Alastair's Blog

Return to:  Blog | Articles | Videos RSS feed

Sunday papers show Cameron, Yates, Murdoch and Mail still don’t really get it

Posted on 10 July 2011 | 8:07am

With my usual thanks to the Labour Party media monitoring department for their excellent summary of the press, a few points before I settle down to a cup of coffee in front of Ed Miliband on Andrew Marr.

First, to anyone who thinks David Cameron and (most of) the Tories still don’t get it, take a look at Matthew d’Ancona’s column in the Sunday Telegraph. ‘Those around Cameron insist that he is now making the running and that – given the generally favourable press the PM enjoys – he has a lot more to lose than EM by proposing tougher regulation of the media.’

In other words, as ever, his judgements are tactical rather than principled or strategic. His judgement on what system of regulation should replace the discredited PCC (still no Paul Dacre declaration of interest about his senior position there in articles attacking its abolition by the way) is being driven by what he perceives to be his own interest, not the public interest. It is because Ed has spoken up for the public interest this week that he has broken through so well on this.

Second, regarding Mr Cameron’s judgement, it seems he relied on a character assessment from Rupert Murdoch, and an assurance that nothing bad would emerge, to support his decision to hire Andy Coulson. That was naive. It is now clear that Cameron and George Osborne (who has gone to ground despite this being in large part his responsibility) were so keen to hire Coulson they heard only what they wanted to hear. They did not make the inquiries they should have made. That shows poor judgement.It explains why so many Tory MPs are beginning to doubt his leadership. They are also beginning to worry that ‘the Chipping Norton set’ is going to become even more toxic in its elitist message than Notting Hill…. cue Hugh Grant …

Nick Clegg meanwhile looks like he is doing what he should be – pressing behind the scenes for the government to do the right thing, but without giving a running commentary on his role. He has learned from previous mistakes. I also hope that when he sees the delegation from the Media Standards Trust this week, with Mr Grant and Milly Dowler’s family, they press him about the need to extend the probe on illegal activities to other papers, and that he listens.

As for Mr Murdoch, he looked a diminished figure as he gave that strange walking interview last night. News still seem to think a ‘Murdoch flies in to sort crisis’ headline means automatic resolution of the crisis. But it is not guaranteed. It is fair to say they have mishandled pretty much every step of this. They did not have a thought through media strategy when the crisis first erupted. They had better have one for the next few days, leading up to Wednesday’s Commons vote on the BSkyB deal, which is looking increasingly unlikely to succeed.

Then we have Yates of the Yard finally admitting what we have known all along, that his investigation was a joke. It really is pretty remarkable he is still there. He will be hoping his mea culpa takes heat off him. But I doubt that it will. And he really does need to be questioned over the contrasting zeal of his inquiry into cash for honours (sic) and the appalling lethargy shown over criminal activity by the News of the World.

Former DPP ‘Lord’ Macdonald also looks like he will be criticised by Parliament, and his judgement in going onto the payroll of News International is also under question.

Nice to see the Mail on Sunday unable to kick its addiction to made-up front page stories about Tony Blair (a bit off the pace Paul) … thrilling too to see that my tweet to the effect that Cameron’s ‘second chance’ line about Coulson makes him sound like a probation service not PM is made one of the central points of their leader. Plagiarism!

  • David_Blake

    I sympathise with your view about the contrast in the way the hacking and Labour cash inquiries were handled. But I think trying to make the point now risks muddying the issue

  • Tauntoncider

    I’ve just discovered this blog. I wish I had seen it ages ago as I am a big supporter of labour politics and your general demeanour from what I see on the telly (except when you aim it at the BBC).

    In the past couple of days there has been more discussion about regulation. I don’t want to shackle them too much, but I find it very difficult to rationalise that a paper is allowed to support one party or another during an election. I don’t think that is allowed to happen for broadcasters. 

    Perhaps I am being naive, but I would like to see papers having to be politically neutral during a general election. I am not sure if this is enforceable, but it might help to balance the relationship between politicians and newspaper media.

    Is this a realistic possibility or am I totally off the ball?

    • MicheleB

      I don’t think it’s possible to be politically neutral, even if one’s leanings are absolutely subconscious.

      It’s possible to give two (or more) sides of every topic I suppose but even objectivity can be picked apart as mean-spirited or misunderstood as bias.

  • ambrosian

    That’s the second ‘strange walking interview’ that Murdoch has done. It’s shameful that he hasn’t sat down and given a proper interview or given a statement. But it’s always been his style to be reclusive and unaccountable.

    The American reporter asking the questions yesterday was hilarious: “I was just wondering if………”. It reminded me of Attlee being asked by the BBC “Is there anything you’d like to say about the forthcoming election?” (His answer was “No”.) Thank God that in Britain today we have a more robust interviewing style.

