Category Archives: Media

Post-election there are still many things to play out

Despite an election result that shocks to the core, the mood of despair in some quarters is misplaced.   Remember 1992, another shock Tory victory after Labour had led in the polls right up to the end.   But then what happened: Black Wednesday when the Tories were forced to hike interest rates to 15% as Britain was unceremoniously ejected from the ERM, then the lurid Tory sex scandals, then the Tory internecine war post-Maastricht over the EU which led to Major dubbing some of his Cabinet colleagues as ‘bastards’.   It won’t be exactly the same this time round, but the tensions are already acutely visible.

With a 0.3% growth rate in the last quarter, the economy is deflating like a limp balloon.   A vicious internal fight is heralded within the Tory party as a Brexit referendum vote on the EU threatens to drive a wedge between the Tories and most of their backers in the boardrooms and the City of London.   How another £30bn in cuts, including £12bn in welfare benefits, can be carried through without provoking massive resistance in the streets (remember Thatcher’s demise over the poll tax in 199) is yet to be explained.   And the Tory Right will be fanning an English nationalism which will antagonise the Scots and threaten another SNP insurgency and demand for a new referendum soon after 2017.
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Tories promise good times are coming when they intend 5 more years of deepening austerity

The Tory propaganda machine is spectacularly successful at disseminating lies.   It has very successfully embedded it into the nation’s consciousness that the last Labour government caused all the ‘economic mess’ as though it had nothing to do with the bankers or the international recession.  It has got it into people’s minds that Labour was profligate and can’t be trusted with the nation’s finances when the economic record says the opposite: in Labour’s 11 years (1997-2008) before the crash the budget deficit was never larger than 3.3% of GDP, whilst the Thatcher-Major governments racked up deficits bigger than this in 10 out of their 18 years, so which was the spendthrift party?   It has got people to believe that cutting the deficit takes precedence over every other aspect of policy, as though expanding the economy, creating well-paid jobs, boosting investment, and raising household incomes was not much more important, and would actually generate the bigger government tax receipts to pay down the deficit much faster.
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The snoopers’ charter that refuses to die raises its ugly head again

Bang on cue, Cameron yesterday reiterated what Andrew Parker, head of MI5, had demanded just before, that in the light of the Paris killings the UK security services needed more surveillance powers.  Whenever there is a terrorist incident MI5 never misses an opportunity to demand ‘more resources’, closely followed in tandem by Cameron and May. Nobody of course would wish to deny the security services the funding and powers they need to target terrorists, but there are genuine questions to be asked as to how far extra powers are needed, especially if it is in the blanket form of mass surveillance.
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Cameron versus Miliband: who would you choose?

Cameron at least has one special skill – to hold together an ungovernable party which is irrevocably split.   He does not appear to have an ultimate belief in anything – only to sustain his own position and his party at whatever cost to the country at large.   That explains his early embrace of driving an anti-climate change sleigh and hugging a hoodies to de-nastify the Nasty Party, only to be unceremoniously junked as soon as he got to No.10.   It explains his latest gyrations over the EU and immigration, promising what he can’t deliver in order to deflect the UKIP rampage, putting Britain at risk of real isolation to score points for personal and party advantage, and alienating the whole of the EU (and the US too, behind the scenes) for the sake of short-term electoral gain.   When tasked about this at PMQs he never answers any questions, but uses the occasion (and his unique privilege in having the last word) to smother his opponents with clouds of party political rhetoric and partisan propaganda.   His Bullingdon Club toff self-confidence (or overweening arrogance whichever way you look at it) is well-suited to this abuse of parliamentary procedure.

But the current chatter isn’t about Cameron because the Tory tabloids (whatever they really think about Cameron, which is often unprintable) are remorselessly determined to retain power for the Tories at all costs.   The talk is about Miliband because the Labour Party is less resolute under fire and, in some quarters at least, panics quickly at the potential loss of their own seats.   The real problem for Labour at this time isn’t Miliband.   It’s Labour’s bizarre economic policy, promising austerity and spending cuts all the way to 2020, exactly the same as the Tories, which is counter-productive and a massive voter turn-off.   What Labour voters need, and indeed the whole country, is HOPE when at present they feel only insecurity, abandonment, alienation.   What is needed is not idle and destructive chatter about a change of Leader (which is frankly inconceivable anyway), but focusing relentlessly on a commanding narrative – restoration of the NHS, reversing austerity via public investment in sustainable economic expansion, Living Wage plus a relentless assault on inequality and tax avoidance, rebuilding public services, restoration of collective bargaining and trade union rights, etc.

Miliband himself has some priceless qualities which his party should be talking up, not bad-mouthing in dark corners.   He has integrity, honesty and vision, none of which Cameron has, and he has courage – he took on Murdoch over BSkyB, the Tory tabloids over Leveson, and Cameron over a missile onslaught on Syria and yet another Middle East War, and won in each case, which no previous leader of Labour in Opposition has ever achieved – certainly not Blair.   The sooner Labour members recognise and promulgate the assets of their leader, the quicker

they might learn to stop throwing the election away.

