Talking Politics
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    Journalists should be free to write what is most relevant to their readers. They need to be careful: more regulation could limit their ability to define what's newsworthy.

    After three weeks of ferocious intensity we're finally getting room to breathe. The phone-hacking scandal is so much weightier than the expenses scandal because it reveals the flawed relationships between three supposed guardians of the country. None of the press, the police or the politicians have much to be proud of.

    As we pause to ask 'what next', journalists and police officers face an uncomfortable truth. It's one which senior police figures have been aware of, from direct experience, for a long time: of those three guardians, it's the politicians who actually have the power to do anything about it.

    The police are, as Sir Hugh Orde said this morning, extremely resilient. They've been through all this before.

    It's different for the press. The media has wielded a power of its own which, unchecked for so many

    Read More »from An urgent threat to the freedom to be biased
  • Rupert Murdoch
    Damage taken: 8/10

    In a matter of days, his stranglehold over British politics has disintegrated. Rupert Murdoch went from kingmaker to whipping boy with a speed that only an age of live blogs and 24-hour news can achieve. The threat of FBI investigations over the alleged phone-hacking of September 11th victims in the US, combined with rumours of possible legal action for police payments, suggest his American economic base might be fracturing. Shareholder anxiety is increasing, despite a slight improvement in the share price in recent days. In Australia, there are suggestions the political class is turning against him as well. While he avoided disaster during his appearance at the culture, media and sport committee, the media mogul appeared detached and distracted. At best, his evidence suggested he had little understanding of what was taking place in his company. The cancellation of the BSkyB deal, a long-term personal goal, will have had a major financial and

    Read More »from Phone-hacking damage report: Phase two
  • "Believe you me," David Cameron said in a low voice, "I have learned." This was, surely, the lowest moment of his premiership.

    It was an isolated moment when the mask slipped. The prime minister is facing endless questions resulting from his decision to hire ex-News of the World editor Andy Coulson. He ignored the advice of, apparently, just about everyone, and was made to wriggle in the Commons this lunchtime as a result. This was no ordinary Wednesday: if it hadn't been for the phone-hacking scandal MPs would have already been off on their lengthy summer holidays, contemplating reading a light novel rather than a report of the home affairs committee.

    The silly season, when there's no news, is on hold this year. As the mood in the chamber showed this lunchtime, we're in the middle of a full-on political crisis.

    Cameron's strategy - apart from that one moment of truth - was to be brisk and businesslike. He whistled through his statement, trying to brush away this unpleasantness as

    Read More »from Cornered Cameron comes out fighting
  • It was a very polite, very British attack. After it was over, news channel freeze-frames showed a youngish man calmly trying to place a plate of shaving foam into the face of News Corps' CEO. Wendi Deng, Rupert Murdoch's absurdly young and pretty wife, had spent most of the marathon session gazing bored into the middle distance. But her reaction was astonishing.

    Tom Watson later gave her credit for a "good left hook". It wasn't actually. It was a base-level slap with the right. What was amazing was the speed of her reaction. She was like lightening, making a mockery of Rupert's son's delayed reaction.

    Here's the schedule. First we'll all talk about how this distracted attention from the serious, important business of holding the Murdochs to account. Then we'll all talk about how lax security rules must be tightened up. The truth is: We weren't getting far with Rupert and James and there's not much you can do to prevent people getting non-metallic objects into a given space. More

    Read More »from Wendi’s left hook can’t save Murdoch’s face
  • The fear is in the eyes. That's the meaningful thing about David Cameron's recent performance. The mask slipped a bit and you could see the fear in the eyes. It was there for the last two PMQs, it was there for last Friday's emergency press conference and it wasn't completely gone by the time that he offered the Commons his statement on the phone-hacking inquiry.

    The last fortnight has been the most damaging of Cameron's premiership, specifically because it threatens his primary electoral attribute: perceived competency. This quality is all he has to protect him from a public which has no idea what he stands for.

    That absence of mission explains why he was unable to secure a majority, even in the face of a bitterly unpopular Labour administration in Downing Street. At the heart of the Cameron machine there is an absence. His survival strategy is based on sounding moderate and reasoned while the nuts and bolts, the actual politics, remain heavily slanted to the economic right.

    This was

    Read More »from Phone-hacking has revealed Cameron’s weakness
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    Even on the day parliament completed its expenses rehabilitation, Gordon Brown managed to whip up a maelstrom of partisan hatred.

