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The press furore won’t swing an election, but it will change the nature of the debate to Labour’s benefit

Posted on 12 July 2011 | 6:07am

Time for the blog to take a little breather from phonehacking, with three little scenes from yesterday which combined to lift my mood from the general media putrescence in which we have been swimming.

First, I spent the morning at Eastbury comprehensive school in Barking, speaking to the sixth form induction group. Forty per cent on free school meals. An overwhelming majority in the lower social and economic ranks. But results improving year on year. A good head and energetic, committed teachers. Students who were polite, quiet as they moved around the building, but enthusiastic and with some real bright sparks among them. The only blot was the recent withdrawal of the Building Schools for the Future money which means some of the lessons continued to be taught in roasting Portakabins.

But it was a good school and I had a great time – all on the day the Mail (editor sent sons to Eton) splashed yet again on our failing (sic) State schools.

Next to meet former Manchester City player (and ex-Burnley physio) Paul Lake who has written a book not just about his football career, which was ruined by injury, but about his struggles with mental illness as he struggled to cope. I have no doubt the book, A Life Of Two Halves, will do well – I shall review it here anon – and also that Paul can become an important ambassador in the Time to Change campaign to combat stigma and discrimination. It would be great if we could get our top football clubs – Paul is an ambassador for City’s communities programme – into this campaign in a big way.

Then after a few interviews on the putrescence, last night to a Fabian Society fundraiser hosted by Labour MP Alison McGovern, who made me feel a little old by saying she was not even born when Mrs Thatcher became PM.

But in fact it was the presence of so many young people, MPs and others, at the dinner which made me feel confident about the future.

I warned them that just as the Westland helicopter scandal damaged Thatcher heavily at the time, it was not the kind of issue that people took to the ballot box. The vote will always be dominated by the economy, jobs, public services.

So yes, there is short-term and perhaps lasting damage being done to David Cameron at the moment. But more important in a way is that the current debate will create a new political and media landscape which means the public will at least be more aware of the political bias of newspaper groups. It will also allow the politicians to be far bolder and more confident in setting out their agenda, and it is in that spirit – without fear of the occasional public disagreement – that Labour should embrace its policy development for the next election.

Ed Miliband has shown real leadership on this and made real change happen on the back of the crisis for Murdoch and Cameron. But it is now all about making sure that when the current noise fades, and a new system of regulation and hopefully a new culture are in place, Labour wins the arguments not just on the press but on the big issues I mention above.

As I drove home last night, I felt more confident than I have done for a long time that it can be done.

  • Yonks

    Probably ‘spot on’ Alastair, the only problem is the question of whether or not Ed has any ideas re. the economy, jobs etc.

  • Olli Issakainen

    Phonegate will be on the news for years and will do big damage to the Tories. And if they allow News Corp to take over BSkyB, they are doomed.
    BSkyB´s revenues are £5.9bn. BBC´s £3.6bn. ITV´s £1.9bn.
    News Corp already owns 38% of the UK newspaper market.
    With full control of BSkyB it could bundle its newspapers and TV holdings in sales and advertising and destroy its competitors with cash from BSkyB.
    If this is not a media plurality issue, then what?
    But, of course, it is the economy that matters.
    Britain´s economic growth has now almost stalled because of Mr Osborne and his loose talk falsely comparing Britain to Greece. Mr Osborne also falsely said that Labour caused the mess by overspending and that Britain was bankrupt.
    His motivation for this was to get support for his ideological cuts. But what he achieved was collapse of business and consumer confidence.
    People who have bothered to read my comments may remember that I predicted a new economic crisis triggered by Greece. It is about to happen soon.
    The US may also run out of money within weeks.
    The new crisis will be much worse than the recent Great Recession because interest rates are already at low level and governments have a lot of debt.
    Mr Osborne will soon need a plan C, as his plan B consists of new round of quantitative easing which is not enough.
    Labour will win the next election because the Tory-led government is on the verge of destroying British economy… 

  • A very human and moving interview with Gordon this morning. 