Miliband v. Cameron on taking hard decisions: bring it on

After Ed Miliband’s brave speech yesterday denouncing how photo-ops and obsession with image had usurped the infinitely more important issue of policy, ideology and what a politician actually stands for and if elected will actually intend to achieve in office, there were bound to be further complaints from this unprecedentedly hostile media, most of it taking its line direct from Tory Central Office.   The latest is that the real gripe against Miliband is that ‘he can’t take hard decisions’.   Really?   Actually Ed Miliband has taken tougher decisions than any previous Leader of the Opposition, Thatcher and Blair included, let alone Cameron.   Can you remember any of the latter three taking a really tough decision when they each in their time led the opposition but had no direct executive authority?   No, nor can I.   But Miliband has done exactly that, not once, but three times.

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How can the excessive power of the Murdoch press be brought to heel?

The current hacking trials aren’t even half the issue.   The hard, unavoidable fact remains that the power of the Murdoch press – the real unspoken stain behind the Brooks-Coulson trials – is undiminished and has still not been broken.   It is best illustrated by the run-up of events to the long-planned Murdoch campaign to take over BSkyB, a scheme that would have added some £8bn to the Murdoch empire as well as giving him a virtual stranglehold over the British media.  It began with Murdoch’s calculation in 2009 that a switch of the Sun to the Tories would make them indebted to him – perhaps even outlined in an informal deal – over his BSkyB objective.   The game plan then began with James Murdoch meeting Cameron at a hotel in London in September 2009 to tell him that the Sun was switching sides.
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The hacking trials go on, but corrupt power of Murdoch media remains untouched

The Brooks-Coulson trial was very narrowly focused on the hacking issue.   It did not include the earlier police inquiries into the News of the World’s (NoW) involvement in blagging confidential records and bribing corrupt police for information in the late 1980s and 1990s.   The jury was not shown Brooks’ evidence (no doubt a slip on her part, telling the truth) to the parliamentary media committee in March 2003 that her journalists had paid police for information in the past, which is of course a criminal offence.   Ironically Select committee evidence is not admissible in court because of the rules protecting parliamentary privilege.   Above all, the trial excluded the illicit and ruthless use of power by which the Murdoch press, and especially Brooks, destroyed individuals and suborned governments.
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Rebekah Brooks and Milly Dowler

Now that the case is over, it is worth noting some of the details which hitherto could not be reported.   Milly Dowler was a child who was abducted and then killed by a predatory paedophile.   News of the World (NoW) journalists chanced on a voicemail which suggested she might still be alive and working in Telford.   They did not however tell the police who were searching for her.   When the police search failed to locate her, those same journalists, needing confirmation of the story, demanded that the Surrey police (Milly was a Surrey schoolgirl) corroborate the story for them.   They quoted the voicemail both in phone calls and in email, and both those calls and messages have been retained in the Surrey police records.

The prosecution case was that Brooks as NoW editor must have been told about this potentially enormous scoop and its provenance.  It was suggested that she must have been consulted about the very risky decision to hide information from the police.   How could she not have known, it was argued, that 7 of her journalists were working on this story, including both her news editor and her managing editor, both of whom had rung the Surry police and quoted the voicemail?   It was even more incredulous when she herself was running a big national campaign to protect children from predatory paedophiles.

Brooks denied it all.   She had been on holiday that week in Dubai and, she said, nobody had sought to tell her anything about this matter of Dowler at all.    She had however whilst on holiday been using a News International phone, and the phone bill preserved in the company’s records showed she had rung the desk, then occupied by her deputy Andy Coulson, for 38 minutes on the Friday she was in Dubai and then again on the Saturday as the police were being pressed hard to confirm the story.   She texted Coulson as well.   Also, as it happened, she and her (then) husband had been joined on holiday by a British tourist who later witnessed in court that she had had lengthy phonecalls, including one where she said she had to make a call about “the missing Surrey girl”.

Brooks said she could not remember that.   She insisted that she was unaware of the whole saga.   She had never read about it, she said, even when she returned to NoW the next week, and not looked at the story that her own paper had published including the quotation of the voicemail verbatim.   She never knew, she said, that her managing editor was still pressing the Surrey police to confirm the whole story.

She was acquitted.

Dealing with an out-of-control News International demands far more than Coulson being sent to prison

Coulson is only a medium-sized cog in the web of industrial scale phone-hacking, lying, deceit, and intimidation that is Murdoch’s News International.   If this was any other company rather than one of themselves, the newspapers would be raising a hue and cry demanding a full public inquiry , resignations or sackings of key executives in the boardroom, and the break-up and restructuring of a disgraced and discredited corporation.   When did Rupert Murdoch, James Murdoch and Rebekah Brooks first know about phone-hacking in the organisation, when did they find this out and how, and what exactly did they discover and what action did they take?   How is it that the police blocked for years on investigating clear signs that phone-hacking extended far beyond the alleged single rogue journalist?   Why have the police so brazenly failed to carry out their own inquiry into how they so badly misled the public and even failed to warn most of the victims of the illegality that was being perpetrated on them?   How can an organisation that so ruthlessly broke the law for years on end, and repeatedly lied to cover it up, be allowed to continue operating in such a sensitive area of public life as providing news coverage for the nation?
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