have never bought a copy of The Sun from that day to this. As an occupational hazard I read it from time to time, as I do The Times, but my conscience is clear; I never shelled out cash for either paper.

Rupert Murdoch is deprived of my few shillings in protest at his malign impact on our public life. The only flaw in my otherwise spotless moral universe is purchasing The Sunday Times. I have not worked out a way around that one yet (well it is the Sunday papers, after all).

But there’s no Sky TV in the Meagher household. Even though, following BSkyB’s acquisition, I now miss out on the oeuvre of cult US cable station HBO, I will not budge. My nineteen year boycott of (nearly) all things related to the Dirty Digger remains resolute.

I am not alone. For many on the left Murdoch is a member of the pantheon of the detested; up there with Thatcher, Tebbit and Powell. The late Dennis Potter even called the cancer that was killing him “Rupert” as a reminder of the man he despised for his coarsening effect on British popular culture.

But does there come a point when there is no more hate left to give? Over these past few weeks I have come to realise that my spleen is all vented out. I am content, rather, to win on points. The octogenarian Rupert Murdoch will now go to his maker under the cloud of an investigation of one kind or another.

He will be lucky to fend off investors who are tired of his antics and the way he runs his business like a personal fief; or US authorities who take a dim view of companies bribing public officials in whatever jurisdiction. The end game for Rupert Murdoch seems nigh.


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Slow, weak and out of touch – Cameron needs answers fast

18/07/2011, 07:00:44 AM

by Michael Dugher

Incumbency in office provides tremendous advantages.  The Tories have always understood this. Seeking out ways to change the rules of the game to benefit them in the future (boundary changes, proposals for changes in party funding, may all be cases in point).  There are also public relations benefits of being in government too, as David Cameron understands very well.  If you are the prime minister, when you organise a barbeque and invite the leader of the free world to share a burger or a banger, the pictures look great and they are beamed out by a grateful media.   Also, in government, you make the news.  In opposition, more often than not, you have to get into the news.  But government can have its downsides too.

In government, it can sometimes feel like you are trying to steer a heavy goods vehicle, rather than drive a light and nippy sports car.  Without strong leadership, there is always a danger, in managing the big beast that is Whitehall, that decision-making can be sluggish and slow, bureaucratic not political.  No 10 can provide a great backdrop for a photo-op, but it can also sometimes be like a bunker (trust me on this).

As the “firestorm” surrounding phone hacking and news international has raged, Cameron has proved hopelessly slow to react.  Worse, he has seemed unwilling to take necessary decisions quickly, to get a grip of the problem and to set the agenda going forward.  Just 15 months after taking office, he has already become a prisoner of the civil service mentality, an approach that can – at its worst – be based on the premise that everything is terribly complicated and difficult and therefore it’s probably better not to say too much or get too involved.  But most seriously for the prime minister, he has failed utterly to understand the depth and the scale of public anger and what therefore needed to be done as a matter of urgency. (more…)

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Where next for Labour on hacking? Follow the money Ed

15/07/2011, 09:46:57 AM

by Atul Hatwal

The wreckage of Rupert Murdoch’s empire floats in the political waters. MPs and journalists view a landscape transformed. But as the initial storm surge from hacking slows, Labour faces some tough new political choices.

Where next in the campaign?

By common consent Ed Miliband has had a good war. Should he now step back and let the Levenson Inquiry go about its business? Or should he keep on keeping on?

Around Miliband, two camps have rapidly emerged.

On one side are those advocating a Glee strategy – don’t stop believing.

If News International can be brought to its knees, what about the Daily Mail?

The Daily Mail is unique in eliciting the same reaction from Tony Blair and Alastair Campbell as the left of the Labour party. For this group, it is a once in a generation opportunity to fix one of Labour’s most implacable enemies and help create genuinely more open political debate.

The voices on this side of the divide include Ed Miliband’s base – his early and most enthusiastic supporters, new politics think-tankers and those yearning to move on from the technocratic managerialism of New Labour.

Belief is intoxicating. They want the moral crusade to keep rolling. This is the Ed they voted for.

On the other side are the old media hands.  They have been out of their comfort zone for the past two weeks. Their world view involves dealing with the media to get Labour’s message across. War on News International was unthinkable ten days ago. War on the Daily Mail makes them feel ill.

Come what may, at some point, Labour is going to have to deal with the media.

The fall of News International might have taken them by surprise, but that doesn’t change the fundamentals of media management where some type of working relationship is essential, even with the enemy.

This group includes rafts of former advisers, members of the shadow cabinet and Labour-leaning journalists.  It’s no coincidence that this nexus was also the source of Miliband’s recent leadership crisis.

But in the debate on resolving this dilemna, something’s been missing.