    Brown may not have intended it this way, but his politics has always been one based on bitter resentment. When he was chancellor, wielding the purse-strings over the government for a decade, he was eaten up by jealousy of Tony Blair's premiership. His capacity for bearing a grudge and wreaking terrible revenge could not, after this period, be seriously in doubt. When he finally did make it to No 10, he was eaten up by his inability to win over Rupert Murdoch. He paid the price at the 2010 general election. But there was nothing he could do about it.

    This is all by way of setting the scene for his speech to the Commons yesterday, in which he took the opportunity of finally getting his revenge on the Murdoch empire. As you'd expect with Gordon Brown, his sucker punch was a lurching swipe far less effective than he might have hoped.

    Brown is not like other

    Read More »from When Gordon Brown speaks, the world stops to groan
  • David Cameron, determined to defuse the phone-hacking scandal, believes getting politicians to gang up on journalists will save his skin. The tepid reception MPs gave him this lunchtime suggests it's not working.

    If you're a Conservative MP reading that last sentence, you'll probably be outraged - and a little hoarse. The government backbenches did their best to signal their support for the prime minister, cheering defiantly on as the thwarted Speaker John Bercow demanded that they calm down. "Anyone might think there's orchestrated noise taking place," he said, full of suspicion. And they were right. The whips weren't actually waving their arms to get the audience participation going, but the effect was the same.

    What mattered for the prime minister wasn't the setpiece moments, when he would have got a supportive cheer regardless of what he said. What mattered were the moments when his strategy, now becoming clear, was tested for the first time. The initial results don't look good

    Read More »from Catch-up Cameron’s desperate olive branch
  • After three-and-a-half incredulous hours of questioning, the Met's finest left MPs' jaws on the floor.

    The hostility was almost palpable in the stuffy committee room air. John Yates, the assistant commissioner of the Met tasked with protecting us from terrorists, was physically isolated. His long empty table the only part of the packed room where there was any room at all. In addition to the MPs on the committee, a second row of MPs on the sidelines was busy eyeballing Yates. Lip-curling Tom Watson, disbelieving Chris Bryant, laconic David Davis: it would be hard to do anything calmly with this trio watching and waiting for any mistake.

    As they leered on, bearded Lib Dem MP Dr Julian Huppert and committee chair Keith Vaz conducted a marvellously intimidating set-piece. Huppert, raising a bit of procedural mumbo-jumbo, requested a clarification for what happens to those who mislead MPs when giving select committee evidence. The penalty, I thought Vaz was going to say, is DEATH!

    Read More »from Gaping MPs meet the Met’s ‘dodgy geezer’
  • Phone-hacking: Damage report

    All the key players in the phone-hacking scandal — and their chances of survival.

    Rupert Murdoch

    Damage taken: 6/10

    The seemingly-omnipotent media mogul has been taken to task in the most public way imaginable. With public opinion turned furiously against him, control of BSkyB falling suddenly through his hands and his efforts to limit the damage proving redundant, he is as weak now as he's ever been. The willingness of Ed Miliband to attack him without caveat or caution suggests that his ability to control British politics is now severely limited. David Cameron is still mulling whether to turn against him completely, as his careful 'I would have accepted her resignation' response to questions about Rebekah Brooks shows, but everyday the government becomes more convinced that it has to distance itself from him.

    James Murdoch

    Damage taken: 2/10

    So far, Rupert Murdoch's son has escaped most of the attacks, with opponents firing their allegations against Andy Coulson and Brooks. The man

    Read More »from Phone-hacking: Damage report
  • Getty Images

    Dealing with the past, planning for the future: these are the quandaries which Rupert Murdoch and David Cameron share as they struggle to overcome the phone-hacking scandal.

    We still don't know the full extent to which phone-hacking was a widespread, accepted practise at the News of the World. But, as News International chief executive Rebekah Brooks told staff at the doomed tabloid yesterday, there are many revelations still to be made public. Scandalous expenses practises continued for years before MPs' dodgy claims were finally revealed. How rotten is the British print media, and how long has it been this way?

    With two inquiries set to investigate, it will hopefully not be too long before we find out. In the meantime Murdoch faces intense public anger which needs to be dealt with.

    The tendency to vilify the most powerful man in the British media world stems from the suspicion that he uses his newspapers to advance his own political and financial interests. Murdoch is a businessman

    Read More »from Murdoch and Cameron’s cold phone-hacking logic


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