Saturday, July 9, 2011

Murdoch will win? Polly Toynbee says no

Guardian columnist Polly Toynbee
Here’s Polly Toynbee in her Guardian column Fri 8th. Labour, she says, sank humiliatingly low in its dealings with Murdoch, a monopolist who has made his fortune out of intimidating governments, avoiding taxes and trouncing regulators in exchange for political support. Every plea to Labour leaders, to Blair and Brown particularly, to regain their dignity and find the nerve to stand up to Murdoch, fell on deaf ears.

Even Labour leader Ed Milliband wavered at first; but Toynbee says he has now crossed the Rubicon, for him there is no going back. Emperor Murdoch has lost his clothes - and many commentators seem to agree. 

Meanwhile what of Cameron - he hit rock bottom, hiring Coulson to appease Murdoch, and eager to change the law on press and broadcasting diversity for him. But even Cameron is now creeping back up, says Toynbee.

Other commentators have echoed this view, Steve Richards in The Independent for example: “The tyrants lose their swagger and those that lived in fear dare to speak out”. 

Well one should beware of contradicting Polly Toynbee, but we’ll see.  We’ll see also if the News of the World has really finished.  Massive protests may be necessary.

I’ll say no more on this subject. Look back at this in 6 months time.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Why the British government won't stand up to Murdoch, and why it matters

Will the British government stand up to Murdoch?


2 reasons:

* They don’t dare
* They don’t actually want to

If it was a Labour government, the answer would be the same, but the reasoning would be different.

* They would actually want to
* But they wouldn’t dare

This story is more than just good fun.  Last September, The Guardian reported that MPs had backed down from summoning News of the World editor Rebekah Brooks to testify to a parliamentary committee after being warned their lives would be investigated. (The issue was the same then as now: illegal phone hacking.)

Adam Price, a former Plaid Cymru MP, told Channel 4 News that MP’s shied away from issuing a warrant for Brooks to attend after being warned that News International would "go for us".  It was hard to interpret this story in any other way than straightforward blackmail. Disrupting the working of Parliament by threatening members of an all party select committee with presumably illegal investigation, and the ruination of their careers, if they forced Brooks to appear before it.

When politicians don’t dare confront News International because they seek sympathetic coverage, that’s serious. When they don’t dare confront News International because they feel blackmailed by the the threat of exposure of their private lives - by illegal means moreover – that's really serious. It's a consequence of billionaires being allowed to own the media.

The big question right now is whether News Corporation will be allowed to take full control over BSkyB. A government announcement is expected, but they have recently said a final decision will take "several weeks"the delay being due to the “weight of correspondence” from the public over the Milly Dowler hacking issue. 

Meanwhile Ed Miliband has questioned David Cameron's "close relationships" with News International.
You tell ‘em Ed.  (hmm. Would you like those close relationships yourself?) 

Milly Dowler (Guardian)
The background to this latest hacking scandal is a report that the voicemails of the murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler were hacked into by News of the World journalists shortly after her disappearance in 2002.   It was suggested that her voicemails were deleted by the NoW “in order to free up space for more messages”; so the paper could publish them. This caused her friends and relatives to think Milly had herself listened to and deleted the messages, thus concluding wrongly that she might still be alive. Police investigating her disappearance feared evidence may have been destroyed.  (Reported in The Guardian )

An amusing twist is that the News of the World is now getting its own columnists to distance themselves from the paper and its goings on. Someone called Dan Wootton who it seems is their “showbiz editor” has been paid for writing this: “It is disgusting. To be honest, I feel sick about the hacking of anyone. I would NEVER even think about doing that or believe it is acceptable in any way.” He promises to continue to bring his readers “X Factor, Cheryl and Ashley, Kate Moss, TOWIE and all of that good stuff” in a “legal, ethical and moral way”.

All above links to The Guardian, and especially the Guardian live blog on the News of the World phone hacking story