  • Delphidurrant

    I wrote to you after the Hutton enquiry explaining my treatment by the press in 1964 and asking what could be done about press behaviour in general, you kindly wrote back saying you did not know what could be done, do you still feel the same?
    delphi Durrant

  • Stevenr18966

    Murdoch’s tactic of ensuring that there had to be a referral of the BSkyB takeover showed that the Coalition has vulnerabilities only a few millimetres below the surface. The vote that would have happened tomorrow would have seen the Conservatives defeated. The relationship between the Libdems and the Tories must be deteriorating and the chances of other serious fissures widening are higher. It’ll still take lots more for the Coalition to stumble but a long period of poor economic news, more austerity, increasingly desperate economic policy changes etc will test it to breaking point. If next year’s Budget/Finance Bill is too severe for the Libdems and the country’s economy is faltering watch out for an election in summer 2012. Good to see Ed Mil taking the initiative. It’s overdue.

  • MicheleB

    It’s a shame that the Summer Recess is coming up

  • tess

    I think EM, from the word go has has been fearless in tackling the news International issue and DC has been and is still, hopping around on the back foot but this is not the only scandal in this country at the moment.
    The economy, despite all the scaremongering and blame DC and his chum Yosser Osbourne have tried to pin on Labour for the last 14 months, is sluggish to say the least despite the fact it was growing, and growing more than expected when Labour handed over the reins.
    When ordinary people are worrying about keeping their jobs, paying for residential care, the rising cost of fuel and groceries, schools/Sure Start, youth services being cut, the claims we are all in this together don’t wash so well any more and finally the shutters are falling from people’s eyes.
    Hearing former PM Gordon Brown (who has kept his head down, remained dignified and got on with his job for the last 14 months as far as I can see despite attacks from every direction) talking this morning about being a victim of hacking, it becomes clear – if he had floated into the last election, and indeed the election debates, wearing a halo and accompanied by a celestial choir, he STILL would have had no chance, nor indeed would any other Labour politician with the might of NI against them.
    Politicians should be fighting the corner of those they represent (like Andy Burnham grabbing Michael ‘the latin loving loon’ Gove between his teeth and shaking, probing and questioning him on behalf of our kids and their future). My only hope is that the one positive to come out of the NI scandal is that finally, we will have a truly FREE press with NO political leanings and ordinary people will be able to see and understand the stories behind the spin and make informed decisions about who they vote for based on that!

  • Richard

    Your visit to Easbury prompted me to read their OFSTED report. In their main findings para 1,OFSTED mangle the language by saying that boys are unable”to consistently focus”……..   . In the school prospectus they contribute “Sixth Form Centre comprising of teaching rooms…… ” Have these so called education professionals no interest in the use of our language?

    The OFSTED report, however, does throw light on the problems of children when it states that of 1705 students, 138 only of their parents and carers were interested enough in their education  to return the OFSTED questionnaire. Until we get parental interest in their child’s progress we will achieve nothing.

    The “Roasting portacabins” existed throughout the tenure of New Labour, and the debt accrued in the “Schools for the Future” and other PFI initiatives will still be being paid by our grandchildren.

    The Press landscape will not change one iota until the public thirst for the s*** which they pedal diminishes. The same 92% who cannot be bothered to return the OFSTED questionnaire will buy the “Sun on Sunday” or whatever rag emerges from News Int.

    Sadly, normal service will be resumed rather more quickly than you evidently think

  • Robert

    Just when the staffers at Sky News thought they were going to be spun away from Murdoch…….

    No matter. Now’s the time for all good journalists, including Murdoch’s employees at Sky, to show their utter professionalism and that they can resist Foxification of the channel.

  • Jacquie R

    Very revealing to see all the nasty, irrelevant little right-wing digs on Twitter about Ed Miliband, now that he’s finally got into his swing. The Tories and Lib Dems are starting to get worried. And with bloody good reason!

  • MicheleB

    You seem to be perceiving something that is not there, are you being a tad over-delicate?  I saw no blame being attached to a 1yr-old Govt in the PortaCabin comment.

    I looked at what has been achieved in the past couple of decades :
    and am also impressed by the number of star athletes to come out of this school and what has been input for successive intakes:

    I’m also mindful of all the school building projects that were planned up till Spring ’10 that got cancelled in a quite out of hand,, swingeing and careless feckless disgusting ‘let them eat cake’ manner in Summer ’10.

  • MicheleB

    Further to mine above/below etc: while it’s always nice to read something that is grammatical (typing on my cyber tippy toes behaviour here!) and a little jarring to read ‘comprise of’ or be advised that one can ‘request for’, perhaps you need to think about the ages of those writers and anticipate the years they were being educated in?  Who’s to know?

    I for one was overjoyed when one of the first things to happen in the late 90s was set-aside reading time in Primaries. 

