Did yesterday change British politics?

 

Political commentators think something important happened yesterday when the slumbering press problems sprung to prominence.  Chris Bryant, who moved the special debate on the phone hacking affair, deliberately brought several newspapers into the frame in addition to  the News International stable. The TV and radio media stressed that they thought the whole question of the relationship between those in authority and the media is up for change. The Prime Minister and the Attorney General who spoke for the government in the debate talked of more than one enquiry, and seem to have in mind something very wide ranging.

We should expect the media to use this opportunity to get in some digs at their newspaper rivals. So far the spotlight has not fallen on the methods of tv and radio journalists. The newspapers themselves are locked in a brutal circulation war brought on by technology and the big increase in media outlets. Some of them will not be able to resist good copy if it emerges from this set of problems. The media loves talking about itself.

Politicians who realised that any complaints and action about media techniques of information gathering could look self serving if the issues were about celebrity privacy can now say the debate is about something much wider, with an impact on the victims of nasty crimes and tragedies. I suspect the significance of what happened yesterday is being overstated. It was interesting to hear how significant many politicians think a headline or story in a paper is. I have always thought the reality of what is happening and what is being done  was more important, and the way it impacts on people’s lives. For every unhelpful story about someone or something you can usually find a helpful one somewhere else.

I would be interested in your views on what has gone wrong and what should be done about it. I will not be able to post anything that might prejudice a trial of named individuals or institutions, as we are told there are important investigations underway into possible criminal activity. One of the issues that does need discussing is the way the media reports the interviewing of witnesses and possible suspects whilst an important criminal investigation is underway. People who are  not subsequently charged and are therefore innocent can have their name and reputation badly damaged if reports that they are suspects are clumsily handled.

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99 Comments

  1. Posted July 7, 2011 at 7:09 am | Permalink

    Twice in my life I have been the butt of press stories. In both cases, the story was seriously mishandled. In both cases, the red top press were seriously intrusive and left my wife near tears. In both cases, I hope I took it in a sporting way.

    Having said that, I wonder if the BBC isn’t just that little bit frightened by the Sky take-over? Is it really reporting in an unbiased way?

    The worrying thing is that, for many politicians (Look at Newsnight which has been taken over by Mr Prescott and that funny Liberal whose name I forget), the Press and the lobbyists seem to be the only way they have of communicating with the general public. That perhaps is why they live in a bubble. That perhaps is how they have been able so easily to derail the reforms which Mr Cameron seemed once to want and perhaps why Mr Blair did not dare deliver on his promises.

    They should get out more and start talking seriously with the people who elect them.

    • Posted July 7, 2011 at 3:02 pm | Permalink

      I have to admit I’m not so worried about people’s name and reputation (of course I might think differently if it were my name and reputation…..) I’d make two observations. First of all, suppose I was accused of some crime and the press were busy besmirching my reputation. The first thing my wife would do is take out a so-called super-injunction to prevent any press reporting of our son. Sally Clarke achieved something along similar lines. This would stop a lot of the sillyness since the press wouldn’t be able to hang around the house or reveal its location as the injunction would be designed to protect a child’s privacy. I guess not many people – other than the lawyers that footballers seem to employ – know about these injunctions and how they can be used properly. But, so far as I know, the scenario I have painted is exactly why we have them. Since the Dowler’s have another child, I think something similar could have been achieved had they been properly advised.

      Second, the Milly Dowler issue is not really about press intrusion as such but about telephone hacking – a practice which I believe is illegal in itself (would be worth knowing for sure) – and, moreover, the fact that, in this case, the hacker didn’t just listen to some message left by the mistress of some footballer, but he deleted some messages because Milly’s answerphone filled up and he wanted to see if more messages turned up. This led the police to believe that Milly might still be alive (they assumed it might be she who was deleting her own messages) and so diverted the course of the investigation.

      Other than these specific points I personally don’t really see why adults should expect a right to privacy. If something is true, I don’t see why the press can’t report it. Whether this trial should have gone ahead at all is a better question to ask: the defendant was already in prison and this extra conviction does not add to his sentence. Arguably the entire thing was a waste of money and simply gave the defendant a bit of publicity and an opportunity to hound the Dowler family during his defence (which he was entitled to do).

