'Oh, so that's who Richard Morris is..." Lord Hattersley on The Daily Politics

'An influential activist' - The Guardian

'Iain Dale, without the self loathing' - Matthew Fox in The New Statesman

You are a tinker...' - Tim Farron

Sunday 31 July 2011

There's a vast sector of industry just begging for us to champion it.

In 2008 I attended the IPA President's debate at BAFTA on the importance of the creative industries to the UK economy. It was held just as the banks were crashing around our ears and Will Hutton made the point that the broader creative sector represented the second largest industry sector in the UK after finance - and that the future prosperity of the country rested in the hands of those present. I see that when he made that speech he had been making the same point for a year or more already. And his prescience in highlighting the dangers of personal indebtedness to the UK economy as far back as early 2007 is impressive.

Much to my surprise I see he's still making the same speech four years later. A skirt around Google reveals green papers in Westminster and in the EU on the importance of the creative industries. But nothing much actually seems to be happening.

Why not?

It seems to me that here is an enormous opportunity for the Lib Dems. In the week that Nick had been named in the Media Guardian's top 100 influential people on media - much of which includes the creative industries like advertising, film and television - it seems we are well placed to show leadership in this area and promote the core skills in both the applied and fine arts in which the UK excels.

I know from running a business in this sector that I'd welcome this. In fact, it's something I'd like to do.

Who's in?

Friday 29 July 2011

Well, isn't that just typical.

Having written one or two rather critical articles about Louise Mensch in recent days, it seems only fair to say that

A) I think her response to some muck raking by a so called' investigative journalist' is brilliant, and

B) I think by putting the record straight on what she said about Piers Morgan, she's done exactly the right thing.

I also think David Allen Green raises some interesting issues about just who this investigative reporter is. More there than meets the eye perhaps.

Anyway, now we can all concentrate on the real DCMS Select Committee issues. Huzzah.

Mike Tuffrey understands the need for us to be radical

There's a great piece over at Lib Dem Voice today about Charlotte Henry's view on what she hopes to see from Nick in the next parliamentary term. It's excellent and I recommend you take a gander.

But there's something I'd add to it.

We need once again to be radical. To be creative in our thinking, suggest things no one's thought of before, really force people to sit up and take notice. To start suggesting the type of policies that the other parties initially dismiss as naive nonsense, and then quietly adopt themselves.

Because it's thinking like that which makes us stand out and gets people to really think about what we stand for.

And I think I've seen a piece of thinking like that this week.

It's Mike Tufrey's plans for a fleet of electric buses in London.

While other parties suggest half measures or slow progress (or, to quote Mike, 'vanity projects' - I think we know what he's referring to...), the vision to turn our entire fleet of public transport road vehicles is a radical and visionary step that sets the bar very much higher.

I think it's a fine piece of thinking. And the sort of policy we should be enacting in every corner of government we can.

Thursday 28 July 2011

Louise Mensch and Piers Morgan could learn a thing or two from Alastair Campbell, David Cameron and Gus O'Donnell about proper grown up politics.

Two incidents on the DCMS Select Committee hearings with the Murdochs have provided a constant distraction away from the main issues.

One distraction was the idiot with the pie.

The other was Louise Mensch getting her accusation of inappropriate behaviour by Piers Morgan, principally while he was editor of The Mirror, a little screwed up.

Piers and Louise (goaded by Guido Fawkes) have been continuing their spat in both the mainstream media and on twitter ever since. There's no doubt that Louise got the facts about Piers wrong on the day, and while Piers may or may not have other questions to answer, their 'you-did-I-didn't' spat is reducing the work of the committee to a playground argument. Having got the Piers facts wrong once she would be better off apologising for her mistake and letting another member of the panel take on Morgan.

Paradoxically, David Cameron has also been spraying around the accusations in Parliament - this time against Alastair Campbell, and again getting some facts wrong. Contrast how Cameron and Campbell have sorted this out quietly, professionally and without distracting from the main issue.

Piers Morgan is of course a creature of the media. But as a member of the DCMS Select Committee, I hope Louise Mensch remembers that there are more important issues here than getting one over on the incorrigible Piers - and just moves on. This isn't the Louise Mensch show.

PS. How I wish we were more on the front foot in the committee on this one.

Vivisection, PR and Hollywood movies

I find myself conflicted.

Vivisection is a difficult area and I am conscious of the pros and cons of both sides of the argument. Testing on monkeys is especially difficult and this has been amply demonstrated this week by the publication of Professor Sir Patrick Bateson's review of recent UK research.

But it's the timing of the release of the report that troubles me.

It could of course be entirely coincidental - I truly hope it is - but in 2 weeks a Hollywood blockbuster examining the (albeit fanciful) side effects of vivisection on apes ( which is illegal in the UK) is being released. And the report has been released in the same week that the main publicity for 'Rise of the Planet of the Apes' has begun. Surely it cannot be the case that this serious and important study has been timed for release to help promote a Hollywood film? I truly hope not.

On the other hand - and here's where the conflict comes in - if the release has been timed the other way around, ie. The authors of the report are using the film to maximise coverage of their findings, then I think that's rather clever.

In which case, I'm a bit of a hypocrite on this.

Ho hum

Wednesday 27 July 2011

Does Simon Hughes go far enough to help OFFA?

I've reproduced below Simon Hughes letter to members about his report on ensuring fair access to higher education. The full document can be found here. I'm going to read it and digest it properly but on initial inspection it does begin to address the funding and resourcing of OFFA which I've blogged about before.

I'm not sure it goes nearly far enough. But it's a start.

Here's the letter:

Dear Richard

I am acutely aware of the concerns in our party about the decision taken last December to increase from 2012 the maximum amount universities can charge for tuition. Like many of you, I was particularly concerned that the perception and the publicity around the higher costs of university could deter people from going into higher education. This is why I didn’t vote for the policy in parliament.

I hope all party members now know all the  facts, figures and costs of a degree for future graduates - nothing at all for those earning less than £21,000 and as little as £7.50 a month for those earning £22,000. I have always believed, despite my worries, that it might be possible with big effort, the right language and the commitment of all involved in advising future graduates to prevent the new policy on higher education from deterring people from going to university.

This is why just before New Year David Cameron and Nick Clegg appointed me to be the government’s Advocate for Access to Education. For six months I have travelled around the country to speak with thousands of young people about the changes to university financing and all other concerns they have about access to higher education.

Last week I published my final report. It contains over 30 recommendations directed towards schools and colleges, universities, government and regulators on what they can do to encourage participation in higher education. You can download a copy of the report from the Cabinet Office website here: http://www.cabinetoffice.gov.uk/resource-library/hughes-report

I am clear that it is now the duty of all of us - government,  politicians of all colours and the public - to get out there and make sure that nobody makes a decision about going to university without  knowing exactly how it will be paid for and the support available.

This is a big challenge. But few things in this country are more important.

Simon Hughes MP

Deputy Leader, Liberal Democrat Parliamentary Party in the House of Commons

Sunday 24 July 2011

David Cameron has suddenly changed behaviour. I can't think why....

David Cameron had a very good way of dealing with problems. It was the opposite of the Gordon Brown 'Macivity's not there' approach to a crisis. He would let things build, and then, when things were at breaking point, he would step into the fray, be seen to be taking charge, taking responsibility but not blame, looking like a leader.Then having stated how he wanted things sorted, he would step away again. The NHS proposals were a classic example of this, and it worked very well for him. And it's been a recurring pattern of his time in office.

Yet on 'hackgate', all of a sudden, he's changed strategy.

Suddenly, he's too busy making a speech about 'The Big Society' in Docklands to update The Commons on Hackgate (cue disastrous performance from Jeremy Hunt and questions from his own side about what he's up to). He puts out a statement saying he intends to vote on the opposition debate 'so long as diary commitments permit'. He flies to Africa on a trade mission and it feels like he has to be forced to come home early to speak to the House. It's like he'll do all he can to minimise his contact with the affair...

Which begs the question to be asked. Why the change of strategy?

And of course there are two possible answers.

One is that, unlike the other crises he's dealt with, he's inextricably linked to this one. He's the one who appointed Coulson, he's the one who's personal friends with Rebekah Brooks. It's hard to step into a crisis when you're largely responsible for starting it anyway.