    Knowing as I do a group of mid-late 20s people, all P-schooled during the late 80s onwards in leaky buildings and with no playground facilities whatever, along with NO books in the classrooms and reading matter comprising only mail order catalogues and car showroom etc-type brochures … inhale … I’m not surprised that some in their cohort were not offered help till too late/too independent/too embarrassed to accept.

  • ZintinW4

    I’ve seen too many false dawns in the past to be convinced that this is the begining of the end for the Tories. Remember Westland? No cabinet ministers have resigned over the News International story. I still think the Tory tactic is to kick decisions into the long grass in the hope that the storm will abate.

    The long term benefit is that the News International titles, and other tabloids, will have to tread more carefully.  The public are starting to see them as the evil, lying, prejudiced media that they have always been.

    One final point – nobody has picked up on the fact that Jeremy Hunt speaks fluent Japanese. However at the moment the only language he speaks is testicular.

  • MicheleB

    Despite the usual stance of the writer I totally agree with :
    “Al-Qaeda will be rubbing its hands with glee over the persecution of John Yates”

    There must have been some very strange reasoning behind his being in charge of both counter-terrorism (and since ’05’s events fgs) and Press investigations.  If there was some synergy it would make sense but I don’t see any.

  • Nick Smegg Head

    PR flashman does not want to talk to the press in Cardiff…….

    Below is a cut and paste from the Guardian.Downing Street seems to be working hard to limit the opportunities journalists have to get close to David Cameron in Cardiff. Even local accredited reporters are not being allowed into the “cwrt”, the area next to the Senedd’s debating chamber where members and media usually mingle and chat before and after debates. Cameron is giving a speech – on Welsh affairs – to assembly members shortly.Assembly sources make it clear that it’s down to Downing Street and special branch – nothing to do with them. “Security reasons” are cited by one Downing Street aide.Television journalists are told there will be no organised shots of Cameron arriving – they are puzzling out ways of getting a shot from their office windows. 

    I’ve also noticed lack activity by the Tory trolls on various sites.

  • Stevenr18966

    Suggestion for a one liner it tomorrow’s debate:

    “Labour was obliged to court Murdoch – time will tell if Cameron hasn’t just courted him but also spent several weekends with him in a seaside hotel as Mr & Mrs Jones”

  • Richard

    Thank you for partipating in the debate with me, MicheleB.

    Please can you tell me why, in such an underperforming school, someone has decided to call it a “Specialist Maths & Computer College” ? What does the term mean, I wonder?

    PS I reproduce two paragraphs from the Headmaster’s, sorry Headteacher’s, article on the front page of their latest newsletter. ( I only read the one page).

    “I would like to wish everybody a happy and restful summer holiday. The long holidays provides plenty of time to read even more for pleasure, visit places of interest and yet more involved in sport.

    It is vitally important that students continue to read everyday in the holidays. “YOU COULDN’T MAKE IT UP!
    It is vitally important that students continue to read everyday in the holidays. ”


  • ambrosian

    But how much longer will Yates be in charge of counter-terrorism after his humiliation in front of the Home Affairs Select Committee today? David Davis MP said this afternoon that he was concerned that somebody so apparently incompetent as Yates should be responsible for protecting us from terrorism. He has a point.

  • Gilliebc

    I believe you are entirely right Olli regarding Greece and the far reaching effects that will be felt economically by their faltering economy.  Italy is now looking decidedly shaky.  The majority of us who are alive right now will never have experienced anything on such a massive scale before.

    As you again rightly say Olli, this Tory-led government is on the verge of destroying the British economy.  Or, to put it in another slightly more controversial way, things are going entirely to plan!  but that view obviously depends on the individual’s point of view.

  • MicheleB

    Well as we can see from your own post Richard, we can all make typos (unless you actually meant to duplicate your ‘point’ and forgot to delete a space that would have kept your quotation marks in the right place).

    No need to pray tell, it’s a type of pedantry that bores me (except to turn it round on the bore).  I happen to be OK with/at grammar most of the time, my brother wasn’t but he was actually a lot cleverer (ooooh, is that a legit word?).

    I don’t know whether the Head meant to use one word, I know he shouldn’t have and he might not have, but then gorn and deleted a space accidentally.

    Is it really a reason for a celebration in spite?

    The Head would have reached those constituents that would have read his
    message anyway, which is more than I think they’d manage in one from many of us.