      IMVHO this debate is typical of politicians who forever seem to be focusing on precisely the wrong things, after the event.

      Not sure if that helps?

  2. Posted July 7, 2011 at 7:17 am | Permalink

    I have become aware over the years how much media coverage is based on Labour Party PR material. Labour realised that journalists are always desperate for copy, so they make sure that they are there to supply as much as possible.

    But when a journalist writes an article based on a Labour Party press release they are not a journalist, they are a propagandist. The BBC is the biggest propagandist in this case.

    • Posted July 7, 2011 at 5:50 pm | Permalink

      The BBC is the biggest propagandist in this case. Indeed they so often control the news agenda and frame all debates in the absurd BBC “think” manner day after day after day.

      I tend to think it is mainly the police who should be hanging their heads in shame. The Newspaper actions are illegal and in very poor judgement but have been exaggerated out of all proportion to their importance by the BBC.

  3. Posted July 7, 2011 at 7:26 am | Permalink

    Although there is an immediate sense of shock and disgust at just whom the latest victims were, the ‘revelation’ that there are few standards of decency in public life is not new and I suspect most people will have met it with a shrug of the shoulders and ‘what did you expect?’ Indeed it is one of the signs of this lack of a moral structure in society that we should accept it in this way rather than be shocked.

    As for what can be done. Temporary bandages can be applied in the sense of restructuring the oversight of the press – which will bring with it a terrible risk of loss of freedom of the press, and will also drag in its wake further ‘nationalisation’ of the moral sphere. Morality ceased to be a private matter as soon as governments started legislating on things like equality. There is no evidence that transferring responsibility for supervising morals to the police and social workers has actually improved morality. It will be the same situation with the press. If responsibility for ensuring journalists and editors behave well is passed to an external authority like the PCC, the journalists and editors will concentrate on seeing how close to the line they can walk rather than on their own internal sense of what is right and what is wrong. The situation will get worse, not better.

    So the long term solution is a social and moral renaissance. Not a return to Victorian values, since society has moved on from those, but a return to the Victorian sense of self-monitoring and self-belief. And how you do that is the big question. Most people would probably start with education and leadership.

  4. Posted July 7, 2011 at 7:40 am | Permalink

    The publicising of what the News of the World has done is enough to mean huge losses on shares and advertising for the Murdoch empire. That commercial pressure is far more effective than a fine and, maybe, jail time for some underling. Let the people affected sue N of the W and get a big payoff, good for them.
    Any action by politicians will be, as you suggest, aimed at protecting themselves under the guise of concern for “victims” and given the general level of morality in parliament MP’s should be careful of lobbing rocks in glasshouses. Besides most regulation is ineffective and counter productive.

  5. Posted July 7, 2011 at 8:01 am | Permalink

    I think much of the trouble lays with MPs confusing the interests of the news media with that of their constituents.
    Less time spent on the screen and airwaves, with more time devoted to doing the job they were elected to do, is the way to go.

  6. Posted July 7, 2011 at 8:05 am | Permalink

    It can hardly be a surprise to anyone that the papers pay the police for information and the police leak confidential information. Why did the police not take appropriate action against their officers over the many years this has continued. Why did the government not ensure that this happened when it was such common knowledge that it was a common event.

    You say “People who are not subsequently charged and are therefore innocent can have their name and reputation badly damaged”. Indeed I think of the appalling treatment of the ex teacher and landlord accused of the Joanna Yeates murder. Countless other innocents accused of murder and rape often with a deliberate and organised rubbishing of their character (words left out). Was cash handed over to the police for the information in (any of -ed)these cases I wonder …….?

    Clearly the criminal law and police disciplinary action should be sufficient to deal with this
    matter. If the police were to behave honestly and competently in this area.

    Cameron’s inquiry will, I suspect, be a mistake and a distraction from the many, far more important matters, that he is making a mess of. In particular his over taxing, over spending and over borrowing. And just to pointlessly tip down drains in Portugal, Ireland, Greece and perhaps Spain. For what – a pointless pat on the back from the EU perhaps. Majors ERM fiasco has clearly taught him nothing.

  7. Posted July 7, 2011 at 8:09 am | Permalink

    What has gone wrong ?

