Posts Tagged ‘Rebekah Brooks’

Oh dear Tony. Oh dear.

19/02/2014, 05:43:42 PM

by Atul Hatwal

If Rebekah Brooks’ e-mail to James Murdoch does give a fair account of her conversation with Tony Blair, then he’s been a very foolish ex-prime minister.

It’s not so much the apparent cynicism of the advice on how to manage the process, or even the reference to Hutton (which might be Brooks’ interpretation rather than a direct reference by Blair) but the crushing, ghastly, inescapable lack of judgement. What did he think he was doing?

One of the worst aspects of politics is the faux comity within which work relationships become wrapped.

It was evident at the Huhne trial in the cringeworthy string of BFF e-mails between Vicky Pryce and Isabel Oakeshott, where they discuss having a “fun” mini-break in Greece to work through the details of the story to bring down Huhne.

The chummy undercurrent is wholly at odds with the reality of what is happening.  These types of exchanges are not friends having a little chitter chatter, they are work transactions of significant gravity. Each participant has something the other wants. At stake are careers, livelihoods, and in the case of the Huhne fiasco, people’s liberty.

But it is the argot in which much modern politics is conducted and in Tony Blair’s case, he seems to have mistaken the artifice of sociability for the substance for friendship.


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Friday News Review

15/07/2011, 07:04:40 AM

Murdoch’s woes cross the pond

The investigation into criminal behaviour by journalists at Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp crossed the Atlantic yesterday as the FBI opened an inquiry into claims that the News of the World tried to hack the phones of victims of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. As News Corp’s shares slid in New York and legal problems threatened to engulf the rest of his media empire, Mr Murdoch launched a vigorous defence of his own handling of the scandal and of the conduct of his son, James. The FBI opened the inquiry after sustained pressure from both Republican and Democrat politicians, who expressed outrage at the claims that 9/11 victims could have been among the NOTW’s targets. The FBI is following claims first made in the Daily Mirror at the start of this week that NOTW journalists contacted a former New York police officer, now working as a private investigator, and offered to pay him to retrieve the phone records of those killed in the 2001 terrorist attacks. Police sources said the investigation is at a preliminary stage. – the Independent

Media baron Rupert Murdoch‘s troubles are spreading across the pond from Britain to the USA. The Federal Bureau of Investigation is looking into allegations that Murdoch’s News Corp. tried to hack into the phone messages of U.S. 9/11 victims and families, a federal law enforcement official said Thursday. The official, who has been briefed on the matter but declined to be identified because he is not authorized to speak publicly, said the review was based on concerns raised by Rep. Pete King, R-N.Y., and Sens. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va.; Barbara Boxer, D-Calif.; and Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., among others. King, who heads the Homeland Security Committee, is from a Long Island district that was home to many victims of the terrorist attacks in 2001. The lawmakers suggest that allegations against News Corp. in Great Britain— including paying off British law enforcement authorities for news tips — violated theForeign Corrupt Practices Act, which makes it a crime for companies with U.S. holdings to bribe foreign officials. They also want to know whether any U.S. citizens’ privacy was violated. – USA Today

Will they, won’t they?

Rupert and James Murdoch capitulated to Parliament last night and agreed to appear before MPs investigating phone hacking after facing the bizarre threat of imprisonment in a cell halfway up Big Ben. The media tycoon and his heir apparent had prompted fury at Westminster after declining an invitation to give evidence to a powerful Commons select committee next week. As a near-hysterical mood gripped the Commons, there were even suggestions that Parliament should somehow ‘impound’ Mr Murdoch’s private jet to prevent him leaving the country. With an unprecedented legal summons from Parliament’s most senior officials forcing them into a dramatic U-turn, Business Secretary Vince Cable said the humbling of the Murdoch empire was ‘a little bit like the end of a dictatorship’. The last time such as summons was issued was in 1992 when Kevin and Ian Maxwell were ordered to answer questions relating to their late father Robert’s plundering of the Mirror Group pension pot. A News Corporation spokesperson said: ‘We are in the process of writing to the select committee with the intention that Mr James Murdoch and Mr Rupert Murdoch will attend next Tuesday’s meeting.’ James, the chief of his father’s European and Asian operations, had said he was not available Tuesday but offered to appear on Aug 10 or 11, without explaining his inability to attend next week. While Rupert Murdoch had said he would not appear at all offering instead to speak before a separate inquiry initiated by the Prime Minister. That left former News of the World editor Rebekah Brooks facing the prospect of being grilled on her own by MPs scenting blood. – Daily Mail

Rupert Murdoch and his son James last night caved into pressure from David Cameron, Nick Clegg and MPs and agreed to give evidence to a Commons select committee next week. They will be joined by Rebekah Brooks, the News International Chief Executive, in what will be the most eagerly anticipated hearing at Westminster for decades. Both Rupert Murdoch, News Corporation’s chairman and chief executive, and James had initially said they would not be attending next Tuesday’s meeting of the Culture Media and Sport Committee. James, who is News International’s European chairman, said he could only attend at a later date. But after a six-hour stand off, and with pressure from MPs, the Prime Minister and the deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, and faced with being sent a summons by the Serjeant at Arms, both men relented and agreed to attend. The three executives will face fierce questioning from MPs who have fought a tenacious campaign to expose the phone hacking scandal which has plunged Mr Murdoch’s media into crisis in the space of two weeks. Among them will be Tom Watson, the Labour MP, who has relentlessly pursued News International and has made clear his own disgust at the behaviour of Mrs Brooks in particular. – Daily Telegraph

Clegg and O’Donnell turn on Brown

Nick Clegg today accused Gordon Brown of “rewriting history” by claiming his desire for a hacking investigation was thwarted by MPs and civil servants. The former prime minister accused News International yesterday of forming a “criminal-media nexus” with members of Britain’s underworld. He told the Commons he had tried to hold a judicial inquiry into phone hacking shortly before the general election last year but was opposed by Cabinet Secretary Sir Gus O’Donnell, the Home Office and the police. Mr Brown said he was advised that media culture was permissive of unlawful activities and the Commons culture committee did not believe hacking was continuing. He claimed he was also told there was no evidence of systemic failure in the police and that targeting The News of the World could be deemed to be politically motivated. Deputy Prime Minister Mr Clegg said today: “I sensed a whiff of rewriting history, to be honest. If as prime minister he’d really be so determined to get to grips with this – and he was a powerful Chancellor – he was at the apex of British politics for 13 years … Are we now supposed to believe he was hamstrung by dastardly officials who stopped him doing that? There were many other things he wanted to do where he was happy to bulldoze the opposition but he didn’t seek to do so on this particular issue.” – Evening Standard