But of course there's another possible answer.

When detectives search for the guilty they often look for changes in patterns of behaviour, people who normally act in one way suddenly acting out of character. Changes in behaviour often indicate the individual may have something to hide. And while I'm not suggesting David Caneron has committed any sort of crime, behavioural change equally applies to any sort of guilty conscience.

Makes you wonder, doesn't it?

Saturday 23 July 2011


I'm off for a week in the fabulous Lake District (where I am thrilled to announce IT IS NOT RAINING) so the blog may go a little quiet for a while.

I am of course in TIm Farron country so I shall report back on any sightings of the great man.

I'll no doubt be Tweeting at richard_morris_ (note the double underscores) so do follow me for updates on the Windemere Airshow, Ambleside sports, frequent weather updates and all the Lib Dem and hackgate titbits my notoriously bad T Mobile signal allows me to gather.


Friday 22 July 2011

The central theme from 'Hackgate' (how I hate that word) is 'control'

This is the post I contributed to 20:20 Vision yesterday

On the 4th July,  The Guardian first broke the news of Milly Dowler’s phone allegedly being hacked by The News of the World. Since then, every day has seen a kaleidoscope of news stories, debate, opinion, and an endless wailing and gnashing of teeth.
Yet there has been a single thread pulling all the myriad stories together - the fight to control the message.
This has taken a number of forms.
There has been a general acceptance that Murdoch has set the media agenda for 30 years or more – and a narrative has emerged that he can’t be allowed to control it any longer.
Parliament has been striving to demonstrate that after decades of following the News Corp line, it is now back in charge - hence the hosting of debates, and the drama of the Select Committees.
News Corp has tried to control the story – timing announcements to deflect attention and move the agenda. The Rebekah Brooks resignation is a great example of this as I have blogged elsewhere – it’s no coincidence, I suspect, that it happened just before the weekend, on the day the UK’s biggest news organisation had its journalists out on strike…
There has been general condemnation of the Press Complaints Commission and its failure to control the printed media – but general disagreement about whether the press should continue to be self regulated or legislation should be brought in to control it.
The politicians have argued amongst themselves who’s in charge – Cameron argues they’re all to blame, Miliband claims the moral high ground a month after going to the Murdoch summer party, Nick Clegg points out that the Lib Dems are the only major party with a clean pair of hands…
Every one of these threads is about ‘who’s in control?’
But of course the real answer is: we, the public are. And we are the ones who need to sort this mess out.
There’s a theme developing (which I don’t much care for) that seems to be beginning to blame the public at large for everything that’s gone wrong. ‘You wanted salacious gossip, we hacked phones to give you what you wanted, now you’re complaining…’ seems the tone.
This is of course nonsense. We’re not to blame. But we can take responsibility for putting things right.
By refusing to let others – especially News International – set the agenda.
By holding our politicians to account for not taking control before all this broke – let’s not forget Ed Miliband demanded Vince Cable be sacked just a few months ago for ‘declaring war on Murdoch’. He doesn’t seem too keen to discuss this now…
And by demanding answers to what went wrong – in the police, in the press generally (this isn’t just about News International) and at the PCC.
It’s only if we keep asking the right questions – and not going away until those questions get answered – that we, the public, will be in control once again.

Thursday 21 July 2011

Dear Louise Mensch. It's not one rule for Prince William and another for Piers Morgan

I don't have any particular problem with Louise Mensch, the Conservative MP for Corby.I follow her on twitter where she can be quite informative (even if the ra ra David Cameron gets a bit wearisome at times) and I thought she did a good thing yesterday on the floor of The House raising a point of order about the two reporters who had their passes removed during, ahem, 'piegate'.

So the fact that I'm having a go at her twice in 2 days is unfortunate. But she really got my goat today.

I can forgive her for knocking Piers Morgan in the DCMS Select Committee yesterday. She did get her facts completely wrong, and was very cowardly not repeating what she'd said outside Parliament, if she wasn't going to apologise (see the video attached to this post for the Morgan/Mensch clash on CNN afterwards). Anyway, if the blogs and tweets are to be believed, Piers isn't out of the woods just yet...

But today, Louise tweeted this:

Now, as a member of the DCMS Select Committee, Louise Mendch has real influence and there must be chance she will pursue this thought. Which would frankly be shameful.

Two men have been found guilty of hacking voicemails (belonging to The Royal Family) and been sent to jail. You simply cannot now retrospectively change the law for everyone else who confesses to hacking a certain type of person. And where do you draw the line? Is it Royal Family = jail but Max Clifford = a cosy session spilling the beans in Portcullis House? And what happens if we found, for example, Princess Michael of Kent has been hacked? Does the committee sit in judgement whether someone is Royal enough to merit the full defence of the law?

This idea is both a nonsense and a contradiction of natural justice. The bar for the offence has been set. There's no lowering it now.

4th Aug update

Louise has called for an amnesty on hackers again today. She's still wrong.

There's a new political blog site in town.

It's called 20:20 vision.

It's nothing to do with me - They kindly asked me to write a piece on #hackgate so I have posted an article on what I think has been the central theme of recent days - the fight to gain control of the narrative and the agenda. You can read the piece here.

Meantime I'd value everyone's feedback on the site, in case I get asked again (of course, they may not ask...). I'll be having a ponder and a wander around it myself.

I wouldn't mind feedback on the article either.

Cheers now

Wednesday 20 July 2011

It's not much of a debate, is it?

I've just been sent the order paper for Parliament today (Here's the whole order paper, if you're interested)

What caught my eye was the motion that is being 'debated' today, which I have reproduced below (click the image to enlarge).

It's not one anyone is likely to vote against, is it?

Which rather begs the question, what is the point?

If it's about spleen venting, there are other ways you know...

PS Of course, if you want to have a go at Piers Morgan, but don't fancy being sued, then Parliament is a pretty safe place to do it from...

If voting changed anything, they'd abolish it.

I've been thinking a lot about this sentiment over the last few days ( and I do mean the sentiment - not the Ken Livingstone book).

The saga of 'hackgate' sees the third and fourth of our great institutions fall under the microscope and to be found wanting. 'The world will never be the same again' seems to be the general sentiment. But is this true?

The banks, we were told, were in for wholesale and radical change with an end to the 'casino culture' that had pervaded them before. So the timing of the news, in this week of all weeks, that financial institutions in the City of London paid out £14 billion in bonuses last year is rather ironic. As is the news that many of them now lie exposed to horrendous risk should Greece et al default on their loans. Another bail out beckons. Plus ca change.

After the expenses scandal, we were told politics would never be the same again. Here the signs were more encouraging. A record number of MPs decided not to stand for re election, promising a change of guard at Westminster. And in the election, the people spoke too, refusing to give one party a clear majority, the wisdom of the masses asking us, the Lib Dems, to act as a brake on the worst excesses of ( as it emerged) a Conservative government.

But, despite out best efforts, has anything in politics fundamentally changed? The voting system for Westminster will not alter, and indeed a common question I get asked by friends outside the party is 'what were you thinking of, worrying about AV when the country was in economic meltdown'. I may not agree with them - but so many people say it that it's clearly a popular sentiment. Now we see the struggle with Lords Reform as well and I wonder - come 2015, will anything in politics really feel so fundamentally different.

Now we come to the press and the police. On the press, the outrage at the practices employed by the News of the World (outrage not particularly echoed in many of the tabloids) is being slowly replaced with mutterings about the dangers of over regulation of the press ( a real danger of course, but one that mustn't be allowed to mask the wild west lawlessness that has been going on for too long) and even a sentiment that actually, all this stuff in the press is really the fault of the public. Similarly, while we have seen two 'honourable' resignations at The Met, neither Stephenson nor Yates is acknowledging they did anything wrong and therefore I wonder if there is any real appetite for change.

I hope I'm wrong. Maybe the judicial inquiries will reveal all and we shall have a root and branch restructure of the press, press regulation, and even the police. But in truth, I'm not holding my breath.

Tuesday 19 July 2011

The Tory Statement on Neil Wallis//Andy Coulson in full

Conservative Party statement on Neil Wallis informally advising Andy Coulson before the election:

There have been some questions about whether the Conservative Party employed Neil Wallis. We have double checked our records and are able to confirm that neither Neil Wallis nor his company has ever been contracted by the Conservative Party, nor has the Conservative Party made payments to either of them.