  • BlackHoleMax

    Yates is touched upon here, and how he needs to be pressed on the lack of investigative enthusiasm displayed by the Met. The performance of some senior policemen (e.g. Yates, Andy Hayman) seems one of the most worrying aspects of this whole affair and has been obscured by the sheer volume of other angles on the story. I hope that commentators, understandably keen to hammer Brooks/Murdoch/Tories, don’t let this part of the bigger picture slip by under the radar.

  • SteveE.

    Careful Alastair

    Accusing Cameron and Osborne of  ‘hearing what they only wanted to hear’ sounds awfully like the last great media/Westminster shit storm.

    Other than that, keep up the good work.

  • EC

    The ‘fault’ of not getting is wider.  The coverage on the BBC of the closure of NotW has simply been a revisionist hagiography; its coverage has been one long PR release from the NotW. 
    Andrew Marr’s segment with Fraser and Platell was a prime example. 
    He did not ask questions about the NotW claims for its investigative journalism, and appears not to have done the research that would answer these questions.  No one has done a serious analysis. How many ‘public interest’ investigations has it done in the last five years? What was the balance of tittle-tattle v serious investigation over -say- the last ten issues? Have any of these intrusions  into the lives of grief-stricken families in order  to get a ‘human interest’ story to sell the paper continued – whether through hacking, blagging, harassment or emotional extortion  (not illegal): – “we will write a story anyway, so it would be better for you if you spoke to us now” – is the phrase many would have encountered. How many and what charities have said they will accept charitable donations from this NotW issue?

    I don’t know the answers to these questions; I would expect journalists to provide some answers and some evidenced assesssments. None of these questions require that much work to answer.
    I understand that journalists feel a sympathy with their colleagues faced with the sack.  I understand that there is some anger in  journalism that Murdoch used the NotW  to get a foothold and then discarded an ‘old British instituion’  like a used tissue.  But, I do feel this sentimental and uncritical approach is not serious journalism.

  • Ehtch

    NOTW are like kiddies, throw their toys out, and not be a true man, YES!, a man. Song for you NOTW, right up your valley,

  • Stevenr18966

    I’ve just been explaining the events of the last few days to my 11 year old son who, for someone his age, is quite interested in news. What I said to him is that at present it’s more important than most general elections and it could get bigger. Ok so the economy will largely decide who governs Britain but what is going on now is changing the political landscape eg by giving politicians more freedom to do their job with less fear of being lacerated by Murdoch. Where has the BBC been in all this? They’ve never really got over Hutton – they are the next biggest news organization after Murdoch and it’s about time they started to be assertive with decent, honest journalism rather than wait for others to shape the media line. Keep up the good work Alistair.

  • Stevenr18966

    Within 60 seconds of my post Greg Dyke has just, on Radio 5 Live, done his usual whinge re Hutton, the Governors shafting him etc – does the guy not realize that he needs stronger medication!!

  • Olli Issakainen

    Rupert Murdoch has lost his golden touch. It seems that he does not understand that the rules of the game have changed, and is still keeping Rebekah Brooks as a human shield for his son James.
    David Cameron has shown poor judgement. Andy Coulson should not have been given a “second chance” because it was obvious to all but naive and ignorant that he had not told the truth about events at the NoW.
    Paddy Ashdown warned No 10 over Coulson appointment without any effect.
    So was there some sort of pact between Mr Cameron and News International (NI) of which Coulson was part of?
    And is NI still paying the legal fees of Glenn Mulcaire. And if so, why?
    An interesting player in all this is Prince al-Waleed bin Talal who is even less known than Paul Dacre.
    Through his Saudi-based investment company Kingdom Holdings he owns 7% of News Corp and is not happy about the events. Prince has invested a lot of money in the UK, and has considerable discreet influence.
    For all its faults, the NoW was also a good investigative newspaper. What is the future of investigative journalism now?
    Jeremy Hunt does not seem to get the full long-term implications of the BSkyB deal. The company is a “license to print money”. News Corp could bundle its products together and destroy all the competition except for the Daily Mail.
    Is this the future we all want to see?
    And the idea of “independent” Sky News is ridiculous as News Corp would still account for 85% of its funding!
    David Cameron must now tell the truth about hiring Mr Coulson. The police must tell why it did not want to investigate phone-hacking. And NI must be open why it has misled the police, parliament and public.
    And public debate on the new system of press regulation must start now.

  • Yates and others who “must go” (please) have been allowed space by the extreme fuss directed entirely at Murdoch and NOTW 
    – its as if the public cannot cope with too many bad eggs being cracked at any one time.Incidentally,does Ed M. have total confidence in his ex Murdoch press man with a shady past? – the Tories may have a good comeback at him unless this relationship is somehow much more squeaky clean than Conservative Home’s, Lord Ashcroft (what a great moraliser he makes) has described….