The cabinet secretary, Sir Gus O’Donnell, has denied claims he blocked an inquiry into phone hacking sought by former prime minister Gordon Brown just before the May 2010 general election. He also released his full advice to Brown setting out the options, which was sent to Brown’s principal private secretary, Jeremy Heywood, in March 2010. In his first major speech in the House of Commons since he resigned as prime minister last year, Brown said on Wednesday: “I deeply regret my inability to do then what I wanted to do and to overturn the advice of all the authorities and set up a judicial inquiry.” O’Donnell said: “I gave advice based on the evidence that was available at the time. It was for the prime minister to decide what to do. I set out options. My advice is clear and was based on the evidence available at the time, and I would have taken the same decision now if I had the same evidence as I had then.” O’Donnell also pointed out to Brown that if an investigation were called so close to a general election, there would be no possibility of a judicial inquiry producing a result in time. In his document marked “restricted” O’Donnell set out the necessary steps to be taken before an inquiry was launched and whether in this case such an inquiry would be merited. – the Guardian

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Thursday News Review

14/07/2011, 06:09:13 AM

Murdoch’s mess

Rupert Murdoch has capitulated to parliament and abandoned News Corporation‘s £8bn bid for BSkyB, as he faced the prospect of appearing in front of a judicial public inquiry to salvage his personal reputation and the right for his company to continue to broadcast in the UK. After 10 days of sustained public outcry over phone hacking, and facing the prospect of a unanimous call by MPs to withdraw his bid for total ownership of the broadcaster, Murdoch succumbed at a morning board meeting in Wapping. The News Corp deputy chairman, Chase Carey, said the bid had become “too difficult to progress in this climate”. The withdrawal represents the biggest single reverse of Murdoch’s mercurial career, but may presage even further commercial damage not just in the UK, but worldwide. News Corp’s current 39% stake in BSkyB could also still be at risk from the “fit and proper” test for ownership being conducted by regulator Ofcom. On a cathartic day at Westminster in which politicians acted as if they had been liberated from the thrall of the Murdoch empire, David Cameron announced a sweeping public inquiry into widespread lawbreaking by the press, alleged corruption by police, and the failure of the initial police investigation into phone hacking. – the Guardian

Rupert Murdoch’s grand plan for a huge expansion of his media empire was in tatters last night as the ‘firestorm’ over phone hacking forced him to withdraw his bid to take over BSkyB. The tycoon shelved his £10billion offer for the satellite broadcaster as it became clear that David Cameron, Nick Clegg and Ed Miliband were joining forces in a Commons vote urging him to back off. It came as Mr Cameron relented in the face of intense pressure from Labour and the Liberal Democrats and agreed to a judicial inquiry into press standards, regulation and ownership, and allegations of illegal phone hacking by the News of the World and police corruption. The probe will be headed by Lord Justice Leveson, who prosecuted Britain’s worst female serial killer, Rose West. The Prime Minister said News Corporation had made ‘the right decision’ in dropping its bid to buy the 61 per cent share in BSkyB that it does not own. Mr Cameron also vowed that media executives responsible for the scandal would be barred from owning newspapers or broadcasters. ‘The people involved – whether they were directly responsible for the wrongdoing, sanctioned it, or covered it up, however high or low they go – must not only be brought to justice, they must also have no future role in the running of a media company in our country,’ he said. – Daily Mail

Summoned, but will they turn up

Rebekah Brooks, Rupert Murdoch and his son James may appear before MPs next week over the phone-hacking scandal, according to the Culture Committee’s chairman. The News International (NI) chief executive, her News Corporation boss and his son, the NI chairman, could be questioned in Westminster next Tuesday. MPs on the Culture, Media and Sport (CMS) Select Committee want to ask Mrs Brooks about her knowledge of alleged payments to police, Labour politician Tom Watson said. The committee also wants to quiz James Murdoch on his involvement “in authorising payments to silence” the Professional Footballers’ Association boss Gordon Taylor after his phone was hacked, Mr Watson said. Commons Culture Committee chairman John Whittingdale told Sky News he earlier understood the trio had agreed to give evidence to the committee. But he later clarified that while NI has agreed to co-operate he did not know if that extended to all three appearing before the panel of MPs. – Sky News

MPs are to meet later to decide whether to summon News International chief Rebekah Brooks to appear before them over the phone-hacking scandal. The Commons Culture Committee also wants to question News Corporation executives Rupert and James Murdoch but may be unable to compel them to appear. The company has shut down its News of the World newspaper over the scandal and dropped its bid to control BSkyB. US politicians are also demanding a probe into phone hacking allegations. On Tuesday, the Commons Culture Committee invited Ms Brooks and the Murdochs to give evidence about the phone-hacking scandal at the House of Commons. In a statement, the MPs said that serious questions had arisen about the evidence Ms Brooks and the News of the World’s former editor Andy Coulson gave at a previous hearing in 2003. – BBC News

Gordon goes for it

After years of being courted by Mr Brown and other senior Labour figures, the tabloid dramatically announced it was switching its allegiance to David Cameron’s Conservatives. “Labour’s lost it” proclaimed the best-selling daily paper, alongside a big picture of Gordon Brown. The announcement was timed to cause maximum embarrassment to Labour and dominated the headlines on the day after the then Prime Minister’s keynote conference speech. As a result, Mr Brown is alleged to have said that he would “destroy” Rupert Murdoch. Yesterday, we discovered that during this period in 2009 Mr Brown attempted to order an independent inquiry into the growing allegations of phone hacking at News International. He was blocked by the country’s most senior civil servant, partly on the basis that it was just months before a general election. However, it now appears that Mr Brown secretly orchestrated — or at the very least supported — a campaign among Labour MPs to bring public attention to the phone hacking scandal. On Monday, with political opinion virtually united against Mr Murdoch, Mr Brown finally decided to break cover and “go public” over his alleged long-held concerns over News International’s activities. He spoke of his “tears” at allegations that his son’s medical records had been hacked by The Sun, at the time edited by Rebekah Brooks, and, for good measure, accused another Murdoch paper, The Sunday Times, of hacking his bank accounts. – Daily Telegraph (more…)

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Give Ed credit – his leadership has just changed gears

11/07/2011, 01:00:14 PM

by Kevin Meagher

Last week was a watershed for lots of reasons. It saw a recalibration of the relationship between the tabloid media and politics. It spelled the end of Rupert Murdoch’s infallibility; with the media Mephistopheles left looking vulnerable and hopelessly out of touch. And it marked the point where David Cameron’s teflon coating started to rub off. The familiar attacks on his poor judgement and his arrogance fusing in one perfectly resonant episode.