It has been drawn to our attention that he may have provided Andy Coulson with some informal advice on a voluntary basis before the election. We are currently finding out the exact nature of any advice.
We can confirm that apart from Andy Coulson, neither David Cameron nor any senior member of the campaign team were aware of this until this week.

(ht @telegraph)

Twitter seems to think this has HUGE implications for the PM. I'm not so sure. We already know that the person he hired to lead his communications (Coulson) has been arrested. The fact that Coulson got advice from a former colleague who has now been arrested in the same investigation doesn't seem to make what was a TERRIBLE situation already any worse.

But still, maybe we'll have Prime Minister Clegg in Downing Street by the weekend.

Oh, go on then. Here's the comedy photo of Rupert Murdoch this afternoon. It doesn't involve a pie.

Yes. That is the bloke behind's shirt collar.

The man who did this is a fool

Perhaps the most important select committee hearings for 30 years. And what will we see most of. This video of an 80 year old man being attacked.

It takes a special kind of stupidity to get the world feeling sorry for Rupert Murdoch. But that idiot 'Jonnie Marbles' has managed it.


Just seen this spot on tweet from Tom Harris


(For latecomers to this post I put ituip partway through the session, before the pie flinging. And as someone has pointed out, you'll note the 'humble' soundbite was pre prepared).

Statement reads :

Mr. Chairman. Select Committee Members:

With your permission, I would like to read a short statement.

My son and I have come here with great respect for all of you, for Parliament and for the people of Britain whom you represent.

This is the most humble day of my career.

After all that has happened, I know we need to be here today.

Before going further, James and I would like to say how sorry we are for what has happened – especially with regard to listening to the voicemail of victims of crime.

My company has 52,000 employees. I have led it for 57 years and I have made my share of mistakes. I have lived in many countries, employed thousands of honest and hardworking journalists, owned nearly 200 newspapers and followed countless stories about people and families around the world.

At no time do I remember being as sickened as when I heard what the Dowler family had to endure – nor do I recall being as angry as when I was told that the News of the World could have compounded their distress. I want to thank the Dowlers for graciously giving me the opportunity to apologise in person.

I would like all the victims of phone hacking to know how completely and deeply sorry I am. Apologizing cannot take back what has happened. Still, I want them to know the depth of my regret for the horrible invasions into their lives.

I fully understand their ire. And I intend to work tirelessly to merit their forgiveness. I understand our responsibility to cooperate with today’s session as well as with future inquiries. We will respond to your questions to the best of our ability and follow up if we are not capable of answering anything today. Please remember that some facts and information are still being uncovered.

We now know that things went badly wrong at the News of the World. For a newspaper that held others to account, it failed when it came to itself.

The behavior that occurred went against everything that I stand for. It not only betrayed our readers and me, but also the many thousands of magnificent professionals in our other divisions around the world.

So, let me be clear in saying: invading people’s privacy by listening to their voicemail is wrong. Paying police officers for information is wrong.

They are inconsistent with our codes of conduct and neither has any place, in any part of the company I run.

But saying sorry is not enough. Things must be put right. No excuses. This is why News International is cooperating fully with the police whose job it is to see that justice is done. It is our duty not to prejudice the outcome of the legal process. I am sure the committee will understand this.

I wish we had managed to see and fully solve these problems earlier. When two men were sent to prison in 2007, I thought this matter had been settled. The police ended their investigations and I was told that News International conducted an internal review. I am confident that when James later rejoined News Corporation he thought the case was
closed too. These are subjects you will no doubt wish to explore today.

This country has given me, our companies and our employees many opportunities. I am grateful for them. I hope our contribution to Britain will one day also be recognised. Above all, I hope that, through the process that is beginning with your questions today, we will come to understand the wrongs of the past, prevent them from happening again and, in the years ahead, restore the nation’s trust in our company and in all British journalism.

I am committed to doing everything in my power to make this happen. Thank you. We are happy to answer your questions.


Thanks to Brand Republic who seemed to get it out first.

I've got a lot to thank Boris Johnson for

Yesterday saw record traffic on this blog - largely due this Video of a Boris Johnson car crash of an interview, but also with spoof Rupert Murdoch ads, Quentin Letts acting like a dinosaur, and my take on the Paul Stephenson resignation (gosh, doesn't that seem a long time ago already...)

In other news the site is now getting over 5000 page views a month, and thanks to the flag counter I know that over 1000 separate people have hit the site in the last 12 days (nb this is different from the traditional 'unique users' count).

So thanks everyone. The stats and the feedback make it all worthwhile!

Monday 18 July 2011

Video: Car crash interview - What happened when Boris first got reminded about his description of the phone hacking scandal as 'codswallop'...

I expect everyone has seen the video of Boris describing the phone hacking scandal as 'codswallop' (in case not, here's a link - the video sorts itself out after 10 seconds or so...).

But what I'd never seen was the film below of what I imagine was the first time he was reminded about what he'd said. It's the second question in. As a commentator on the video has posted on You Tube.. you can see the gears grinding together. Unfortunately, it seems he never gets out of first...

Hats off to the interviewer who doesn't let Boris off the hook.

What they say vs. 'What they mean'

In case you missed it someone has put together a deliciously mischievous, ahem, 'reinterpretation' of the Murdoch apology ad.

Here's the original (click on the picture to enlarge and read):

Here's the spoof (click on the picture to enlarge and read):


Can someone ask Quentin Letts or Max Hastings if they know what a loaf of bread costs?

For everyone who missed it, here's a link to the ridiculous piece Quentin Letts wrote in (of course) The Daily Mail last week, criticising Nick Clegg for doing the school run. I imagined the world would largely dismiss it as utter nonsense. More fool me. I caught 2 minutes of the Andrew Marr paper review yesterday, only to heat Max Hastings endorsing the piece. 'I want the PM and DPM running the country, not doing the school run' he intoned

Words fail me.

No doubt Quentin and Max are bemused in the first place that Nick's kids are home at all - they presumably think they should be ensconced in some boarding establishment (let's not forget David Cameron once described Samantha Cameron as having had a very ordinary upbringing, on the basis that she went to a day school...).

But putting aside the blatant sexism in Lett's piece, (if you can, it's not easy) then there's another whole set of reasons why I'm glad Nick does the school run.

We complain endlessly, and with good reason, that our politicians are out of touch with the real world. They they've no idea how hard it is to balance a household budget, keep family life on the straight and narrow, cope with the daily commute.

So when I hear Nick is doing the school run, I take some comfort in the fact that maybe he does experience a little of what us ordinary folk deal with every day. Similarly I saw Ed Davey on the commuter train from Surbiton into Waterloo a couple of weeks ago. No ministerial car from the front door for him.

We should be applauding our politicians for doing everyday things and making it easier for them to do so. Because then they'll appreciate better what real life is like for the rest of us.

And as a bonus. Isn't it lovely that Nick likes spending time with his kids

Stephensons' Resignation: the bar just got lower.

(Reproduced from my piece on Lib Dem Voice)

The resignation of Sir Paul Stephenson as commissioner of The Met is significant in a way beyond the obvious interpretation.

As someone tweeted earlier, from their resignation statements, one might surmise that everyone who has resigned so far has done absolutely nothing wrong. However, the difference in the Paul Stephenson case is that everybody seems to be falling over themselves to agree.

In the hour after his resignation I saw or heard statements from Boris Johnson, Kit Malthouse and Jenny Jones all lauding the honourable decision Sir Paul had made and in many ways lamenting his loss.

So, let's take it on face value that Sir Paul has indeed done nothing wrong - but that he has done what I have been calling for many others to do in recent weeks; that is accept with great power comes great responsibility, and that even if you are not to blame for things that go wrong, taking responsibility means resigning none the less.

Suddenly, the game has now changed. Up to now nearly everyone has tried to play the 'don't blame me, I knew nothing' card. Now that excuse won't wash, because a higher standard has been set.

Now News Corpororation Executives, police officers and politicians alike will have to do accept responsibility, and act accordingly - or stand accused of doing the dishonourable thing.

