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.