    Here we have a non-virtuous circle of newspapers allegedly breaking the law gathering information from private people, abetted by the police, and our prime minister has courted these newspapers and socializes with the director.

    Who provides the truth and justice ?

  8. Posted July 7, 2011 at 8:18 am | Permalink

    The brutal circulation war to which you refer indicates that any malfeasance is unlikely to be restricted to just one newspaper and any investigations should encompass the meejah as a whole. Alongside that the hopeless PCC needs replacement with something more powerful, independent, impartial and not comatose.

    With the serious allegations against the NOTW, its parent NI must surely be part of any investigations and it would be extremely unwise to grant clearance for it to take over BSkyB, a matter which should be deferred indefinitely, or as I would recommend (!), it should be not be granted at all. The present revelations show how insidiously powerful the Murdoch empire has become (more so than the one in Brussels?).

    This has a political dimension for sure but as you say it may not be so significant as is being made out by others. Nevertheless, any perceived attempt by the government to delay enquiries until the heat has gone out of the subject will surely not work – nor should it.

    What does seem of very great importance is the position in which the Police find themselves. With a reputation already badly compromised by past poor performance (remember that other Blair?), the suggestion that corruption does not just exist in the case of the occasional bent copper, but is widespread and at many levels within the organisation, could be catastrophic if true. The way this is investigated and dealt with may define how well or badly the present government is viewed by the electorate.

  9. Posted July 7, 2011 at 8:38 am | Permalink

    My guess is that (others-ed) do it, NOTW got caught. All the media, especially the unholy Guardian/BBC alliance see Murdoch as a threat, and do not miss a chance to badmouth his business, for any reason.

    I feel that the whole media environment is left wing, and there is no balance, we need a Fox News or somebody to have balanced news, and the BBC should lose it’s franchise, as it NEVER gives a balanced view on the BBC, Liebour party, Green issues, Israel etc.

  10. Posted July 7, 2011 at 8:45 am | Permalink

    The allegations of phone hacking, if true, are disgraceful. But the prominance given to this issue is absurd – most of the Today programme yesterday, top news item on all BBC radio and TV channels etc. Now there is going to be a public enquiry with all commmentators agreeing it should be under oath (btw, the Iraq war inquiry wasn’t under oath). It is difficult to avoid the conclusion that Rupert Murdoch’s commercial and political enemies, in particular in the Guardian and the BBC, also in the Labour Party, will seek to make maximum political capital out of this & stir up public ‘outrage’.

    It was good to hear Boris Johnson this morning pointing out the huge contribution which Rupert Murdoch has made to the British media, smashing the print unions in the 1980s (so guaranteeing the continuance of a free press), and pioneering satellite broadcasting, taking years of losses, so providing us with a real alternative to the state-dominated networks. He should be knighted.

  11. Posted July 7, 2011 at 8:47 am | Permalink

    I cannot see what profit there was in the NOW hacking into mobiles. In a few celebrity cases there may have been additional tittle tattle found that added to a developing story but in the case, say, of Milly Dowler I find it hard to think why they bothered.
    Yes it is sleazy behaviour but those who read such papers as the NOW apparently want a constant flow of drivel and this then drives the market forward to increasingly desperate measures to get ever more sensational “news”. It’s a bit like drugs, without demand there would be no market.
    I very much doubt that any enquiry will get to the bottom of this sorry tale and it seems the police are compromised too.
    As for Cameron, as I have very little faith in him anyway, I don’t really care about what damage it may cause him. If it ever results in our getting a real conservative leader it may be worth it in the long run.

  12. Posted July 7, 2011 at 8:57 am | Permalink

    I do not understand all the hoo-ha about phone hacking. Before mobiles one always assumed your phone could be listened to and accordingly always took care about what you said. What’s new ?

    • Posted July 7, 2011 at 2:28 pm | Permalink

      The government do this, and more including the ability to read every (unencrypted) email you send, via GCHQ in partnership with the USA. I forget what the programme is called, it has some sort of codename.

      Of course, government bureaucracy can be trusted never to make a mistake or abuse this information (plus they’re doing for our own good to protect us) so we put up with this intrusion into our privacy with no demur.

      These intrusive powers have been massively expanded since 9/11 but there is virtually no protest outside a few written off as tin-foil hatters.