Neither camp has provided a cogent analysis as to why News International’s position collapsed so quickly. (more…)

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Commons sketch: PMQs

13/07/2011, 01:53:18 PM

by Dan Hodges

Westminster. Noon. Prime minister’s questions.

Or was it? The Commons was agog with anticipation. Would he show or wouldn’t he?

David Cameron once bestrode the chamber like a colossus. Back when the News of the World was Britain’s best selling newspaper, the Metropolitan Police was still renowned for its tenacious and fearless pursuit of criminals, and Kay Burley and Adam Boulton were united in mutual professional respect.

Not any more. Over the past week there’s been more chance of spotting a unicorn standing at the House of Commons dispatch box than the prime minister.

Some wild rumours were flying.  David Cameron would be unable to attend because of a pressing prior engagement; like a speech on the big society, or washing his hair. William Hague would be standing in. Or poor Jeremy Hunt.

Personally, I was hoping he’d send Andy Hayman. “Nah, nah. I’m not ‘aving it. I’m not letting the right honourable gentleman get away with that”.

Sadly it wasn’t to be. Just before twelve a familiar figure appeared and took his seat on the government benches.

At least, it appeared it be a familiar figure. It looked like David Cameron.  Spoke like David Cameron. Went pink in the face like David Cameron.

But could it really be him? Only the week before the old prime minister had accused Ed Miliband of opportunism for attempting to link phone-hacking to Rupert Murdoch’s BSkyB bid. Yet according to the new guy “It has become increasingly clear that while everybody to start with wanted in some way to separate what was happening at News International and what was happening at BSkyB that is simply not possible. What has happened at this company is disgraceful, it should be stopped at every level, and they should stop thinking about mergers and sort out the mess they’ve created”.

Old Dave had refused to call for Rebekah Brooks to resign. The new fella seemed to think she’d already done so, and what’s more, he welcomed it; “She was right to resign. That resignation should have been accepted”.

If Ed Miliband was fazed by the appearance of this prime ministerial doppelganger he didn’t show it. Then again, he’s undergone a bit of transformation himself. This time last week many in his own party were accusing him of being the new Ramsay McDonald for his betrayal of striking public sector workers. Today the public sector workers could go hang. The only pensions the Labour party was interested in were those of Murdoch and Brooks. And it wanted them drawing them in double quick time; “It would be quite wrong for them to expand their stake in the British media”, Miliband said, “Rupert Murdoch should drop his bid for BSkyB, should recognise the world has changed, and he should listen to this House of Commons”.

New Cameron agreed. He welcomed the cross-party approach being adopted by the leader of the opposition.

Ed Miliband rose again. This time he was wearing an expression of almost pained sincerity that left no one in any doubt that the time for cross party consensus  was over. Could the prime minister clear up one specific issue. Why was his former press secretary Andy Coulson a liar, a cheat, a blagger, a bounder, a baby snatcher, a forger, a cattle rustler, a grave robber and a teller of tall tales. Oh, and why had the prime minister been so unbelievably stupid in employing him?

Last week this sudden switch from civility to attack had thrown David Cameron. But that was a lifetime ago. And New Cameron was ready.

When Coulson had been employed he’d given him assurances. Not only that, he’d given those same assurances to the police, a select committee and under oath to a court of law; “if it turns out he lied it wont just be that he shouldn’t have been in government, it would be that he should be prosecuted. But Mr Speaker, we must stick to the principle that you are innocent until proven guilty”.

It may be that Ed Miliband was expecting a more evasive response. Or that in the excitement of the last week, he’s begun to believe Cameron was a broken opponent. For whatever reason, the confidence visibly began to drip away from him; “Mr Speaker, he just doesn’t get it”, he said, falling back on that well worn phrase he uses when he can’t think of a more spontaneous riposte. The Tory back-benches, sensing it, bayed in relief.

“I’m afraid, Mr Speaker, the person who is not getting it is the leader of the opposition”, responded New Cam. “What the public want us to do is address this firestorm. They want us to sort out bad practices at the media. They want us to fix the corruption in the police. They want a proper public enquiry”.

The world had indeed changed. But maybe not quite as much as we thought.

Dan Hodges is contributing editor of Labour Uncut.

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We are communitarians, so Miliband can lead us as Cameron can’t

13/07/2011, 08:10:46 AM

by Jonathan Todd

“We know no spectacle so ridiculous as the British public in one of its periodical fits of morality”.

Denis MacShane sought to console speaker Martin by writing to him with the words of Thomas Babington Macaulay at the height of the expenses scandal. But was this quotation really appropriate?

Weren’t the British people right to be aggrieved by elected representatives defrauding them? Aren’t they also legitimately angry with, as Ed Miliband put it, “bankers who caused the global financial crisis” and “those on benefits who were abusing the system because they could work – but didn’t”? And can there be any doubt that the revulsion of the public against the News of the World is justified?