But it saw something else too; the point where Ed Miliband looked, sounded and acted like a leader. He was not the architect of the events that unfolded last week – opposition leaders seldom make the weather like that – but he has become the first leading politician in living memory to get up off his knees and challenge the malign hold Murdoch and his acolytes have on British politics.

Tentative at first, by the end of last week his positioning was assured. In calling for Rebekah Brooks’ head, the scrapping of the press complaints commission and then pressing for the appointment of a judge to lead the hacking-gate inquiry, Ed was on the front foot throughout. His robust performance at this morning’s press conference further evidence that this episode marks a change in gear for his leadership. (more…)

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Monday News Review

11/07/2011, 06:29:49 AM

Rupert returns

Rupert Murdoch put on an extraordinary show of support for Rebekah Brooks yesterday – apparently unconcerned about her imminent interview under police caution. Flying into London to take personal charge of the phone-hacking scandal, the billionaire flaunted his confidence in his News International chief executive. Mrs Brooks, who has twice offered to resign over the controversy, was seen entering Mr Murdoch’s Mayfair apartment at around 5.30pm yesterday. Later, when asked what was his top priority, the 80-year-old media mogul gestured to Mrs Brooks. ‘She is,’ he replied.  The pair spent an hour in the apartment discussing the scandal on the day the final edition of the News of the World hit news stands. Then, in front of hordes of photographers, Mr Murdoch walked her out of the block of flats with his arm firmly around her. They had beaming smiles as they crossed the road to the Stafford Hotel, where they were expected to dine together and were later joined by Mr Murdoch’s son, James, the chairman of News International. Pictures of the ‘Rupert and Rebekah show’ will infuriate the victims of phone hacking and those who question her denials. – Daily Mail

For more than 30 years now there have been two truths about Rupert Murdoch’s increasingly infrequent visitations to the British outpost of his media empire. The first: anyone who is anyone in the world of politics and business angles for (and is delighted by) any kind of audience with the great man. The second is the chill his visit engenders amongst his senior editors and executives in Wapping. Yesterday as Mr Murdoch’s corporate Boeing 737 jet, complete with a boardroom and double bed, touched down at Luton Airport, it was clear how much has changed in the last week. The chill in Wapping is still there – worse than ever – but the audiences for Mr Murdoch have dried up. He and his company – feted by David Cameron and Ed Miliband just two weeks ago at the News International Summer Party – have become a political liability. To paraphrase the famous quote: “It was News of the World wot lost it”. Yesterday Downing Street made it very clear that Mr Cameron would be neither meeting nor speaking to Mr Murdoch on this visit. Privately Government sources are blunter. They are incandescent at the political damage done by the phone-hacking scandal and angry that News Corp has not voluntarily suspended its attempted takeover of BSkyB in the wake of the allegations. – the Independent

Hinton could be the moat senior casualty

Les Hinton, Rupert Murdoch‘s lifelong lieutenant and closest adviser, faces questions over whether he saw a 2007 internal News International report, which found evidence that phone hacking was more widespread than admitted by the company, before he testified to a parliamentary committee that the practice was limited to a single reporter. News of the existence of the 2007 report – the conclusions of which were kept hidden from the public, MPs and police – came as Murdoch, chairman and CEO of News Corporation, arrived in the UK to deal directly with the rapidly developing crisis. The collection of memos that formed the inquiry were sent to the Metropolitan police earlier this year. This step came after executives who had joined NI more recently discovered its existence and sent it to the Operation Weeting team investigating News of the World phone hacking. Despite the alleged conclusions of the memos, NI executives repeatedly went on the record to say hacking was confined to a single “rogue reporter” – and gave evidence to parliament that that was the case.  The Guardian understands that Hinton was among five NI executives who had access to the report. The then News of the World editor, Colin Myler, and legal counsel, Tom Crone, are also understood to have seen it. Hinton – an employee of Murdoch for 52 years – was succeeded by James Murdoch, who it is understood had no knowledge of the 2007 internal inquiry until recently. He joined NI from BSkyB, where he had been chief executive. Also in the dark was Rebekah Brooks, who at the time was editing the Sun. – the Guardian

Rupert Murdoch’s right hand man could become the highest-profile casualty of the scandal engulfing News Corp. Dow Jones chief executive Les Hinton looks set to be dragged into the firing line after it emerged a report was commissioned in 2007 – on his watch – showing that phone hacking may not have been restricted to royal reporter Clive Goodman and private investigator Glenn Mulcaire. Hinton, who after 52 years at the company is seen as a key Murdoch henchman, faces tough questions over whether he saw the report before he testified to a parliamentary committee that the phone hacking scandal was carried out by a “single rogue reporter”. Sources close to News Corp have been forced to deny that James Murdoch or Rebekah Brooks had knowledge of the report, which was carried out by law firm Harbottle & Lewis on behalf of the News of the World. The memo was finally handed over to police last month – four years after it was penned. Brooks was editor of sister publication the Sun at the time, which was not implicated in the scandal, and James Murdoch was at BSkyB. It now looks likely that heads will have to roll over the report. – City A.M.

Cameron’s ‘power to the people’ proposals

Virtually all public services would be privatised under “wrecking ball” plans to be unveiled today by David Cameron. The Prime Minister is to announce that companies will get the chance to run everything from elderly care and bin collection to schools and hospitals. Only the Armed Forces, the police and the courts system will escape Mr Cameron’s huge shake-up. In a speech today outlining his plans, he will accuse public servants of running “old-fashioned, top-down, take-what-you’re-given” services that are “just not working for a lot of people”. Sources close to the Prime Minister say all public services will be opened up to the private sector and the Government will be “neutral” on who runs them. But union leaders attacked the plans. Unison’s Dave Prentis said: “The Tories are now turning their wrecking ball on to the entire public sector.” But the PM, stung by criticism that he has made too many U-turns, has vowed to press ahead with the idea regardless of opposition. But Labour, which has backed the Mirror’s Save Our Services campaign, has accused the Tory-led Government of relying too heavily on private firms. – Daily Mirror