Statements like James Murdoch's acknowledgement, for example, that he authorised payments without being in full possession of the facts, make him look rather exposed.

And anyone - even up to the Prime Minister - who tries the 'I didn't know' or 'I was misled' lines must realise that from today, this will simply no longer do. From now on, even if you are not to blame, you're still responsible.

Sir Paul, with his resignation, has done his country one great service.The bar for getting the great and the good to resign just got lowered.

Saturday 16 July 2011

Venting your spleen doesn't always make you feel better

Today I bring you a doleful blog post.

As you may have noticed, I've had one or two things to say in recent days about News International, Rebekah Brooks, the Murdochs et al. And I meant all of it. And I've had some very complimentary feedback too.

But sadly, I've realised today that I have upset a friend whose partner works at News International.

They have been very nice. They've not complained, argued, tried to change my mind. They've just slipped off for a bit. But I'm sad about it none the less.

I guess it's a reminder that many good people, journalists and others, work at NI, most of whom have done nothing wrong - yet are suffering greatly for the ills of a few bad apples.

I love writing my blog and saying what I think. But I've just realised that the price of free speech is a little higher than I thought previously.

Friday 15 July 2011

Nick Clegg's letter to members who responded on the hacking question

Last week Nick Clegg invited members of the party to submit questions they would like the forthcoming hacking inquiry to cover. I submitted my concerns, and those expressed in the comments section of my blog post on the subject.

I've just had Nicks reply. It's pretty comprehensive!

Dear Richard,

Thank you very much for responding to my email last week, in which I asked people to contact me with their views and suggestions on the phone hacking scandal.

This is clearly an issue that so many people in our party – myself included – feel strongly about. I received over 1000 emails within just 24 hours of my request and I think this is testament to our party’s democratic culture and willingness to engage with the issues that really matter. As you know, events are moving very fast, but there are a few particular suggestions I received that I’d like to give you an update on:

Bringing those responsible to justice:

There have now been numerous charges laid down – illegal phone hacking, blagging, police officers bribed and police investigations hampered. The criminal proceedings are ongoing and the Government has been assured that the Independent Police Complaints Commission has the resources and powers necessary to properly deal with these allegations, no matter how senior or powerful the people in question.

Judicial inquiry:

Many of you called for a judge-led inquiry – and I agree, which is why I pushed for one last week. We must use this scandal as an opportunity to tackle the distorted relationships in British public life. There will be a two-stage, judge-led inquiry to look at the culture, ethics and practices of the British press as well as the role of the police and politicians. The inquiry will also examine the specific allegations concerning both the original police investigation and the actions of any individual editors or journalists as soon as criminal investigations are complete. All party leaders will meet to agree the details of those inquiries and in those discussions I will argue strongly for inquiries that are independent, open, able to access all information and call witnesses.

BSkyB deal:

Many of you called in to question the legitimacy of News Corp’s bid to take full ownership of BSkyB. As you know, this week Rupert Murdoch finally took the right decision and withdrew the bid. Liberal Democrats have for more than a decade expressed concern over Murdoch’s media ownership – often to much criticism from the establishment. Having called on Murdoch myself to reconsider just three days ago, I very much welcome this decision.

Replacing the Press Complaints Commission:

As you may recall, just last year at our Party Conference, Liberal Democrats approved a policy motion on cleaning up the PCC. We have now got consensus from all three parties on the inescapable need for an overhaul of the regulatory system. The PCC has failed: it is toothless, ineffective and run by the media industry itself. We need an independent body that is insulated from vested interests, free from Government interference and has real power, including the ability to fine editors or journalists that break the Code of Conduct.

Future reform:

Many people emailed in their thoughts on what a future British media industry should look like. In a speech yesterday, I set out the principles that I believe must guide future reform – freedom, accountability and plurality:

• First, it is vital that we maintain the freedom of the press. Liberty and democracy are founded on freedom of expression and it would be wrong to respond to this crisis by inhibiting a free and vigorous press. After all, while certain types of journalism have been exposed for what they really are, the last week has also been a triumph for proper, investigative reporting.

• Second, the media must be held to account. Over the last few years there have been huge improvements in the way many professional organisations and public bodies are held to account. The media, however, has not kept up and this needs to be addressed.

• Third, we must have a plural press that fosters healthy competition and diverse debate. As a liberal, I believe in diversity of ownership – just as too much power in the hands of central government damages individual freedom, so a media monopoly threatens press freedom. There are many questions about plurality – and crucially how we define plurality – that we must now ask.

This scandal has shone a light on the murky underworld of British public life – a world the Liberal Democrats have been battling for years. Labour and the Conservatives have both been keen to cosy up to News International – but Liberal Democrats alone have remained unwilling to bend to suit News International’s agenda. While the other parties waved through takeovers, attended weddings and employed News International journalists, we stuck to our principles, often to our cost. The result for us was years of being ignored by The Sun and the News of the World when in opposition, coupled with vicious attacks during the general election, when Liberal Democrats threatened to overturn the established red-blue-red-blue pattern, and so locking the Murdoch empire out of British politics.

But, whatever this politician did, or that party did, we now have a rare opportunity to work together in the national interest. More details of the scandal will no doubt continue to come to light in the coming weeks and months, but we must stay focussed on the task ahead. If we get this right while the demand for change is strong, we can rebuild the confidence in our major institutions that has been so badly knocked.

But what we really mustn’t forget is the devastating impact this scandal has had on the families of those involved. I met with the Dowler family a few days ago and I cannot begin to imagine the pain they must have gone through as a direct result of the News of the World’s actions. I truly believe we owe it to all the people so ruthlessly targeted by parts of the media, to ensure that this never, ever happens again.

Thank you once again for your suggestions – your input is extremely valuable.

All best wishes,

Nick Clegg MP
Leader of the Liberal Democrats

I asked Andrew Neil to take Diane Abbott to task on This Week about her offensive tweet. This is what happened next...

Regular readers of this blog will know I was fairly outraged by this tweet from Diane Abbott on Sunday.

And I blogged as such. What was she thinking?

Anyway, I received tweets from 2 of the people appearing on last nights 'This Week' (host Andrew Neil and guest Jon Snow), plus the producers - and sent them links to my blogpost asking them to raise it with Diane Abbott.

I didn't hear anything back: but then on the programme, (from around 3:55), Andrew said...

"and back, once again, by absolutely no public demand what-so-ever, except for the three people she has tweeting endlessly on her behalf, Diane Abbott."


1. Has my febrile imagination and burgeoning ego run away with me again, and Andrew Neil's reference was a co incidence (I know, by far the most likely option) or
2. Was Andrew gently letting Diane off the 'inappropriate tweet' hook, on the basis that she didn't write it.

Looking at her twitter feed I find it highly unlikely Diane Abbott has three people working for her on it. Which makes scenario one very likely correct. In which case I hope his reference made her feel very uncomfortable.

And if it's scenario 2 - it doesn't matter if she did it or someone else did it in her name. It's still tasteless. And she should really, really remove it...

(it's still there, 15th July, 15:50. I just checked).

So, Rebekah Brooks has finally resigned

(Published earlier on Lib Dem Voice)

Brooks resigning is obviously a good thing, and the right thing. Her position was untenable, and as I've blogged before - whether she knew what was going on in the newsroom when she was editor of the News of the World is irrelevant. She was in charge, and needed to take responsibility.

However, I can't help but worry that this is still all part of a bigger tactical game being played by News Corp. Wait til Friday to resign - fewer journalists working over the weekend, less time to make more of the story. Time it for the morning the BBC journalists are on strike, so the largest news organisation in the country can't really handle the story (Murdoch will do anything he can to stuff the BBC, won't he). Have the replacement CEO all lined up - this isn't a spontaneous act this morning, it's clearly been planned for a few days.

But most importantly - distract.

The media will spend all day chasing the 'Rebekah Brooks resigns' story.

Meanwhile the FBI investigating News Corp, links between a former NOTW employee and the commissioner of the Met Police, the news that John Charles de Meneze's relatives may have had their phones hacked - all get shunted down the pecking order.

I don't think it's a coincidence that Murdoch announced they were hiring a global PR company to handle the crisis yesterday either.

So I think its important that everyone keeps the pressure up. That politicians keep asking the questions, and bloggers keep posting things as they hear them.