The spikes in outrage against fiddling politicians and phone-hacking journalists, as well as the slower burning resentment at welfare cheats and fat cat financiers, makes a nonsense of Macaulay. The people he mocks instinctively know right from wrong. And in this intuitive grasp we see ourselves for what we are: communitarians.

The philosopher Julian Baggini foreswore ivory towers and spent six months with the people of Rotherham before concluding that this is the philosophy of the English. It was, incidentally, in the same town that Gerry Robinson tried to “fix the NHS” and Jamie Oliver “taught the poor to cook”. This is a worldview that stresses the responsibilities of the individual to the community. Membership of the community entitles rights and privileges but responsibility demands that these be reciprocated.

We are a nation that wants to see itself made up of; hard working families who play by the rules. We want those who play by the rules to be supported and to get on. We want those who don’t to be punished. The ascendency of Thatcherism, with its win-at-whatever-cost individualism, has obscured the extent to which we see ourselves as members of social groups to which we owe allegiance and the execution of responsibility.

Those who can work have a responsibility to do so. Those who can work but don’t should be penalised. Law makers have a responsibility not to be law breakers. Just like everyone else, including journalists and bankers. And they should feel the full force of the law when in breach of it. These professions are, however, held to more exacting standards of responsibility than legal compliance alone. Their integrity demands more than this. The irresponsibility of hacking the phones of grieving families is about much more than breaking the law.

As Ed Miliband’s advisor Greg Beales tweeted last Wednesday: “Today Ed Miliband spoke for the country because David Cameron can’t. Very important moment”. Tony Blair drew applause from a Progress audience last Friday by saying: “Ed Miliband has shown real leadership this week”. (more…)

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Two kinds of brave

12/07/2011, 11:30:01 AM

by Rob Marchant

Steve Richards in the Independent – what seems like an age ago but in reality only last Thursday – defended yesterday’s Labour politicians from the easy criticism that they should have acted against Murdoch. Oh how Blair and Brown bowed and scraped, some are saying. Rubbish. They saw the world as it was, and they prioritised getting and maintaining a Labour government over dealing with a longer-term and mostly intractable problem, the risible regulatory framework which exists around the British media. As had all the other governments before them. Perhaps they shouldn’t have: but it is equally plausible to say that the opportunity to take on the empire just didn’t present itself. It has now.

And the game is changing so quickly, hour by hour, that it is safe to say that no-one, on any side of the debate, really knows how it’s going to end. The astonishing thing is that it could really be anything across a very broad spectrum, starting at dirty tricks bringing down a Labour leader or other key protagonists, and finishing at the other end with the fall of a government. For this reason, the British media has gone into headless-chicken mode and is looking on impotently.

Ed Miliband has done a first-class job in playing the hand he has been dealt. His Monday commons performance against Jeremy Hunt, for example, was well-planned and well-executed. Tony Blair said on Friday he has “shown leadership” and he is right.

Where the esteemed Mr Richards’ analysis falls down is in one phrase: “For the first time…Miliband could display authentic anger without fear of retribution from News International.”

So, you think News International is suddenly going to roll over and die after a few bad days in the press? Er, no. Even if the Armageddon scenario for Murdoch – a meltdown of his empire – is a possibility, it is by no means a guaranteed one at this point. (more…)

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Phone-hacking is not the magic bullet

12/07/2011, 07:00:49 AM

by Dan Hodges

It was the Sunny ‘wot won it. “We killed the News of the World!”, screamed Liberal Conspiracy on Thursday afternoon, via a headline, replete with slammer, of which Rebekah Brooks would be proud. “Vindicated – a win for Labour MPs and the left online”, gushed the slightly more restrained Labour List; “Uncovering the catalogue of misdeeds by the paper, and the work in recent days to encourage advertisers to distance themselves from the News of the World, has been nothing short of inspirational”.

Thanks. I’ll find my inspiration elsewhere.

Now that the dust is beginning to settle over the ruins of what, in my unfashionable view, was a once great British newspaper, perhaps it would be a good idea to step back. Actually, screw it, let’s not. Let’s have a quick dance on the rubble before we get another News International title in our sights.

We may not be any good at winning general elections, but boy, are we good at shutting newspapers. Not that we actually wanted to. When we called on advertisers to boycott the paper, and then threatened those that wouldn’t, we didn’t want anyone to lose their jobs. They’re unfairly paying the price for the greed and excess of others, you see. It was Murdoch that closed the News of the World, not us. What do you mean we said we killed it?

Enjoyable though the spectacle of the British establishment eating itself alive may be to some, we are heading in to dangerous waters. And by ‘we’, I mean the Labour party. (more…)

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