      I wouldn’t be surprised if a member (or ex-member) of the government is reading this very paragraph!

      • Posted July 7, 2011 at 11:23 pm | Permalink

        Hope they have good spam filters 😉

  13. Posted July 7, 2011 at 9:11 am | Permalink

    I do not wish to to deny the awfulness of what has been done. We must however understand how terribly easy it is to break into someone’s voice mail on a mobile phone service.

    (DO NOT ATTEMPT THIS AS IT IS A CRIME -ED)

    1. You dial their #.
    2. You wait until it transfers to their voice-mail.
    3. You type in a 4 digit code. This code is often the default supplied by the mobile phone service company 0000 or 1234 or.. the first 4 digits of the user’s birthday.
    4. Many users never reset the default number. Even more rarely do they change it regularly.

    New mobile ‘phones must come with a health warning

    PLEASE CHANGE YOUR VOICE MAIL PIN # REGULARLY
    TO AVOID JOURNALISTS INVADING YOUR PRIVACY.

    Perhaps we should legislate for the service providers to give us much more secure systems.

    So I view all this hysteria as rather silly. Especially when done by senior cabinet ministers who should know better and should anyway be using government provided encryption services.

    If something is as easy as stealing candy then it will be stolen by journalists after a story.

    How secure is YOUR voice mail?

    • Posted July 7, 2011 at 2:22 pm | Permalink

      Mobiles could be shipped with an individual PIN #, as per credit cards etc. A small extra cost, I know, but.

    • Posted July 7, 2011 at 6:42 pm | Permalink

      Yes, it is very interesting to see which celebrities, politicans and senior Ministers didn’t change their PIN and compromised their (our?) security.

  14. Posted July 7, 2011 at 9:11 am | Permalink

    Mr.Redwood, You ask what has gone wrong. In the wider sense what has gone wrong and everyone seems to accept it as ‘that’s the way things are done’ is that yet another Prime Minister has allowed himself to become attached to a major publisher with all the encumbent risk that goes with it. We deplore Italy’s Berlesconi as a PM with media control and yet here its the other way round the media bod has too much influence on the politicians. Sorry to say it but what a good job was done by Chris Bryant MP in the House yesterday. As a cynic however I doubt whether much will change as a result.

  15. Posted July 7, 2011 at 9:17 am | Permalink

    The main thing which needs to change is rape cases.
    currently the accused can have their name splashed over the papers. while the accusor is anonymous.

    if it turns out the allegation was false, the accusor retains anonymity, despite having made a false accusation. this is wrong and destroys reputations and lives.

    would it not be better to hold rape cases in closed court to be disclosed once guilt, or lack of it, has been ascertained?

    • Posted July 7, 2011 at 11:51 pm | Permalink

      Unfortunately the publicity such a revelation may generate could bring to the attention of both prosecution and defence, information which would be helpful to either party in any subsequent trial. How often do we read of the “previous” at the end of a successful prosecution?

      There is no easy answer to this particular conundrum.

      I would suggest on the matter of press regulation/ intrusion that persons who wish to stand for office should be open and honest with us. If they had no skeletons in their cupboards there would be no revelations to be splashed over tabloid pages. Similarly the public should be less sensation seeking themselves. Just about everyone has sex. Many people have extra marital relationships. Few people refuse money in brown envelopes. Etc. So a politician may for instance persuade a partner to “take speeding points” for them Which bit of this is so bad? Is it the act (of which I know people who have done it)? Is it that they hector the rest of us? Is it that they get caught? Let him without sin cast the first stone….

      In Italy it looks like they discount shenanigans among senior politicians which would long have seen the resignation of such people here. Or would we have never heard of them because the other side was at it too – oh and the newspapers get some other quid pro quo for keeping quiet?

      Sunlight is the best disinfectant.

  16. Posted July 7, 2011 at 9:34 am | Permalink

    I think this may simply boil down to 1) the legal limitations and 2) the customers morals. I understand that the law on phone hacking was changed and we are yet to wait and see how this weeks copy of NOTW will suffer. It is currently the highest circulating Western newspaper. I suspect customers – salt of the earth gossiping classes – will desert them in droves out of protest. Over time they will return as they have always have. But I dont this the paper will ever regain its position good faith.