And we talk about the things we think are important. Not the stories that News Corp or the Murdochs decide they'll let us have - to stop us talking about the rest of it.

Oh. This phone hacking business. Apparently it's my fault.

Needless to say the news that all the phone hacking business may well be down up me has come as something of a surprise. Fortunately, there's someone I can share the blame with. Apparently it's your fault too.

Have you noticed? There's a thread beginning to emerge in the media. I'm starting to see or hear it every day. Patience Wheatcroft referred to it again in last nights (generally excellent) Newsnight discussion (at 34 minutes in). It generally goes along the lines of ' well of course if only people weren't interest in salacious gossip, the papers wouldn't chase it, but that's what people want to read'.

So it's all down to you and me.

If we weren't desperate for celebrity gossip, the poor darlings in newsrooms up and down the country wouldn't, in an equally desperate attempt to keep a roof over their families heads, have been forced to hack celebrities phones.

And if they hadn't learnt how to listen in to celebrity voicemail, they wouldn't have known how to hack other people's. Like murder victims, families people killed in terrorist attrocities, or dead soldiers relatives.

They certainly wouldn't have ended up allegedly paying police officers for information.

Or persuading people to give them the medical information about the sick children of politicians.

No. They did it all for us. And this is how we repay them.

But you know the worst thing?

I've a horrible feeling some of them actually believe it.

Thursday 14 July 2011

Yep, it's Ed Miliband unfortunate photo time....

Whenever you're wondering what to blog, I find an unfortunate picture of Ed Miliband always solves the problem, and gives everyone a cheery fillup to boost.

Charlotte A Henry has found the picture of the day with this beauty.

But I also rather like this one. Not that funny in itself. Until you see the story it illustrated. Did they really need a News International backdrop...


Charlotte A Henry has announced she's no longer blogging at Virtually Naked from now on...and I'll miss it. It was a terrific blog and very well written. I hope she comes back to it soon.

Inside the newsroom at The Sun.

While I have been to the newsroom at The Sun, funnily enough to meet Andy Coulson (more of that anon), I've been wondering what it must be like to work at the coal face of a Murdoch tabloid. Fortunately some former reporters are giving the inside track and painting a very vivid picture of the pressure, the tension and the single-mindedness of News International..

Here are two of the better ones I've read, one negative (from The Telegraph) and one rather more positive (from The Huffington Post UK.) They are both fascinating reads. But why it's worth reading both is the striking similarities in what they say. The culture of The Sun is laid bare.

So what of my own small step behind the curtain? I met Andy Coulson when he was editing the Bizarre column in The Sun, so I guess that would be in the mid to late 1990's. I'd love to say this was because I'm so showbiz, but the truth is more mundane - one of my clients was considering sponsoring his column. In all honesty my memory of him was someone driven, busy, polite and business like. The newsroom was a large open plan office, full of people calmly and quietly getting on with stuff at their desks. No running around, no shouting, no tension. In fact, other than a huge Sun logo, it looked like every other office in the world. Bit of a damp squib really. And not at all what I'd expected.

But you can only say as you find.

Wednesday 13 July 2011

Has The Sun lost it's moral compass, or is someone standing next to it with a large magnet?

First off, in case you haven't seen an image of today's Sun front page, here's a link to an image of it. Don't worry, it's not a link to The Sun itself. Today of all days, I wouldn't want to give them the traffic.

No doubt the editor and the team responsible are patting themselves on the back about having proved Goirdon Brown 'wrong'. And I've read that at the time they ran the original story, it was described by people in the newsroom as a 'cracking exclusive' or words to that effect.

So, The Sun: let me make my position on this particular story clear - and remember I'm no fan of Gordon Brown.

It makes no odds to me that you obtained this story legally.

I don't care that you didn't hack or blag Gordon Brown and his family's medical records to get your information.

I think it's disgraceful that you exploited a little boys illness to sell more papers.

I don't think there is any justification of public interest in running this story.

And finally, you trying to take the moral high ground this morning makes you look totally ridiculous.

Tuesday 12 July 2011

Has Johann Hari been suspended? And if so, is this why?

Hmm. I've just received a Retweet from Evan Davis, saying:

"Breaking: Johann Hari suspended for 2 months pending internal Independent Investigation by ex-editor Andreas Whittam-Smith"

I have no evidence if this is true - I am sure we will find out either way momentarily. But meantime, for those who haven't been keeping up....

There have been numerous stories about Johann Hari in recent days continuing the 'plagiarism' allegations that have been levelled at him.

However a more interesting thread to this tale has been opened up about a 'friend' of Hari, one David Rose. This character has made a point of attacking Hari critics and promoting positive views of Hari all over the web, notably on Wikipedia.

The question is: who is David Rose?

This post on David Allen Green's personal blog Jack of Kent outlines the tale - while the comments section is a gold mine of comment and information.

If you have 10 minutes free and you like a good detective story, you'll love this.

Yates of the Yard would appear to have none of the detecting enthusiasm of the web.


Twitter is full of 'Hari suspended' tweets so I guess that part at least is true. Worth saying that I read all this and write Hari related blogs more in sorrow than in anger. Sad that someone who writes so well and so passionately has apparently lost his way so badly.

"Remember when"... that Yates of the Yard statement in July 2009 on Phone Tapping...

Yep, here it is in all its glory (thanks to The Guardian for the copy...)

After Yates' performance in front of the Select Committee today, it's worth another read of what he said back then - just to remind ourselves how convincing and (convinced ) he was that there was nothing to worry about....(I've added a comment of my own at the end...)


I have been asked by the Commissioner today to establish the facts around our inquiry into the alleged unlawful tapping of mobile phones by Clive Goodman and Glen Mulcaire. I was not involved in the original case and clearly come at this with an independent mind.

Just by way of background. In December 2005, the MPS received complaints that mobile phones had been illegally tapped. We identified that Goodman and Mulcaire were engaged in a sophisticated and wide ranging conspiracy to gather private and personal data, principally about high profile public figures. Clearly they benefited financially from these matters. Our inquiries found that these two men had the ability to illegally intercept mobile phone voice mails. This is commonly known as phone tapping.

Their potential targets may have run into hundreds of people, but our inquiries showed that they only used the tactic against a far smaller number of individuals. In January 2007, Goodman and Mulcaire were jailed for four and six months. They pleaded guilty to conspiring to unlawfully intercept communications. Mulcaire also pleaded guilty to an additional five charges relating to similar matters.

Sentencing the two men, Mr Justice Gross at the Old Bailey said the case was “not about press freedom, it was about a grave, inexcusable and illegal invasion of privacy.”

The police investigation was complex and was carried out in close liaison with the Crown Prosecution Service, Senior Counsel and the telephone companies concerned.

The technical challenges posed to the service providers to establish that there had in fact been interception were significant. It is important to recognise that our enquiries showed that in the vast majority of cases there was insufficient evidence to show that tapping had actually been achieved.

Where there was clear evidence that people had potentially been the subject of tapping, they were all contacted by the police. These people were made aware of the potential compromise to their phones and were offered preventative advice.

However, after extensive consultation with the CPS and Counsel, only a few were subsequently identified as witnesses in the proceedings that followed. I said earlier in this statement that these two men were engaged in a sophisticated and wide ranging conspiracy to gather personal data about high profile figures. One was a private detective and one was a journalist. It is reasonable therefore to expect them to be in possession of data about such matters as this is part and parcel of their job.

I emphasise that our enquiries were solely concerned with phone tapping. This, as far as we are aware, affected a much smaller pool of people. There has been a lot of media comment today about the then Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott. This investigation has not uncovered any evidence to suggest that John Prescott’s phone had been tapped.
This case has been subject of the most careful investigation by very experienced detectives. It has also been scrutinised in detail by both the CPS and leading Counsel. They have carefully examined all the evidence and prepared the indictments that they considered appropriate.

No additional evidence has come to light since this case has concluded. I therefore consider that no further investigation is required.

However, I recognise the very real concerns, expressed today by a number of people, who believe that their privacy may have been intruded upon. I therefore need to ensure that we have been diligent, reasonable and sensible, and taken all proper steps to ensure that where we have evidence that people have been the subject of any form of phone tapping, or that there is any
suspicion that they might have been, that they have been informed.