David Cameron will today set out “urgent” plans to boost significantly the role of charities, community groups and private companies in running services such as health, child care and education. Under the reforms, outside organisations could bid for work including ”mutual’’ companies formed by public sector workers and based on the John Lewis Partnership, the department store chain partly owned by its staff. Publishing the Open Public Services White Paper, the Prime Minister will insist he is not going to back down on his plans for reform, despite the doubts of some senior Conservatives. The Daily Telegraph understands that the paper will commit ministers to examine the case for a new “overarching” right to choice for all public services. The new law could be modelled on existing rules in education, which ensure that parents are given a choice of schools by their council. Such a choice could then be extended to anyone who uses state-funded services. Government sources say that the “right to choose” would mean that public sector bodies – including councils – would be forced to consider letting outside organisations provide public services. The John Lewis-style “mutual” companies would allow staff to have a say on how their service was run. Outside bodies running services will operate on the basis of “payment by results” contracts, giving them a clear financial incentive to deliver. – Daily Telegraph

Labour braces itself for Baldwin attack

A senior News International journalist warned Labour that the company’s papers intended to “turn on Ed Miliband and his staff” days before allegations were published in The Sunday Times and The Sun about his strategy director Tom Baldwin. The Independent understands the warning was made to a Labour spokesman hours after Mr Miliband had called on Wednesday for the resignation of News International’s chief executive Rebekah Brooks. Three days later, The Sun carried a story claiming that Mr Baldwin had been a heavy user of cocaine. Yesterday, The Sunday Times carried a story which said he had been accused – in a previous job – of hiring a private investigator to “blag” the bank details of the Conservative donor Michael Ashcroft. The broad theme of both allegations had been made in a book by Lord Ashcroft, which was published five years ago.  But the decision by The Sun and The Sunday Times to attack Mr Baldwin has caused tensions at The Times, where he was formerly chief reporter until he accepted the job with Mr Miliband in December last year. In his previous role, Mr Baldwin would not have been able to sanction such payments – suggesting that if the allegations were correct, someone higher up at The Times during the period in question would have had to sanction it. The last thing Rupert Murdoch would want is a sister paper of The Times precipitating a fresh investigation into the Ashcroft affair. – the Independent

Jarvis Cocker gets in on the act

Pulp frontman Jarvis Cocker has celebrated the demise of the News Of The World at T In The Park. Ending its run after allegations of phone tapping were proved to be endemic, the newspaper’s demise has delighted some vociferous critics. Pulp took to the stage at T In The Park fresh from the knowledge that the newspaper would end production. Clearly in a gleeful mood, Jarvis Cocker opened the set with a passionate rendition of ‘Do You Remember The First Time?’. Later, the singer told the crowd to remember the last time the News Of The World was published. Holding the final edition aloft, Jarvis Cocker then proceeded to use the newspaper as toilet roll. With the crowd egging him on, the frontman then told the T In The Park audience “that’s the only thing that piece of shit has been good for in 168 years”. – Clash Music

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Sunday News Review

10/07/2011, 06:30:02 AM

Thank you and goodbye

After 168 years, we finally say a sad but very proud farewell to our 7.5m loyal readers. – News of the World

The end of the world

We do not celebrate the passing of the News of the World. At its best, it was one of the finest newspapers in Britain, with an astonishing record of scoops and entertainment. The Independent on Sunday would wish we enjoyed anything like its sales success. And no one, least of all the staff of another Sunday newspaper, should take pleasure in the sacking of fellow journalists, few of whom were responsible for the excesses that brought the title down. What is worse is that the closure of the NOTW was unnecessary. If Rebekah Brooks had resigned, the toxicity of the title could have been purged and advertisers might have been won back. It is almost universally agreed that phone-hacking of this kind, simply trawling for information about people in the news, or their families, is repugnant. It is bad enough when hacking is used as a short cut to easy stories about the private lives of celebrities, but in the Dowler case, the hacker gave false hope to Milly’s family and could have jeopardised a police murder investigation. What Ms Brooks meant when she said that there was worse yet to come out we can only shudder to imagine. – the Independent on Sunday

Suddenly, Rupert Murdoch seems much less a global mogul, much more a diminished man of glass. He flies into London this weekend from Sun Valley, Idaho, in time for the last rites of the most successful Sunday newspaper in Britain, the News of the World. One hundred and sixty-eight years ago, it pledged: “Our motto is the truth, our practice is fearless advocacy of the truth.” After today, the tabloid will appear no more, felled not by one royal rogue reporter but by the arrogance, ambition and apparent tolerance of systemic criminal behaviour by members of the senior News International management. The loss of a newspaper, especially one with a proud history of award-winning investigative journalism, is a cause for sadness. The News of the World was the biggest-selling Sunday tabloid in the English-speaking world. The death of a paper in such rude health is unprecedented and unwanted in the media. The individuals who are to blame are, as yet, unwilling fully to admit culpability. Rebekah Brooks, the chief executive, still in post, has warned that worse revelations are to come. The shameful saga stretches back over five years. Arguably, it would not have come to light but for the sterling and stoic persistence of the Guardian, some diligent lawyers and a handful of MPs such as Tom Watson and Chris Bryant. The News of the World’s termination is the price Murdoch is willing to pay to halt the accelerating erosion of the British wing of his international empire and to secure full ownership of “the cash machine”, the satellite broadcaster BSkyB, the leading provider of pay TV. However, over the past few days, BSkyB shares have lost more than £1bn in value. – the Observer

Ed to take on BSkyB deal in the Commons

Ed Miliband, the Labour leader, is seeking cross-party support for a motion in Parliament that would postpone any deal until the criminal investigation into the News of the World hacking scandal is complete. News Corporation fears that if the vote is successful the bid will have to be abandoned. Observers said that it would be difficult to see how the Government could “green light” the deal if Parliament has voted against it. It is believed Labour is hopeful it can get enough support to push through the vote, scheduled for Wednesday. Mr Miliband is expected to make an official announcement this morning on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show. Meanwhile, one of BSkyB’s most significant long-term investors has bought back into the UK television company, saying that he did not want Rupert Murdoch to get it “on the cheap”. – Sunday Telegraph

Rupert Murdoch‘s ambition to expand his media empire still further could be killed off by MPs this week after Labour announced plans for a Commons vote to thwart his bid for BSkyB. The move comes amid a mood of continuing public uproar over the phone-hacking scandal, which is now threatening to destabilise David Cameron’s government. The vote will present the coalition with a major test of unity as the Labour leader, Ed Miliband, seeks cross-party support for a motion in parliament which would halt progress on the takeover until the criminal investigation into the News of the World is completed. With many Liberal Democrats and Tory MPs deeply uneasy about Murdoch gaining an even bigger slice of the UK media market – and still incensed by the behaviour of News Corp executives – Labour is optimistic it can mobilise enough support to achieve a majority. Miliband will appear on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show on Sunday to announce his plan and to begin his push for support across all the major parties. He will lay the motion tomorrow and the debate and vote will be on Wednesday. If he is successful, the Labour move will drive a wedge between the coalition parties and leave Murdoch’s takeover ambition in tatters – because the police inquiry could take several years. – the Observer