    So this simply comes down to where the line is drawn between freedom of speech and freedom of privacy. The more this goes on the more we need a public debate and Act on the subject to replace the Human rights Act – with a Freedom Act.

    What we need here is a clear headed social philospher not a politician, lawyer or journalist.

    For me the Human Rights Act should be cut across with the understanding that there is no such thing as a Universal Human Right – all Rights have a context. For example killing as self defence. These contexts need to be understood and mapped out as whole for each Right rather than decided piecemeal in the courts.

    In addition to that there needs to be a Freedom to speak ones mind – and if offence is taken and not given then that is the listeners problem.

    In addition there need to be a clear description of the public interest – it was clearly not in the public interest to listen to the Dowlers parents phone messages when the police were doing the same thing. However if there were questions of police incompetency then I think it should have been allowed. Clearly there are a lot of complex issues and patterns and principles need to be found underlying these.

  17. Posted July 7, 2011 at 9:56 am | Permalink

    I think the media’s biggest problem is its sense of absolute entitlement to anything it considers news. This applies equally to TV, radio and newspapers.

    You only have to look at the way the sick vultures of TV news flock to funerals to record the grief of the mourners and ask absurd and emotionally abusive questions to realise they are amongst the worst offenders.

    Then there are the photographers who are so desperate to catch young ladies in short skirts getting out of cars, because they know pictures of underwear will sell to the press for a lot more money than ordinary pictures. The fact that the young lady in question is at least semi-famous for something or other doesn’t make it right.

    But we can all give examples of this kind, I am sure. The point is that every media outlet seems to ask itself ‘Can we do this?’ with few if any asking themselves a question that is at least as important: ‘SHOULD we do this?’

    I have no sympathy for the cheats, liars and other reptiles turned up by the press, be they politicians, sports stars, actor/esses or whatever. Such people create their own problems and have only themselves to blame when they end up in the papers.

    There is certainly no need for any kind of privacy law. What there does seem to be a need for is a propriety law. It should be obvious that a famous actress sunbathing topless on a public beach is fair game for the media, whilst the same actress getting out of a car in a short skirt should not be a target for paparazzi flinging themselves to the ground in order to get a picture of her underwear. It should be obvious that mourners should be left to grieve in peace.

    And let’s not even start on the whole phone hacking scandal. I don’t care who someone is, for any press media to do that is so far beyond the pale it’s ridiculous. Even the secret services shouldn’t be able to do that without due cause and a proper warrant.

    (It should also be obvious that any judge who grants super-injunctions to famous people who have affairs should be sacked immediately.)

    The fact that none of these things appear to be even comprehensible to the media means something needs to be done. As too many of them seem to have no ethics, they clearly need an ethical code imposed upon them. They need to learn to consider ‘Should we?’ as well as ‘Can we?’ One way or the other.

  18. Posted July 7, 2011 at 10:03 am | Permalink

    I would like someone to ask a few questions and inform us, so that the issue can be properly debated. Rather than continue with this emotive, hysterical outpouring, which looks like a left-wing campaign to keep media power to themselves, by stopping Mr Murdoch taking over BSkyB.

    1. What exactly is phone hacking?
    2. For what purpose was phone hacking used with victims of crime or celebrities?
    3. What was the result of this hacking?
    4. Do all journalists use phone hacking, or is it just the News of the World?
    5. How do journalists of all kinds get their information? Do they ever make it up?
    6. Is phone hacking ever justifiable, and has it done some good?
    7. Do the Government and local councils use phone hacking or tapping? Wasn’t there something about Labour and the London train crash victims?
    8. What are the police supposed to have been paid money for by the News of the World?
    9. In the context of wikileaks, and Watergate, where does phone hacking to obtain information sit?
    10. How should information in the public interest by obtained when some have vested interests in keeping it quiet – and taking out super injunctions?

    • Posted July 7, 2011 at 11:48 am | Permalink

      Oh, and one more:-

      11. If there is to be a police enquiry, and maybe court case, should the state funded broadcaster be jeopardising a fair trial; especially as their terms of operating say they should be impartial !!

      • Posted July 7, 2011 at 1:22 pm | Permalink

        The state funded BBC does this all too frequently I would contend. Generally only when it conforms with their commercial interests or political objectives (of pro EU, pro Green and Pro ever larger state).