I think the most interesting part of the whole statement comes towards the end when he says 'no additional evidence has come to light since this case has concluded. I therefore consider that no further investigation is required'.

In my own naive way, i would have thought it very unlikely new evidence would come to light unless you did further investigation - surely that's the point of investigating per se - to find stuff.

Anyway, the whole thing does look a little naive itself now, doesn't it?

The day my father-in-law issued a writ against Rupert Murdoch

...and here's an image of the writ he served on one Keith Rupert Murdoch.

My father-in-law isn't a lawyer. He's a retired civil servant, who had an interest in Technology Consulting. And he felt he had a grievance over a paper he'd written. He couldn't get anyone at Sky to respond to his calls or letters. So he did what he always does when faced with a problem.

He bought a book.

In this case he went to a bookshop on Chancery Lane. I don't know which book he bought but I imagine it was called something like 'Writing and Serving a Writ, For Dummies'.

He then spent two days trolling round The Royal Courts of Justice, asking questions, paying court fees and getting endless stamps put on the form. And then he submitted it, with a second writ against Sky TV.

After doing this, everything got sorted out amicably very quickly indeed, with (as I believe it is always traditional to say at this juncture) no liability conceded on either side.

So when I now read that The Guardian taking on News Corp is like David taking on Goliath, I just laugh. No, my father in law taking on Murdoch and Sky TV, that's David vs. Goliath.

If only a few more politicians over recent years had shown similar levels of backbone.

My father-in-law; our hero.


The solicitor who responded to the writ was Anthony Julius, who of course later acted for Princess Diana in 'the divorce of the century'. After everything was resolved, he rather sweetly asked my father-in-law who had assisted him with writing the writ, as it was very well put together. I'm willing to bet he wasn't expecting to hear 'Oh I couldn't afford a lawyer so I did it all myself'..

For the record, my father in law says Anthony Julius is an extremely courteous man!

Monday 11 July 2011

I saw this on my twitter feed yesterday. My jaw dropped. Imagine if you were Milly Dowler's family - how would it make you feel?

I saw plenty of outrage on Twitter about it yesterday.

And then I just popped back to check Diane Abbott had deleted it, at the very least.

Gobsmackingly, it's still there.

She should be ashamed. Someone please tell her to take it down.

On hackgate, the Tories don't know whether to look left, right, or stare at the sky whistling.

One month ago I wrote a post on this blog speculating that within 2 years, David Cameron would be occupying the 'hate figure' position that all Prime Minister eventually fill.

Peter Oborne in the Telegraph suggests the fall out from the NOTW saga means that Cameron may well be at that tipping point already. Which would mean that while my general prediction was correct, the accuracy of my timing leaves something to be desired.

But are we actually at that tipping point yet? It seems the Tory party - and the right wing press - are unsure which way to jump.

Some, like Oborne, are convinced this is the moment when Cameron begins to occupy the hate mantle that eventually falls on all Prime Ministers:

"In the careers of all prime ministers there comes a turning point. He or she makes a fatal mistake from which there is no ultimate recovery. With Tony Blair it was the Iraq war and the failure to find weapons of mass destruction. With John Major it was Black Wednesday and sterling’s eviction from the Exchange Rate Mechanism. With Harold Wilson, the pound’s devaluation in 1967 wrecked his reputation."


"David Cameron, who has returned from Afghanistan as a profoundly damaged figure, now faces exactly such a crisis. The series of disgusting revelations concerning his friends and associates from Rupert Murdoch’s News International has permanently and irrevocably damaged his reputation."

Others, as colourfully if rather partisanly described by Iain Dale over the weekend, think the press will not go for Cameron over this - but attack Labour instead, with Tom Baldwin first in line:

"I have a sneaking feeling that the Mail on Sunday’s brilliant and tenacious political editor, Simon Walters, has an enormous bucket of shit on his desk and he is just about to pour it all over Tom Baldwin. But if you think Baldwin’s got problems what about his boss Ed Miliband who has rather unwisely attacked Cameron for his lack of judgement in infecting the heart of government with Andy Coulson’s presence."

Finally, there is a group who would seem to either jump both ways - or haven't decided which way to jump. Like Zac Goldsmith:

"Rupert Murdoch is clearly a very, very talented businessman. He's possibly even a genius, but his organization has grown too powerful and it has abused that power. It has systematically corrupted the police and, in my view, it has gelded this Parliament, to our shame,"

You'll note, he's saying Ruperts not the issue, it's the company (and parliament!) that's the problem. Talk about wanting your cake and eating it. Oh Zac, do grow a spine.

(Interest to declare: Zac's my constituency MP and I actively campaigned against him last year).

So: there's the conundrum for the right. Use this moment to ditch Cameron? Defend Cameron by attacking the opportunism ( and equal guilt by association with News International) of Labour. Or sit on the fence a while longer and see how the land lies when everything else calms down.

Meanwhile, there's a vacuum that currently Labour are filling with a clear narrative (get News Corp). I wish we in the Lib Dems would take the lead a little more.

Hopefully Nick is starting that process today


Interesting piece on The Spectator noting that The Telegraph and Mail have both had a go at cameron for looking at press regualtion.

And very good blog at Fleeting Fragments noting that this whole issue needs to be a lot wider than just the NOTW or even News international

Friday 8 July 2011

Murdoch may understand a lot about business but I'm not sure he knows a lot about brands...

I think - and I'm sure many people will agree with me - that the decision to close the News of the World is all about the money. 

But not the money most commentators are talking about.

Firstly, it's not about the BSkyB deal. As Robert Peston pointed out this morning, the Jeremy Hunt decision is about plurality of the media - did Murdoch own too much? And Hunt had already declared that he was happy in principle that Murdoch did not. Sure, closing the NOTW cements that decision - but this was a hurdle they had already jumped over, and Hunt could not reverse that. Here's the quote from the DCMS this morning about the delay in announcing a final decision, and it contains a reference to the plurality issue once again.

"The consultation on undertakings in lieu offered by News Corporation in relation to their proposed merger with BSkyB closes at midday today. The secretary of state has always been clear that he will take as long as is needed to reach a decision. The secretary of state will consider carefully all the responses submitted and take advice from Ofcom and the Office of Fair Trading before reaching his decision. Given the volume of responses, we anticipate that this will take some time. He will consider all relevant factors including whether the announcement regarding the News of the World's closure has any impact on the question of media plurality".

The 'fit and proper person' adjudication is not Jeremy Hunt's - that's down to OFCOM, and closing down the NOTW will not change that dynamic as the same people who ran, edited and owned the NOTW when much of the allegedly corrupt activity was going on are still in place. 

So if it's not the Sky deal, what other money is Murdoch protecting? Is it the advertising spend? Again, not really. I suspect the decision of almost every independent advertiser to pull out of this weekend's paper made a difference to the timing of the decision - but not the decision per se. Partly because a lot of that money will have stayed in the News International stable anyway. But also because if the rumours are true, Murdoch already had a plan in mind for that ad spend 2 weeks ago - and it didn't involve the NOTW...

No, I suspect Murdoch and News International had planned to move the Sun to a 7 day operation already. Indeed there are already rumours it was discussed by management a few weeks ago. It makes perfect sense as he would save a lot on operational costs, sharing both stories and resources over one paper instead of two. And that's still true. So he cuts out the 'cancer' from News International, and saves money into the bargain. It must have looked like a slam dunk. And I think that's the money that's behind yesterday's decision to shut the NOTW.

Except, that while that logic would have worked 2 weeks ago, it doesn't work now.

Because two weeks ago the Sunday 'slot' of a News International tabloid wasn't tainted by the current scandal. Indeed outside of us political obsessives and media land, (to quote Allison Pearson in the Telegraph)

"the public wasn’t too bothered by the idea that the NoW was hacking into celebrity mobiles to update us on Sienna Miller’s on-off relationship with Jude Law. Maybe we should have minded a little more, now that the can of worms turns out to be a nest of vipers."

But now that slot is firmly fixed in the minds of the public as where the people who hack the phone messages of murdered children ply their trade. And everyone is rightly disgusted by anyone or any organisation or brand associated with such a practice.