  • Peter Sadler

    Cameron’s bad judgement was not accepting Murdoch’s assessment (of Coulson), his bad judgement was getting into bed with Murdoch and working with him for each other’s benefit. Soon we will be given a chance to assess Cameron’s morality, integrity, honesty and judgement – all somewhat lacking. Soon Labour will have to accept that their navel gazing has to stop and they need to start attacking this deeply flawed government.

  • The problems for News Limited extend to the US where this is being compared to Watergate in Newsweek and don’t forget it was the New York Times that did the early spadework on mobilephonehackgate.

    The BBC has been shrunk by a quarter so while they used to have a duopoly with News Limited, the latter are growing and with the BSKYB consolidation would be the dominant player.

  • ambrosian

    I agree with much of what you say apart from the implication, being made by many, that investigative journalism has died with the News of the World. Only a small percentage of their investigations were useful and in the public interest. Most were about the sex lives of the rich and famous.

    It was superb investigative journalism by the Guardian, especially Nick Davies, that did for the News of the World. It was also the Guardian that got Jonathan Aitken banged up.
    And there is much excellent investigative journalism done by television, especially the BBC. I would single out the undercover documentary that exposed racism in the police and more recently the exposure of abuse in a private hospital for people with learning difficulties.
    I would go so far as to say that genuine investigative journalists of integrity would not have been seen dead in the News of the World newsroom.

  • Oh so Tony Blair tried to get Gordon Brown to lay off pursuing the hacking story.

    You Nu Labour angels. I never would have thought it. I hope you enjoyed your very brief return to your cherished moral high-ground. How long did that last, two minutes??

    Don’t worry, an angel is looking over you x

    • MicheleB

      Oh the stooges are back.

      Look ‘max’, we know why you have your prejudice/s.

      Job done mate now sod off eh?

    • Go back to Stormfront.
      The B.N.P. speaks from the gutter, its acolytes are anathema to democracy and the diverse society we cherish.
      Whom bar Labour have ever been the champion of the oppressed?
      A free press is an asset to democracy. The only assets of Griffin are being seized by baliffs right now.
      An accountable press is a credit to democracy. How are the accounts chez Griffin?
      Go back to the gutter.

  • Patricia Shepherd

    The one thing I’m pleased about is that Ed Miliband is having a vote on wednesday to put a halt to this Skydigital affair. He may lose the vote but all those who vote against it will be damned along with Murdoch.

  • Adie

    As many people are saying, it has to be tragic that innocent News of the World journalists and staff are being forced to bear the brunt of the deeply questionable activities of their bosses at New International.

    And like you say Alastair, it’s extremely important for dodgy activities in any newspaper to be subject to intense scrutiny. I hope this happens.

    However, there’s one point I’d like to make which hasn’t really made it into the debate very much: most journalists are decent and hardworking-  whatever paper or broadcaster they work for.

    I subscribe to an excellent and impartial blog called Tabloid Watch ( ) which doesn’t exactly pull its punches when it comes to wrongdoing in the newspaper industry.

    I haven’t actually counted (so I might be wrong!), but it seems as though articles in  the Mail, Express and Star feature far more prominently.

    It’s much rarer to read about an inaccurate or misleading Sun or News of the World story on Tabloid Watch – and that must indicate – at least to some degree – higher editorial standards within those outlets.

    So if you take the appalling phone hacking revelations out of the equation (pretty hard I know!) it’s not Murdoch who most concerns me. I honestly believe he is a newspaper man to his bones, even though we may disagree with his editorial line and his seemingly cosy links to the political class.

    Desmond, on the other hand….

  • ZintinW4

    The current situation is challenging for the established media because they have lost a central prop to their tactics. Of course the Mail and Telegraph are clutching at straws because the News of the World, and The Sun, are the outriders for the right wing dominated media in this country. They give those papers their own coverage for their own narrow minded, often ill informed and always warped perception of the world. They feed off each other by talk of ‘sensible minded people’ when what they really mean is other right wing newspaper owners.

    The challenge for Labour still is to take this debate to a higer level. To push for more plurality in GB politics, more balance in media ownership and balanced not biased reporting. The problem is that the party has to tread a fine line between being seeing to be opportunistic and being seen to be ineffective. I thought Milliband did OK on the Andrew Marr show but he left out a vital message. He should have said, loud and clear, that the culture of the British media has to change. He didn’t. That kind of positioning would not only be populist, it would be right.

  • Dave Simons

    Does the ‘Socialist Worker’ have to be politically neutral or does it not qualify as a newspaper? I think political neutrality is an impossibility – especially when there is a general election about, and broadcasters are as biased as anyone else. What I would like to see is a more balanced range of political opinions, instead of this overwhelming and overbearing bias towards the politics of the Conservative Party which is characteristic of today’s and yesterday’s newspapers. I also think people need educating from an early age about techniques of persuasion so that they don’t read bare-faced lies as facts.
    Also I’ll confess a degree of bias towards Taunton cider.