        Does the Guardian or the independent ever pay for information I wonder? I never hear much about it on the BBC?

      • Posted July 7, 2011 at 1:26 pm | Permalink

        “especially as their terms of operating say they should be impartial”

        Fat chance of that especially when the Guardianists of the BBC can attack Murdoch, that is too juicy a topic for them to take any consideration of impartiality. For the last 48 hours the BBC has been giving it round the clock coverage as such they have already tried my patience to breaking point so much so I am begging to feel sorry for News Imternational.

    • Posted July 7, 2011 at 6:48 pm | Permalink

      ‘Phone hacking’ is really intercepting peoples communications illegally. It’s criminalised by the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000.

      Only the Police and Security Services can tap people’s phones, and it has to be signed off by the Home Secretary.

      Local councils can use other forms of covert surveillance (recording footage of benefit claimants working for example) and can request your personal details from private companies or other government departments like the DVLA.

  19. Posted July 7, 2011 at 10:17 am | Permalink

    There is nothing surprising in these events. Only the defective technology that allows breaking of simple codes is new. Even school children were breaking answerphone codes.
    That journalists are at the low end of the integrity spectrum is commonly understood. Also, that they have long had cosy relationships with the police. As depicted on TV crime dramas and through personal experience, the police have information and so do the journalists and it is hardly unlikely that they get together and swap it. That payments were involved is also to be expected these days.
    I personally know of a case years ago when a woman, suffering from thyroid problems and wrongly prescribed tranquillizers, took a piece of cheese in her own basket instead of the supermarket basket and was taken to the police station to be prosecuted for shoplifting. She apparently told the police that she must have done it, and this statement, along with her name was published in the local rag shortly afterwards and before her trial. She was cautionedand in court and afterwards her lawyer tore a strip off the press for this contempt, but they got away with it. The information could only have come from the police. The prosecution and publicity caused great problems to her family, including loss of jobs.

    • Posted July 7, 2011 at 4:35 pm | Permalink

      As John Bucknall explains above this likely wasn’t hacking in the accepted techy sense at all, nor did it actually involve a phone. If this is the case they only needed the person’s mobile number but this only means they can access the voicemail messages, they can’t monitor phone conversations using the same technique.

      To minimize the chance of the same thing happening to you simply change the password to something other than the provided default on your voicemail.

      The media are exagerating their prowess, the technology wasn’t defective and codes weren’t “broken”, the user simply didn’t set a password on their voicemail or used a very simple passcode

  20. Posted July 7, 2011 at 10:18 am | Permalink

    What has gone wrong?

    Successive governments have resorted to an oversimplified micromanagement of detail and mindless micromanagement of behaviour. Thus laws and statutes are not thought through for their potential consequences and their enforcement is carried out as a box ticking excercise without regard for seriousness. Such an approach not ignores any sense of ‘natural justice’ (i.e. fairness) such that people increasingly ignore them, but it also encourages a lack of morality where any loophole becomes acceptable because moral values are not enforced.
    This is why you get a group of policemen turning up late at night to arrest a child for throwing an apple, politicians who claim they were honest because they ‘didn’t break the rules’ on expenses claims even though most people would judge their actions to have been thoroughly dishonest, and all sorts of other distortions and nonsenses. Phone hacking, connected to the friends network of the PM just sits alongside the issues of the PM’s family members who benefit from his imposition of wind energy subsidies. This is our example of morality as displayed by the country’s senior politician. (and to be fair handed Mrs Blairs’ use of her position was no better).

  21. Posted July 7, 2011 at 10:23 am | Permalink

    People using a public network – de facto talking in public – are overheard just as they are whilst talking in the street or on a bus. Oh dear. Big calamity becasue it was ‘ordinary’ people victims of unfortunate circumstances. What exactly was the harm to them?

    Meanwhile.

    The Government hoses away more taxpayer money to the EU, to the quangos, on itself, in ‘spreading democracy’ via foreign wars, in funding the military and nuclear weapons of China, India and Pakistan – and the space programmes of the first two, it fails to replace the NHS with a system that works, over taxation of individuals and corporations, squanders huge amounts on useless windmills, upholds destructive carbon emissions legislation, Euro-zone in meltdown…

    It is easy to know where to start with this list, but not so easy to know where to end.