    I think schools should be judged by the ‘added value’ they effect in their pupils, as in how much more capable and confident a child is at leaving than they were at entry and I daresay that is how they have been assessed as an improving school. 

    It’s also important that pupils can relate to staff and as we saw with Dream School, David Starkey’s posture was not immediately successful and might never have become so if the normal class size and time pressures had prevailed.

    I daresay/dare say (take your pick) you would rather compare school with school, which is useful up to a point but most things have more than one set of criteria.

  • MicheleB

    Speaking of English as she is wrote, like what I was, I haven’t caught up yet with whether the Guardian have explained that using ‘Murdock’ was a joke re some court appearances or a typo or a joke about the good ‘un’s habituals?

  • MicheleB

    If people don’t like it up ’em (as in being ridiculed in public/unfairly for their job performance) I wish they wouldn’t do it to others.

    Chris Bryant yapping about nobody ‘taking the time’ (or words to that effect) to read 11,000 pgs of notes is crass, absolutely stupid when the person/dept he’s decrying are also looking after terrorism.

    Urgent vs Important (and having the vision to know which is which and when).

    Exploiting hindsight is cynical in the extreme.

  • Anonymous

    I’m not getting the champagne out yet.  I will settle for some Moretti lager, and hope AC is right that the debate has changed.

    And then I will write to an MP in my sights about the Tories’ assault on the public sector and, in particular, the NHS.  Because when the NI furore has died down, we will find ourselves contemplating the public squalor, indignity and death bequeathed to the electorate by the Conservatives.

  • MicheleB

    Tsk at self ….. further to the one of a few minutes ago. 
    I can’t remember whether I added the qualification to my claim of being ‘OK with grammar most of the time’ that should have included that my brother wasn’t so confident in it despite being cleverer by far.

  • Robert

    Hope the three leaders have gamed a last minute pull-out by Murdoch.

  • MicheleB

    It’s very easy to humiliate someone, all it takes is what some of us display here every day.  David Davis is still sore (28/42 days, losing to Nick Clegg, any number
    of reasons and woddeva elses)  ie: jumping on a bandwagon and he won’t
    be the last.

    What would be your priority if you had responsibility for terrorism/security’? 
    Would you really have ‘invested’ time on cryptic crosswords/patchwork c/o some scruffy beggar’s address book (which is not quite the same as ‘notes’ as described)?

    The HASC ….. that be the one chaired by Keith Vaz?  Okey doke.

    Had Yates’s dept prioritised having party games (with prizes from Hamleys?) deciphering those pages over other ways of working against terrorism, just imagine the celebration T May could have had. 
    She’s already had a beanfest with her ‘11% of their time out on the streets’ …… imagine the wonky grin if a few months ago she’d learned that some detectives actually sat poring over hieroglyphics from someone in need of a haircut 🙂 just because (as it would have been ‘presented’) they fancied an easy time sitting around in ACed offices.

    That would have been then; this is now and hindsight’s cheap.

    There are some commentators that have known about all this a long time more than the past week.  Had the strategy not been what it has, who knows, we could have made the Dowler family’s pain even less manageable; ends and means?

    As for today’s news about Fraser Brown, the ‘defence’ being purveyed is that this knowledge didn’t come from some grubby hacker but from a member of the public.
    That makes the exposure of confidential info about a weeks-old infant OK?
    Because his Dad happens to be a public figure?

  • I agree with the fact that Labour seemed to have benefited from this scandal somehow, but it’s completely ridiculous since they were the ones that established this completely corrupt culture.

    Gordon Brown’s ridiculous crocodile tears on a story he obviously sanctioned was a total joke, but people seem to have bought that.

    The Guardian has taken huge confidence from this and is even more sanctimonious than ever, and lefties no longer feel obliged to even attempt to debate anything on rational grounds, they just furiously assert their vested interests (public sector).

    One set of spurious and idiotic moral supremacists (The Labour Party) have benefited from another’s decline (The Red Tops).

  • Richard

    I am not a Headteacher preaching literacy to 1700 students, and if I were I would ask someone to proofread my Newsletter, perhaps someone from the English Department. In calling this pedantry you are accepting the educationalists chant concerning continuing rising standards, as this country slides slowly down the pan.
    ( Thank you for asking, but the duplication you refer to was at AC’s end.)
    No news on the  “Specialist Maths & Computer College” front?