Yates’ startling apology

A senior Scotland Yard detective has admitted he let down the victims of the News of the World phone-hacking scandal by too readily dismissing calls to reopen the case. Assistant Commissioner John Yates admitted he was too quick to rule out a full investigation into the allegations when he was asked to look into them in 2009. He also said he had never seen the 11,000 pages from private investigator Glenn Mulcaire’s notebooks, which had been seized by police. ‘I’m not going to go down and look at bin bags,’ he said. ‘I am supposed to be an Assistant Commissioner. Perhaps I should have been more demanding. I am accountable, and it happened on my watch, and it’s clear I could have done more.’ Using remarkably blunt language for a senior police officer, Mr Yates said his decision had been ‘a pretty crap one’. He dismissed the claims as ‘malicious gossip’. In a remarkable admission, Mr Yates, who has been widely criticised for failing to expose the full extent of the scandal, said: ‘Should I have come out so quickly and said there wasn’t anything in it? Tactically, I probably shouldn’t have. I should have cogitated and reflected but it’s so bloody obvious there was nothing there [that we didn’t already know]. I didn’t do a review. Had I known then what I know now – all bets are off. In hindsight there is a shed load of stuff in there I wish I’d known.’ – Mail on Sunday

Rooney’s hooker sets BoJo’s pulse racing

Boris Johnson partied the night away with Wayne Rooney’s call girl Helen Wood at a posh summer do – but seemed to have no idea who she was. Former prostitute Helen set the bumbling London Mayor’s pulse racing at the Spectator At Home bash, where posh guests included Chancellor George Osborne. One partygoer said: “Helen really stood out from the crowd on the night. Boris couldn’t believe someone that pretty would be at the Tory magazine’s bash. I’m not sure if he knew about Helen’s past though.” Boris, who arrived at the party on his bicycle, does have previous at The Spectator. He had an affair with columnist Petronella Wyatt while he was editor of the right-wing magazine. – Sunday Mirror

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Saturday News Review

09/07/2011, 07:11:40 AM

Rupert steps in

The chairman’s reported intervention comes as a third man was arrested and bailed in connection with alleged corrupt payments made to police officers. Sky News understands the 63-year-old man, who was arrested in Surrey, is a private investigator who worked for the newspaper. Former NOTW editor Andy Coulson and former royal reporter Clive Goodman were released last night on police bail after being arrested earlier. Mr Murdoch is due to arrive in the UK on a flight some time today. Sky reporter Hannah Thomas-Peter, in New York, said the News Corp boss had been in Idaho and looked unhappy after being questioned by several reporters. “He presided over the decision to axe a favourite newspaper in order to stop the rot – a phrase used here a lot,” Thomas-Peter said. “The idea was to send a message to investors and shareholders that News Corporation is serious about protecting the Murdoch brand and the proposed takeover of BSkyB. “It is clear at the moment that it does not look like he has been able to stop the rot, so he himself is getting on a plane to fly to London to deal with it.” News International also denied reports that police are investigating suspected deletion of emails by an executive at the company. The Guardian reported that Scotland Yard is probing claims that a member of staff deleted “millions of emails” from an internal archive. Police refused to comment on the reports. – Sky News

Murdoch Snr, the 80-year-old chairman and chief executive of News Corporation, is due in the UK to confront the growing crisis at his media group. His intervention comes as a third man was held last night in connection with alleged corrupt payments made to police officers. The man was later bailed until October. A 63-year-old was arrested at an address in Surrey as former News of the World editor Andy Coulson was released on police bail after being quizzed for nine hours over allegations of corruption and the phone-hacking scandal that forced the closure of the 168-year-old newspaper. The Sunday tabloid’s former royal editor, Clive Goodman, was also questioned at a separate police station over claims that police officers were bribed. As the crisis at Mr Murdoch’s empire deepened, News International’s embattled chief executive Rebekah Brooks hinted to staff that more revelations were ahead, warning of “another very difficult moment in this company’s history”. – Daily Telegraph

Brooks hangs on for now

Sensational allegations of a criminal cover-up were made against Rupert Murdoch’s faltering media empire last night as the phone hacking scandal reached the door of Downing Street. Police are investigating claims that News International deleted millions of emails from an internal archive in an apparent attempt to obstruct a police inquiry. All this came as the Prime Minister made the extraordinary suggestion that Mr Murdoch’s son and heir apparent James had ‘questions to answer’ to police after admitting paying hush money to victims of hacking by the News of the World. In his most difficult day since becoming Conservative leader, Mr Cameron repeatedly refused to apologise for hiring as his media chief ex-News of the World editor Andy Coulson, who was arrested yesterday and held for ten hours. The Prime Minister admitted he, as well as other political leaders, had been wrong to spend years courting the Murdoch empire – and turned on his horse-riding companion and Oxfordshire neighbour Rebekah Brooks, the media group’s UK boss. He said Mrs Brooks, editor of the News of the World at the time it is accused of hacking mobile phone messages of murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler, should go. ‘It has been reported that she offered her resignation over this and in this situation I would have taken it,’ the Prime Minister said. – Daily Mail

Rebekah Brooks last night told the News of the World’s staff that she had no option but to close Britain’s best-selling Sunday newspaper because it had become a “toxic brand” because of the slew of phone-hacking revelations. In a tense meeting held in Rupert Murdoch’s Wapping headquarters, with News International’s chief executive flanked by guards, and the company disabling the Twitter and email accounts of staff, Ms Brooks apologised to 250 employees and tried to defuse the fallout from her address to them 24 hours earlier, in which she had made the shock announcement that their paper was to be closed and they were losing their jobs. Ms Brooks shared a platform with the NOTW’s editor, Colin Myler, who addressed staff and received applause; Ms Brooks was greeted with silence and the occasional heckler. A NOTW staff member told The Independent that Ms Brooks dodged difficult questions: “She said: ‘I am not going to resign because these are unproven allegations,’ to which someone replied: ‘Well, you closed the paper down over these unproven allegations.’ “We were asking difficult questions about our futures and getting corporate PR-speak back. She told us that everything possible would be done to find us new jobs within News International. Someone replied that it was presumptuous to think that we even wanted to work for the company again after this.” – the Independent