So far - remarkably - The Sun has escaped association with the values now hung round the neck of the News of the World, and all who sailed in her. But stick an edition of The Sun into the NOTW slot and I think you'll find that people draw a direct link between The Sun brand and what it used to call it's 'sister paper'. And immediately that attribution won't just apply to the Sun on Sunday - it will apply to the current Monday to Saturday paper too.

And I'm guessing the Murdoch's would see that as a bad thing.

So while closing the NOTW may have made great tactical business sense yesterday afternoon - the logic for closing it that applied two weeks ago has long slipped into, well, the gutter.....


Since penning most of this article, I see Robert Peston has blogged the same. Doh! Well, great minds and all that...

Lest we forget: David Yelland - 'Nick Clegg's rise could lock Murdoch and the media elite out of UK politics'

And so, maybe, perhaps, slowly, it has come to pass.

Amongst all the current hullabaloo, there is the odd mention of the fact that we have been studiously and continuously ignored by Murdoch at al since time itself began. So how brilliantly prescient this article from David Yelland, former editor of The Sun, published in April last year now looks. Do read the whole piece but here's a few great examples of what he said:

"I doubt if Rupert Murdoch watched the election debate last week. His focus is very firmly on the United States, especially his resurgent Wall Street Journal. But if he did, there would have been one man totally unknown to him. One man utterly beyond the tentacles of any of his family, his editors or his advisers. That man is Nick Clegg".

"Make no mistake, if the Liberal Democrats actually won the election – or held the balance of power – it would be the first time in decades that Murdoch was locked out of British politics. In so many ways, a vote for the Lib Dems is a vote against Murdoch and the media elite."

"At the Sun, we deliberately ignored the Lib Dems. The cosy pro-Cameron press may now be left floundering."

Great stuff.

So I am slightly bemused as to why we're not more on the front foot on this story. I suspect there is a touch of "there but for the grace of God" about the whole thing - would (indeed, did) Nick have turned down an invitation to The Murdoch party a few weeks back? But that's no reason not to be doing the right thing now. Ed Miliband at al went to that party - yet are happily ( and quite correctly) leading the line against Rebekah Brooks and the Murdochs. Shouldn't we be doing the same? And why isn't Vince out there more? If ever a man had the right to say "I told you so..."

We have hunted for our own tactical political narrative for so long. Now it's been handed to us on a plate. Let's not let Ed Miliband tell the story for us.


Completely forgot Olly Grender also linked to the Yelland piece in her article asking where all the Lib dem journo's are. Also great pieces on this topic at Virtually Naked and Lib Dem Voice

Thursday 7 July 2011

Today is the 7/7 anniversary, when I think about Laura Webb

Laura Webb was a colleague of mine who was killed in the Edgware Road bomb in July 2005.

Well I didn't know Laura especially well, in a small organisation of 500 or so people, you get to meet most people fairly regularly and I saw Laura most days.

She was bright, happy, optimistic and my abiding memory of her is someone who was always smiling. She had what everyone would call a sunny disposition, and the world is a sadder place without her.

So on days like today, I remember Laura Webb

BBC Obituary can be found here

For what it's worth, here's the full James Murdoch statement on closing the News of the World

News International today announces that this Sunday, 10 July 2011, will be the last issue of the News of the World.

Making the announcement to staff, James Murdoch, Deputy Chief Operating Officer, News Corporation, and Chairman, News International said:

“I have important things to say about the News of the World and the steps we are taking to address the very serious problems that have occurred.

It is only right that you as colleagues at News International are first to hear what I have to say and that you hear it directly from me. So thank you very much for coming here and listening.

You do not need to be told that The News of the World is 168 years old. That it is read by more people than any other English language newspaper. That it has enjoyed support from Britain’s largest advertisers. And that it has a proud history of fighting crime, exposing wrong-doing and regularly setting the news agenda for the nation.

When I tell people why I am proud to be part of News Corporation, I say that our commitment to journalism and a free press is one of the things that sets us apart. Your work is a credit to this.

The good things the News of the World does, however, have been sullied by behaviour that was wrong. Indeed, if recent allegations are true, it was inhuman and has no place in our Company.

The News of the World is in the business of holding others to account. But it failed when it came to itself.

In 2006, the police focused their investigations on two men. Both went to jail. But the News of the World and News International failed to get to the bottom of repeated wrongdoing that occurred without conscience or legitimate purpose.

Wrongdoers turned a good newsroom bad and this was not fully understood or adequately pursued.

As a result, the News of the World and News International wrongly maintained that these issues were confined to one reporter. We now have voluntarily given evidence to the police that I believe will prove that this was untrue and those who acted wrongly will have to face the consequences.

This was not the only fault.

The paper made statements to Parliament without being in the full possession of the facts. This was wrong.
The Company paid out-of-court settlements approved by me. I now know that I did not have
a complete picture when I did so. This was wrong and is a matter of serious regret.

Currently, there are two major and ongoing police investigations. We are cooperating fully
and actively with both. You know that it was News International who voluntarily brought
evidence that led to opening Operation Weeting and Operation Elveden. This full
cooperation will continue until the Police’s work is done.

We have also admitted liability in civil cases. Already, we have settled a number of
prominent cases and set up a Compensation Scheme, with cases to be adjudicated by
former High Court judge Sir Charles Gray. Apologising and making amends is the right
thing to do.

Inside the Company, we set up a Management and Standards Committee that is working
on these issues and that has hired Olswang to examine past failings and recommend
systems and practices that over time should become standards for the industry. We have
committed to publishing Olswang’s terms of reference and eventual recommendations in a
way that is open and transparent.
We have welcomed broad public inquiries into press standards and police practices and
will cooperate with them fully.

So, just as I acknowledge we have made mistakes, I hope you and everyone inside and
outside the Company will acknowledge that we are doing our utmost to fix them, atone for
them, and make sure they never happen again.

Having consulted senior colleagues, I have decided that we must take further decisive
action with respect to the paper.

This Sunday will be the last issue of the News of the World.

Colin Myler will edit the final edition of the paper.

In addition, I have decided that all of the News of the World’s revenue this weekend will go to good causes.

While we may never be able to make up for distress that has been caused, the right thing to do is for every penny of the circulation revenue we receive this weekend to go to organisations – many of whom are long-term friends and partners – that improve life in Britain and are devoted to treating others with dignity.

We will run no commercial advertisements this weekend. Any advertising space in this last edition will be donated to causes and charities that wish to expose their good works to our millions of readers.

These are strong measures. They are made humbly and out of respect. I am convinced they are the right thing to do.

Many of you, if not the vast majority of you, are either new to the Company or have had no connection to the News of the World during the years when egregious behaviour occurred.
I can understand how unfair these decisions may feel. Particularly, for colleagues who will
leave the Company. Of course, we will communicate next steps in detail and begin
appropriate consultations.

You may see these changes as a price loyal staff at the News of the World are paying for the transgressions of others. So please hear me when I say that your good work is a credit to journalism. I do not want the legitimacy of what you do to be compromised by acts of others. I want all journalism at News International to be beyond reproach. I insist that this organisation lives up to the standard of behaviour we expect of others. And, finally, I want you all to know that it is critical that the integrity of every journalist who has played fairly is restored.

Thank you for listening.”

Who knew the law?

Here's the video of Rebekah Brooks (then still Rebekah Wade I believe) and Andy Coulson before the Select Committee. It's a fascinating few moments, as it looks to me like Rebekah Brooks was less familiar with the legal position on paying policeman than Andy Coulson. How ironic then that so much of the media speculation just now seems to be around whether alleged illegal payments were made under the Coulson editorial regime, while there is no suggestion it occurred under the Brooks period that preceded it.

Anyway, given current developments, it's a fascinating look back at what was said...

Housing in London

Having blogged on Monday on the issue of housing and separately on why I was backing Mike Tuffrey to be our candidate for Mayor of London, in a two worlds collide parallel universe type event, Mike has written a piece for Lib Dem Voice today on why housing provision in London is such an important issue - and what he would do about it.

Do have a read. It's v. good. And it makes me think he reads my blog.

I thank you.

What should I ask Nick Clegg?