  • >>>>>Alastair Campbell, who has been running from one broadcasting studio to another over the past week to gloat preposterously over the unedifying link between Mr Cameron and News International, used to swear at Westminster correspondents in public and threaten to get them sacked if they strayed from the accepted New Labour line. Members of the media who were not happy to board the ship were press-ganged or thrown overboard. Not so much a club as a quasi-religious cult in which you were held captive. >>>>>

    Alistair Campbell, messenger of the people and righteous scourge of false prophecy.

  • MicheleB

    Exactly what is it that you want to bitch about Richard?
    AC being invited to a school he wishes to encourage or summat else?
    I’m not a mind reader.  I think you’ve taken issue with AC’s having called this ‘an improving school’.  My understanding of that is that it cannot have previously been unimproveable, contained within my (not your?)  understanding is that the school had a way to go.

    I don’t know whether there’s a 2011 Ofsted report yet.  Perhaps you do, but the 2010 doc describes the school’s intake, its majority of pupils with ESL and what its ambitions for them are.  Despite that high level of ESL/EFL it’s rated as ‘satisfactory’ and with the capacity (not just the need) for improvement.  That’s because inspectors need to be realistic, so should you be.

    You plainly haven’t yet realised you’re banging your head on a brick wall with me on this; I tend to value people for the skills they DO have rather than whinge and bitch about what they haven’t. 

    Communication does matter but not everyone can put it in writing; I doubt you appreciate the wordplay in soft rap; poor you.

    You’re probably an admirer of that rentagobonastick Birbalsingh, she who held up a photo of an actual pupil at her school, held it up to be ridiculed ‘at Conference’.  Tell us what good she achieved for her pupils Richard and what she cannot have absorbed from her own training.  I say ‘us’ btw in full knowledge most have moved on from this thread, knowing there’ll be regular blogs on the topic of education.

  • MicheleB

    PS:  Re your last few lines it’s a bit feeble to not be able to accept your own imperfection when you’re so driven about pointing out another’s.

  • MicheleB

    You’re so funny, Max, Dan and the rest of the Klan.

    You couldn’t be making it plainer what a hit your ilk have taken this week.

  • chapster24d

    Greece has collapsed because it got into the ratings downgrade downward spiral and also it’s high and out of control DEBT…..ring any bells? 
    As you get downgraded your interest rates rise…as your interest rates rise you find it harder to fund your mountain of debt and then your rating gets cut again whereupon this process continues all over again , higher interest rates lower ratings , your economy collapses – Greece…..
    It’s the very best example of what happens when you rack up totally out of control public spending.

    By the way how many Greek public sector  gardeners does it take to do the garden at an Athens hospital with NO garden ??
    Answer : 47 apparently on the payroll….

    The talk is not loose its real my friend – if you don’t tackle high levels of spending and borrowing your interest rates go up not down….the crisis is a DEBT crisis plain and simple….man-up mate and do your homework pls

  • Gilliebc

    You can change your ID as often as you like S. Chapman, but your condescending style of comment gives you away every time!

    However, please don’t let me put you off commenting on AC’s blog site.  You are after all as entitled as anyone else to write what you believe may be of informative interest.

  • Ehtch

    Glad to see things are moving on in the last day or two on the disgrace that has been the fodder-end of British Press in the last twenty years. It is almost it as if it has been condoned by those with old traditional establishment influence. Give them the gutter to hope they live there, type of thing!

    Disturbing documetary on BBC2 at the moment on the Camborrs in Napoli, Italia. Heart breaking it is in a may how can communities can get into, with the state maybe lets them get into so. But it has history, and WWII didn’t help at all in Southern Italy.

  • Ehtch

    Re. US, on the hill, i think they are looking for someone to save from the billions bucks wotsit system they have got. promoter system, is it? I not that well up in yank speak.Thay might br looking to learn when we kick out half our papers for good, well, hope don’t come back, as the media was bleating last night not get rid of them. Pillocks. No need to say Guardian/Observer is alright, and off course, Daily Mail to feed the middle class air-head ladies. What?what did I say.Daily Star, is that still going – that is in a good posistion. Today, oh yes, that went went up the spout in the 1990s due to News Internationals peculiar tactics in cahoots with the Tory government then, allegedly.

    Jesus, why do I have a long memory, bring back the Sunday People I say…..
    super Jesus, is it still alive!!

    I am losing touch on red tops, I really am.

  • Ehtch
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