  • Robert

    This is worth a little read (assuming my typing of the link works) 🙂

    This is, perhaps, the context within which the thinking of the board on the other side of the Atlantic should be framed.


  • EC

    An additional example of un-researched reporting.  BBC News 24(via a graphic) implied on Saturday and discussions on On The Money (and maybe Andrew Marr show – not sure)  today  stated that Tesco withdrew its advertising from NotW.  As far as I know Tesco were still saying that they would not take this action (see Political Scrapbook, Facebook and a commentator on p 42 of the NotW thread on the Guardian site copies a Tesco email after NotW faced closure which shows they had no intention or plans to withdraw advertising).
    This is important factual information for consumers: Sainsbury, Aldi and Asda all pulled their advertising.  And again, pretty basic research would have shown the truth. 

  • Hi Duncs, thanks for the accredited Nu-Lab “you’re a fascist and stuff” rant, I came back to the gutter – the lowest gutter on the web – to answer your post. So I came back.

    Yes don’t we all “cherish” this diverse society of ours. From Tower Hamlets, to Lozells, to Burnley, to Bradford.

    Sleep tight, as I said earler an angel is watching you, – they guard the angelic peaceful keepers of our cherished diverse society as they slumber xxx

  • Michele who are you?

    Some kind of Campbell groupie?

    It’s very worrying behaviour.

    Most women find a rock star to follow, you opt for a particularly grim ‘Commmunnnicayshuns’ strategist.

  • >>Whom bar Labour have ever been champion of the oppressed<< Ha ha ha! Sorry Duncan, I missed this gem. Ignore my earlier reply. You don't actually believe all that bollocks do you?! Who do you think Alistair Campbell is? Mr Chips? Sorry I shouldn't have disturbed you - I'll leave you to your "commitment to social justice and a fairer Britain". P.S look out the window, the clouds are smiling at you! Yay!

  • MicheleB

    There’s something so unfunny about the BNP membership, comprising as it does people that didn’t (or even worse, that did covertly) realise its 2009 constitution that aimed for a ‘pure’ Celt / Anglo bloodline meant people of Semite origins would also need to be re-patriated.

  • MicheleB

    My gender has nothing to do with my admiration for the whole Labour project, of which AC was a part and main enabler.

    Hey wimp, I also don’t need the Chuckle Bros following me around ‘Liking’ my every post (nor to return the sycophancy on theirs to give innocents the impression that ‘others’ agree with you).

    Go back to plucking your banjos before I start accusing you of fancying Thick Griffin (who really thought everyone was fooled by that ‘constitution’).

  • Anonymous

    I get the feeling you are somewhat more left-leaning than myself. I tend to sit just left of centre.

    Socialist Worker is not a paper in the same sense as, say, the Sun. I mean papers people actually read. As for broadcasters, they have to provide balanced news, its a legal requirement in this country I believe.  Whether they do or not is up for debate. I agree, that sometimes they can appear to be one-sided, but it can very much depend on the journalist and the story of the time.As for teaching techniques of persuasion, this is called critical thinking and it is taught from an early age.  

  • Anonymous

    I agree, but what i am getting at is the blazen activities of the Sun and other tabloids in the past when they state they are siding with one party or another, as they did in the last election for Conservatives and the ones previous to that since 1997 for New Labour.

  • Ehtch

    You do come across as a bit Cotswolds Tory MicheleB, not that there is anything wrong with that. It is quite endearing to me, as a welshman. Alison Goldfrapp, who stirs my loins good and flipping proper, loves Wiltshire, for instance, I have heard, as here, enjoy,

  • MicheleB

    ” You do come across as a bit Cotswolds Tory”

    thud !!!

  • Ehtch

    ouch – hell of a fist on you MichelleB, for a girlie. I’m impressed. So I take it you are from Newcastle-on-Tyne then? : )

  • Ehtch

    super brilliant Godfrapp tracks for you MichelleB, you apparent geordie : )

    ooofff… stop it!

  • MicheleB

    I was fainting in horror at such an accusation Aitch, a bit like a Victorian lady; not thumping you !

  • Gilliebc

    Sorry to but-in here, it was a shame that Ehtch didn’t “get” your comment.
    I did “get” it and thought it was genuinely funny.  In fact I wish now in the light of Ehtch’s misinterpretation of it, that I had posted a reply that sprang to mind at the time I first read it.
    Which was something along the lines of “do you need the smelling salts
    Michele?”  or,  “perhaps in my capacity of matron you would allow me to assist you to your feet?”

  • Ehtch

    Would that be like one of those Victotian ladies from Little Britain tv show?

    and he ducks…… have you shaved today? and he ducks more……..

  • Pingback: Alexander7()