Nick Clegg has asked Lib Dem members to write to him outlining what they think the inquiries into the Phone Hacking affair should cover. I will be submitting some notes and I'm aware lots of non party members read this blog. So if you have strong views on any particular aspect of this affair drop me a line at rnmorrisuk@gmail.com or add notes to the comments section below. I'd welcome contributions.

One aspect that seems to be currently not getting enough attention is the potential for a perceived conflict of interest that the Met Police may have. There is now an allegation that News International were making payments to police officers, presumably in exchange for information. There is absolutely no suggestion, allegation or evidence, at least to my knowledge, that any of the Met Police Officers either currently or previously employed on these inquiries were in any way connected to these payments. Indeed, I don't believe it has even been suggested that these alleged payments were made to Met Police Officers at all - there are plenty of other police forces who could be involved. But I do worry that if the allegations of illegal payments are found to have any substance and Met Police Officers unconnected with the investigation were shown to be involved, then the credibility of any police work could be undermined by a perceived conflict of interest. And I think this has now become too important for any doubt to be left over the results of the current investigations.

Anyway, send me your thoughts. And if you have 5 minutes to spare, do have a read of this piece from Peter Oborne. Sycophantic praise for Paul Dacre aside, it's easily the most erudite and pointed analysis of what's wrong with the undue influence of NI in particular, and the press in general, on our political leaders.

Tuesday 5 July 2011

Sharon Shoesmith, Rebekah Brooks: both wanted the power, neither willing to take the responsibility.

Full marks to @Topoftheprops and Charlie Brooker for tweeting the above.

As I've blogged before - if you want the top job, the power (and the money), you have to be willing to take the responsibility.

Not the blame. The responsibility. The two things are different.

If Rebekah Brooks knew the alleged phone hacking was going on, that's different - she'd have to take the blame.

But accepting her statement at face value, that she didn't know what was going on, then she doesn't need to take the blame. (Although everyone should also read David Allen Green's withering line by line analysis of her words). But she still is responsible - and her actions need to reflect the onus of her responsibility, and she should resign.

The Press Complaints Commission: Clearly not fit for purpose.

I've linked here to the interview Peta Buscombe, Chair of the Press Complaints Commission, has just given on The Daily Politics.

Everyone should watch it, as it's one of the most extraordinary interviews I've ever seen.

Hats off to Andrew Neil for mercilessly pursuing Peta Buscombe into revealing that nothing that has emerged about this scandal has done so as a result of the PCC. She also admitted that she felt News International had misled her. It's a brilliant piece of questioning and truly illuminating about how little the PCC has been able to do to control, regulate or punish the press for it's phone hacking misdemeanours - of which the allegations about the Milly Dowling affair are truly the most horrendous yet, by an enormous distance.

Other than the appropriate investigations and punishments for those responsible for the alleged hacking, I hope that another repercussion of the revelations is a root and branch review of how the press are regulated.

I actually quite like Peta Buscombe, and she gave an excellent defence vs. Paxman and Prescott on Newsnight a couple of weeks ago. But today, her organisation has sadly been truly exposed as not fit for purpose.


I've embedded the interview on the link below but it's a BBC embed so will not work on all mobile Apple devices I'm afraid - will replace it when the interview makes it to You tube!

Monday 4 July 2011

Why I'm backing Mike Tuffrey to be our Mayoral candidate.

I will be voting for Mike Tuffrey to be our candidate in the forthcoming Mayoral elections.

I was all set to write a detailed and reasoned argument why I've come to that conclusion - and then Dave Hill in The Guardian essentially wrote everything I was going to say in one pithy and well written piece (albeit perhaps with some home truths we'd rather not read).. I urge you to go and read it yourself, but to pick out one key phrase:

I know the precise and experienced Tuffrey would hold his own in any platform dust-up with Boris and Ken

However, I do beg to differ with Dave on one key point. I will not be hoping Mike comes in 'as a good as possible third'. I will be fighting to help him win.

And Mike possesses two things that together give him a better chance than our other hopefuls.

Firstly, a long and faultless political record of fighting for Londoners.

And secondly, he doesn't have the 'celebrity' status of Ken or Boris.

It is obvious why the first is an advantage - but why the second? Because it gives Mike a narrative the others can't use. There's little point in trying to 'out-celebrity' Boris or Ken. But there's clearly a story in being the candidate who has shunned the limelight to concentrate on working for the people who elected you.

Over and above all this of course I have looked at Mike's policies and decided he's the candidate that best represents my views. But the chance to stand out from the crowd and say something different than our opponents is the icing on the cake

I know the 'let's try and win' strategy is not endorsed by all. But I still believe if you're going to enter a race you should do all you can to win that race. And Mike Tuffrey is the best candidate we have to maximise our vote.

Reagan '84 - 'It's morning in America again'. The greatest political ad ever made?

I thought the day the Reagan statue was unveiled would be an opportune moment to revisit what is generally agreed to be the most effective political TV commercial ever produced, 'It's morning in America again', which ran in the Reagan '84 re-election campaign.

A few thoughts about it. It's not aged well. It is (to coin a phrase) 'hideously white' - in fact its notable for the gobsmacking avoidance of any reference to any minority at all. It employs a bucketload of stereotypes - there's even a white picket fence.And a commercial that's ostensibly about economic recovery also contains a fair dollop of social engineering (for example getting married = success). So it's easy to mock.

Despite all this, let's not forget, as Shane Greer has pointed out at Total Politics, that:

"...when it came to his re-election, Reagan’s victory was all the more convincing (than in 1980): he secured 525 electoral college votes to Walter Mondale’s 13, carried 49 states and secured a popular vote majority of almost 17 million!"

And this commercial neatly encapsulates the message of that entire campaign, and indeed continues to be credited with playing a large part in Reagan's victory.

Interestingly, the tone and structure was copied by Hilary Clinton in her campaign to be the Democratic candidate in 2007 - the echoes are spooky - and deliberate.

I heard Reagan speak in Washington in 1987. I didn't actually agree with a lot of what he said that day - it was one of those tub thumpers on the steps of The Capitol aimed at an entirely American audience - but even so, and even though it was when his powers were waning, he still knew how to hold a huge audience in his hand. It was quite an experience.

So while many don't remember Reagan with any fondness - I have to admit, I can't help but admire his ability to unite a nation. And commercials like this one, love it or hate it, show us how he did it.


Charlotte at Virtually Naked has posted a copy of Hague's speech at the unveiling; something of a corker by all accounts..

Squatting, homelessness, empty homes and being slightly off the pace.

Having enjoyed an exchange between a Tory MP and an erudite, well informed squatter this morning on Breakfast TV (the squatter won, hands down), on the moves afoot to make squatting illegal, I thought I'd blog this morning about my views. Then I found that everyone has had their two pennyworth last week (do read the piece and the comments as the main article doesn't seem to represent many peoples views). So I thought I'd leave that on hold, and instead ponder where we were on our manifesto commitment to bring empty homes back into use.

We were the only one of the three major parties to have any commitment in their manifesto about empty homes, and this is what we said.

'The Liberal Democrats today set out plans to bring a quarter of a million empty homes back into use, making homes available for people who need them and creating 65,000 jobs.

There are over 760,000 empty properties across England which are no longer used as homes but can be brought back into use with some investment. People who own these homes will get a grant or a cheap loan to renovate them so they can be used: grants if the home is for social housing, loans for private use.

The plans form part of the economic stimulus package outlined as a core principle of the Liberal Democrat election manifesto. In the first year of the new Parliament, the party would redirect over £3.6bn of spending to create jobs and build up Britain’s infrastructure. In the following years this money will be redirected to other Lib Dem spending priorities and reducing the structural deficit.'

You can read here Alex Fosters excellent piece outlining why this policy is a win-win-win all round - benefiting the homeless, owners of empty properties, local authorities and the environment.

I think this is an excellent policy - and one largely being enacted, as Lib Dem Voice reported in January (although again it's interesting to see in the comments section that many fellow Lib Dems don't agree!).

But as usual - one that a quick Google search reveals we get little credit for as a party. There is an excelent summary of what Andrew Stunnell has been doing here.

But if, like me, your other half harangues you over breakfast at being part of a government attacking squatters rights rather than doing something about the homeless - at least you're better prepared to fight back if you read this blog...


Ironically, within seconds of posting this I got tweeted about a great piece on the same subject at LDV; it's very good...