Murdoch jr could still face charges

James Murdoch and News Corp could face corporate legal battles on both sides of the Atlantic that involve criminal charges, fines and forfeiture of assets as the escalating phone-hacking scandal risks damaging his chances of taking control of Rupert Murdoch’s US-based media empire. As deputy chief operating officer of News Corp – the US-listed company that is the ultimate owner of News International (NI), which in turn owns the News of the World, the Times, the Sunday Times and the Sun – the younger Murdoch has admitted he misled parliament over phone hacking, although he has stated he did not have the complete picture at the time. There have also been reports that employees routinely made payments to police officers, believed to total more than £100,000, in return for information. The payments could leave News Corp – and possibly James Murdoch himself – facing the possibility of prosecution in the US under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) – legislation designed to stamp out bad corporate behaviour that carries severe penalties for anyone found guilty of breaching it – and in the UK under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 which outlaws the interception of communications. Tony Woodcock, a partner at the City law firm Stephenson Harwood, said section 79 of the 2000 Act enabled criminal proceedings to be brought against not only a company, but also a director or similar officer where the offence was committed with their “consent or connivance” or was “attributable to any neglect on their part. While the UK phone-hacking scandal has been met with outrage in the US, the hacking itself is unlikely to prompt Washington officials into action. But because NI is a subsidiary of the US company, any payments to UK police officers could trigger a justice department inquiry under the FCPA. – the Guardian

Focus shifts to Ed’s team

The day Alastair Campbell appeared to give ­evidence to the Hutton inquiry into the death of Dr David Kelly, he was given a good-luck hug by his friend Tom Baldwin. Baldwin was the Times journalist who named the weapons expert as the secret source behind the BBC’s claim that the Blair government had ‘sexed up’ a dossier about Iraq’s ‘weapons of mass destruction’ to justify going to war against Saddam Hussein. Campbell was known to liaise with Baldwin in endless attempts to ­discredit the Labour government’s enemies, the results of which regularly ended up prominently in The Times — a paper once admired for its thundering independence. ‘Tom was a ruthless operator and obsessed by the power his friend Alastair wielded in Downing Street,’ says a ­colleague. ‘I think he envied him.’ Even so, who could have imagined, when the appalling era of mendacity that marked Campbell’s tenure in Downing Street finally ended, that a new one would start a few years later? ‘Tom’s trouble is that he is totally disorganised — administratively chaotic,’ says an old colleague. ‘He has a sharp mind, but once when he went on a journalistic assignment, no one was surprised when he called the office to say he’d lost his phone and laptop.’ Those were the days when people who worked closely with Baldwin noticed him slip away from his desk for what they called ‘inquiries with Mr Coke’. No one doubted his abilities as a journalist, with ruthless energy when pursuing a story. – Daily Mail

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Friday News Review

08/07/2011, 06:48:05 AM

The news screws no more

From its very first edition in 1843, the News of the World took pride in causing scandal and excitement with its coverage. The paper’s first lead story was a classic Victorian sensation, the lurid tale of a female chemist raped and thrown into the Thames. That same dedication to revealing eye-catching and gut-wrenching details of human misbehaviour would propel the paper to a central place in Britain’s public imagination, and eventually over the cliff-edge to destruction. In 1946, George Orwell’s Decline of the English Murder described an idealised Sunday afternoon thus: “You put your feet up on the sofa, settle your spectacles on your nose, and open the News of the World.” A decade later, it was selling nine million copies each week, making it the biggest-selling newspaper in the English-speaking world. In 1969, it was bought by Rupert Murdoch. Under Mr Murdoch’s guidance, the paper continued to set the pace, first by offering a colour magazine, then by adopting a tabloid format. In 2000, Rebekah Brooks took the chair once held by Sir Emsley Carr, one of the greatest editors in Fleet Street history. She held the post for three years before a promotion to edit The Sun, her place taken by her deputy, Andy Coulson. Under Brooks and then Coulson, the News of the World was a paper at the peak of its powers, trampling over its competition with a string of classic tabloid exclusives: from David Beckham’s affair with his nanny to Prince Harry’s drug-taking, it consistently landed the stories that shocked, titillated and scandalised. – Sydney Morning Herald

James Murdoch, the chairman of News International, which owns the newspaper, announced that the final edition would be published this weekend, citing the “inhuman” alleged behaviour of some staff as prompting the decision. The 168-year-old newspaper will donate all this weekend’s revenues to good causes and would not accept any paid advertising, he said. Hundreds of staff now face an uncertain future. However, Rebekah Brooks, the chief executive of News International and former editor of the News of the World, has been allowed to keep her job despite widespread calls for her to be sacked. Last night she faced angry scenes at the paper as she broke the news to journalists. There were reports she had to be escorted from the offices by security guards for her protection. Rupert Murdoch and his family sacrificed the tabloid as they fought to salvage their company’s attempt to take over BSkyB, the satellite broadcaster, after the scandal resulted in growing political pressure for the Government to block the deal. Last night politicians warned that shutting the newspaper would not shut down the scandal, which they said would only end when those responsible for the hacking were brought to justice. It was made hours after the Metropolitan Police disclosed that more than 4,000 people had been identified as potential victims of private detectives employed by the paper. – Daily Telegraph

Coulson cops it

The Guardian understands that a second arrest is also to be made in the next few days of a former senior journalist at the paper. Leaks from News International forced police to speed up their plans to arrest the two key suspects in the explosive phone-hacking scandal. The Guardian knows the identity of the second suspect but is withholding the name to avoid prejudicing the police investigation. Coulson, who resigned as David Cameron‘s director of communications in January, was contacted on Thursday by detectives and asked to present himself at a police station in central London on Friday, where he will be told that he will be formally questioned under suspicion of involvement in hacking. After being questioned by detectives from Operation Weeting – a process that could take several hours – the former rising star of News International is likely to be released on bail conditions that include appearing at court at a later date along with his three former colleagues who have already been arrested: Ian Edmondson, Neville Thurlbeck and James Weatherup. The arrest will be embarrassing for Cameron, who consistently defended his decision to hire the controversial former journalist amid mounting evidence of his involvement in the hacking scandal. – the Guardian

Former News of the World editor and Downing Street spin chief Andy Coulson is today expected to be arrested over allegations he knew about phone hacking and bribing police officers. He is due to attend a police station ‘by appointment’ to be questioned about suspicions he directed or allowed staff to intercept mobile phone voicemails. Sources say that unless there is a last-minute change of plan, he is also likely to be questioned over claims he authorised the payment by journalists of tens of thousands of pounds to corrupt police officers. Supporters of Mr Coulson, 43, claim he has been ‘hung out to dry’ by News International bosses, including Rebekah Brooks, who is fighting desperately to keep her job. They believe that if he co-operates with police, he could make damaging claims about Mrs Brooks, who edited the News of the World before him, which in turn could result in her being questioned. One source linked to the police investigation said: ‘If Andy Coulson goes down, he could take some very senior people with him. He must know where the bodies are buried at News International.’ – Daily Mail

The end of self regulation?

Labour leader Ed Miliband will today call for the watchdog which oversees complaints about newspaper coverage to be scrapped and replaced. Mr Miliband will challenge the industry to come up with a different and more effective form of self regulation. “The Press Complaints Commission (PCC) has totally failed,” Mr Miliband will say. “It has been exposed as a toothless poodle. It is time to put it out of its misery. A new body would need: far greater independence of its board members from those it regulates; proper investigative powers; and an ability to enforce corrections.” PCC director Stephen Abell said: “It is wrong of Mr Miliband to call for the scrapping of the PCC. His remarks are long on rhetoric and short on substance. He appears to be ignorant of the important and valued work of the PCC.  However, he is right to support self-regulation and to say that the phone-hacking scandal should act as a catalyst for improvement and reform of the industry.  Indeed, he is echoing the statement the PCC itself issued on Wednesday. We join with Mr Miliband in his call for the industry to support reform.  The PCC welcomes the challenge to respond to the issues at stake, and looks forward to discussing this further with Mr Miliband and his team.” – the Scotsman

Enduring image of the day, and, I’ll warrant, its first entry in Hansard*, goes to Liberal Democrat MP Adrian Sanders for his contribution to yesterday’s emergency debate on phone hacking at the News of the World: “…when one considers the Press Complaints Commission, the phrase “chocolate teapot”, or indeed the phrase “fishnet condom”, comes to mind. Our 2007 inquiry had elicited a response from News International that it had carried out a full inquiry itself and was satisfied that the Mulcaire-Goodman case was isolated. That was patently untrue. Our second inquiry encountered more obstacles: Goodman and Mulcaire refused to present evidence, as did Rebekah Brooks. More worrying were the attitude and answers of Scotland Yard. I return to the point that I made to the Prime Minister today. We cannot have confidence in an investigation by the Metropolitan police; we can have confidence only in a full judicial inquiry with a judge who can take witnesses under oath, ask questions under oath, seek papers, and subpoena witnesses to appear. We desperately need that inquiry. Clearly, where there are allegations of criminal acts or there is the potential for collusion between suspects and the police, a more rigorous investigation is required than, sadly, a Select Committee can offer. It is also clear that we need to extend the scope beyond News International.” An exaggerated image to drive home a serious point that it’s time for the Press Complaints Commission to be reformed. You can read the BBC live-blog of the debate here. –

Twitter doesn’t please Mrs Bone

Twitter should find a way of allowing high-profile figures to label fake accounts set up in their own name, a Tory MP for Wellingborough has said, after pranksters started impersonating his wife on the micro-blogging website. Peter Bone has made a long-standing joke of asking questions in the Commons on behalf of his wife Jennie, who he has portrayed as the voice of Middle England. She is a vehement critic of the European Union but it was only when Prime Minister David Cameron remarked that a very big part of his life was spent “trying to give pleasure” to Mrs Bone, that her celebrity hit new heights. And following her regular mentions in newspaper columns it now appears that Mrs Bone has her own account on the micro-blogging site, in which she describes herself as “the voice of the silent majority”. She has more than 100 followers and her tweets include insights such as: “All eyes on PMQs – will Mr Cameron do his best to give me pleasure today? I live in hope.” In another tweet, she writes: “So proud of Peter on BBC News, expressing the horror felt by every right-thinking person on the disgraceful activities of the gutter press.” The only problem for Mr Bone is that his wife, whom he employs as his executive secretary and describes as his “one-woman focus group”, has never set up a Twitter account, and now he wants MPs to debate the problem of impersonation on the website. In a dig at Commons Speaker John Bercow, whose wife Sally is a notorious tweeter, Mr Bone said: “Mr Speaker, I don’t know if you tweet but can I direct you to a site called Mrs Jennie Bone which is being followed by more than 100 people, included journalists and MPs? It’s very interesting and very amusing. There is one slight problem: it’s completely bogus. This seems to me to be a really important issue where people are taking other names and purporting (to be them). They may be saying very interesting and funny things at the moment, but they could put something racist or pornographic on there at any time.” – Market Rasen Mail

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You cant reform a monster – News International must be broken up

07/07/2011, 12:26:59 PM

by Anthony Painter

When information empires become too powerful they have to be broken up. News International and connected companies have become too powerful. They should be broken up.

Tim Wu’s The Master Switch details many such moments in US history where communications and media companies have reached a size where they dominate the marketplace and begin to infect public and cultural space. Courts or the federal government have stepped in to either break up or place such behemoths in a regulatory stranglehold. It happened when the Nixon administration began the break up of AT&T in the 1970s for instance.

All this begs the immediate question: what is too powerful? It can take a number of different forms. In the case of News International, it is its ability to subvert democratic process and divert law enforcement from its proper course. In other words, it’s not the morally reprehensible and criminally abhorrent phone hacking that occurred at the News of the World per se. It is the fall out from hacking that makes clear the degree to which News International and the News Corporation have been able to prevent due process from occurring and its capability to resist political and public revulsion at its behaviour. (more…)

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Thursday News Review

07/07/2011, 06:56:51 AM

Ed forces Dave into a hole

The atmosphere in the chamber for PMQs today was rather unusual. As the loud chatter silenced for the weekly ritual of honouring the dead, I’m sure I was not the only one wondering if the noise would return. David Cameron is under as much pressure as he ever has been for his relationship with Rebekah Brooks, but how on earth was Ed Miliband supposed to raise it, without sounding like he was making too much political capital out of a scandal? Unusually, Miliband got it about right. He started slowly, noting that the “whole country” would be “appalled” by the “immoral and disgraceful” conduct of the News of the World. He then pressed the PM on the need for an inquiry, noting Mr Cameron’s positive responses respectfully, even in the face of shrieks from a few Labour backbenchers. Cleverly, he tried to cajole David Cameron into a stronger commitment than Cameron evidently wanted – to “start the process now”. Instead of charging in with a chainsaw, Ed made a careful first incision. Then he injected the poison. “The PM must realise that the public will react with disbelief if the deal [for News International to buy BSkyB] goes ahead,” he said, forcing Mr Cameron into a rather technical defence of Jeremy Hunt’s decision making. “This is not the time for technicalities,” shouted Ed. That prompted guffaws from the Tory benches. But Ed was right – it wasn’t, and Cameron was trapped. – Daily Telegraph

David Cameron and Nick Clegg are wrangling over the membership and status of the inquiries that will be held into illegal phone hacking at the News of the World and wider questions about the future of media regulation. The prime minister bowed to pressure to hold at least one inquiry but is resisting calls from Clegg for a judge to take charge. The differences between Clegg and Cameron came as the government faced calls from across the Commons as well as from City shareholders to delay its final decision on the proposed takeover of BSkyB by News Corporation, parent company of the News of the World. Jeremy Hunt, the culture secretary, gave the provisional go-ahead for the deal last Friday, subject to a final seven-day consultation over plans to hive off Sky News as a separately listed company to allay plurality fears. Hunt is due to consider thousands of pages of documents submitted during the consultation. He will then make a decision – which could be delayed into the summer recess – after consultations with Ofcom and the OFT. The Labour leader, Ed Miliband, took the momentous step of turning against Rupert Murdoch‘s empire, calling for the resignation of News International‘s chief executive, Rebekah Brooks, and demanding the BSkyB decision be referred to the Competition Commission. – the Guardian

There were signs of panic in Downing Street last night as the Prime Minister faced mounting pressure from all political parties to block the plans by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation to take full ownership of BSkyB because of the phone hacking scandal engulfing his UK newspaper group. One insider said: “We are looking for a way out on the takeover. But it isn’t easy to find one. The timing is just awful.” A Tory minister said: “David Cameron is well aware of how damaging the issue of the takeover is to him and to the Government. There is real anxiety in No 10.” Some MPs believe there could be discreet contacts between Downing Street and senior News Corp figures urging the company to suspend its bid. Senior Liberal Democrats pressed the Prime Minister and the Culture Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, to limit the damage to the Coalition by derailing News Corp’s bid to buy the 61 per cent of BSkyB it does not already own. Government officials insist Mr Hunt can only block the deal on media plurality grounds. Some ministers hope that media regulator Ofcom will spare their blushes by halting the takeover because the hacking scandal shows News Corp would not be a “fit and proper” owner of BSkyB. – the Independent

Shocking turn as war widows messages were listened to

A phone-hacking scandal engulfing Rupert Murdoch’s media empire grew on Thursday with claims that Britain’s top-selling tabloid may have listened to the voicemail of relatives of soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. News International, the parent company of the News of the World tabloid, said it would be contacting the Defence Ministry after a report in the Daily Telegraph that the phone numbers of British soldiers were found in the files of a private investigator jailed for hacking phones. “If these allegations are true we are absolutely appalled and horrified,” it said in a statement. Rose Gentle, the mother of fusilier Gordon Gentle, killed by a roadside bomb in Iraq’s oil port of Basra in 2004, told the BBC she was “totally disgusted” by the allegations. “I’d never buy that paper again, if this is true, they need to be brought to justice for this, they need to pay for this,” she said. In a further twist to the affair, a spokesman for Finance Minister George Osborne said police had told the minister his name and home phone number were in notes kept by two people jailed for phone hacking. – Reuters

The Daily Telegraph has learnt that the personal details of the families of servicemen who died on the front line have been found in the files of Glenn Mulcaire, the private detective working for the Sunday tabloid. The disclosure that grieving relatives of war dead were targets for the newspaper prompted anger among military charities, who said it was a “disgusting and indefensible assault on privacy”. The Metropolitan Police is facing growing calls from the families of murder victims, those killed in terrorist attacks and those who died in natural disasters, such as the Indonesian tsunami, to disclose if they were targets. Rebekah Brooks, the former editor of the News of the World and now chief executive of News International, its parent company, faced calls from Ed Miliband, the Labour leader, to step down. Yesterday The Daily Telegraph disclosed that families of victims of the July 7 bombings were targets for Mulcaire in the days after the atrocity in 2005. – Daily Telegraph

A new era of transparency?

Taxpayers are to be given access to information on all aspects of the performance of schools, GPs, hospitals, police, courts and prisons. Ministers will today announce an ‘information revolution’ which they say will make centrally-imposed targets across public services redundant. People will be invited to judge for themselves whether schools or GP surgeries are up to scratch using data currently hidden from scrutiny. In health, information on the prescribing data and comparative clinical outcomes of GP practices will be published from December this year. Details of complaints made against every NHS hospital – so that patients can use the experiences of other patients to judge whether they want to be treated there – will be available from October. From next April, success and failure rates of doctors in treating all major medical conditions will be available, as will data on the quality of their post-graduate medical education. In education, data enabling parents to see how effective their school is at teaching high, average and low attaining pupils across a range of subjects will be published from next January. Anonymised data from the National Pupil Database to help parents and pupils to monitor the performance of their schools in depth will be available from next June. – Daily Mail

Ministers are to publish all spending on government credit cards in order to expose profligacy and waste as part of new plans to reveal swaths of government data showing low-performing schools, GP services and transport services. The Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude will announce plans on Thursday to publish millions of new data items, from prescription rates at specific GP surgeries to how well individual schools are teaching low and high-attaining pupils. It will allow patients to shop around for the surgery most likely to prescribe an expensive drug, or parents to find out which school is best for high achievers or pupils with special educational needs. Ministers want this information about public services to drive competition as people become more informed “consumers” of government-funded services. The publication of the data comes after last year’s spending was released under the Freedom of Information Act, revealing £25m of previously secret spending by Whitehall officials in the year that the government implemented its deficit reduction programme. David Cameron has written to ministers setting out the plans. “We recognise that open data and transparency can be a powerful tool to help reform public services, foster innovation, empower citizens … we also understand that transparency can be a significant driver of economic activity,” he said. “These commitments represent the most ambitious open data agenda of any government in the world.” Maude said: “Information enables choice – which creates competition which drives up standards. The new commitments represent a quantum leap in government transparency and will radically help to drive better public services.” – the Guardian

Well done Tom

Labour MP Tom Watson was named as Commons select committee member of the year at the House magazine awards on Thursday evening. At an awards ceremony in the Robing Room attended by peers, MPs and members of the press gallery, Watson was honoured for using his membership of the culture committee to push for further investigation of the phone hacking allegations. MPs and peers voted for the winners, with the press deciding who would win minister of the year. Watson said he learnt much about select committees when he first entered parliament and served under the chairmanship of Chris Mullin on the home affairs committee. He cited as a “pre-requisite” for effective committee members both an obsessional approach to policy and “an eye for the big picture”. David Davis, presenting the award to Watson, said he is proof that “a select committee member can turn the world upside down”. –

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