    What then is the burning issue to the oligarchy and the Commentariat?

    Phone hacking by a newspaper known for doing this.

    Lies to Parliament, enquiries – how about enquiries into the lies told regarding the EEC, EC, EU would-be United States of Europe, about the euro, bail outs, vast amounts unaccounted for in Brussels, climate change?

    It is called distraction technique and a god-send for a bunch of incompetents interested only in their reputation, power and getting their noses in the taxpayer funded trough.

    What should be hacked is a few heads… off.

    • Posted July 7, 2011 at 2:19 pm | Permalink

      Good comment, just one minor thing, it is not the “would be united states of EUrope” it will be the ” EU of the Regions”, Great Britain and England will disappear.

  22. Posted July 7, 2011 at 10:24 am | Permalink

    The Press must be left free to be irresponsible, but free within the law.
    In my experience of the business world, fraud and/or corruption are most likely to flourish most where there has been a lack of scrutiny for some reason, such as at Lloyd’s of London (avoiding foreign exchange restrictions), Maxwell Communications (overbearing entrepreneur) or allegedly at Polly Peck (outlaw Northern Cyprus).
    In Parliament, expenses corruption flourished for so long because political reporters turned a blind eye in order to keep in with their contacts.
    The popular press has escaped proper scrutiny because politicians have been desperate to court the support of proprietors and (rightly) scared that they will be ruthlessly attacked if they raise their heads above the parapet.
    As a result, the profitable parts of the press have become arrogant and think they can do what they like and get whatever they want. They still do. News Corp, though admirable in some ways, is the worst in this respect because it wields the most power. That is why Mr Murdoch has also uncompetitively published The Times for the past 30 years at a consistent and often heavy loss.
    Unaccountable power needs to be challenged constantly, whether in The Press, trade unions, monopolies or The European Commission. The Press will end up smaller but healthier.

  23. Posted July 7, 2011 at 10:35 am | Permalink

    The hacking of voice mail & recording of mobile phone calls has been going on since, at least, the late 80’s – do people still remember Price Charles’ phone calls to Camilla? According to the newspapers themselves it has always been done by ‘rogue reporters’, of which they seem to have a never ending supply.

    Rebekah Brooks has worked for News International at their gutter press for a long time – since the late 80’s, in fact. She and the Prime Minister are apparently good friends.

    And there we have what has gone wrong – politicians have gone from courting the press to having (them-ed) and their family round for dinner every other Wednesday. Perhaps if they were less close, we could have a media ombudsman as feared by the press as the financial services ombudsman is by the banks and insurers.

    Simon.

  24. Posted July 7, 2011 at 10:41 am | Permalink

    Yes John, many politicians and media people are jumping on the bandwagon. Are the public as angry as the media would have us all believe or is it just the shouty media trying to dictate what people should think? I don’t know.

    There has been some speculation on the twenty-four hour news channels as to what any inquiry should look at; some have suggested the relationship between the police and journalists, some have suggested the relationship between the rich and journalists however, I feel there is one area where any inquiry should look at namely, the relationship between government and the media.
    When a PM or other high ranking minister goes on the road, the political journalists tend to travel with them on the plane or train or battle bus; I wonder if this arrangement is a little too cosy. I understand that in the past, some political journalists were expelled from the official transportation for being a little robust in their questioning and reporting of the then PM and his policies. I fear that being so close to the high ranking politicians and depending on their benevolence for access to them, may well compromise the journalist’s ability to be objective in his or her reporting, after all, an editor would want his political reporters to be in the centre of the action and therefore, may be a little too kind in his handling of the editorial content.

    John perhaps you know the answer to the following;
    When political journalists travel on say the PM’s plane with him to foreign meetings and visits, do the media organisations pay for their place on that plane or do they travel for free with the PM?

    • Posted July 8, 2011 at 11:05 am | Permalink

      I asked;-

      “”John perhaps you know the answer to the following;
      When political journalists travel on say the PM’s plane with him to foreign meetings and visits, do the media organisations pay for their place on that plane or do they travel for free with the PM?””

      As John appears unable to answer, does anyone else know the answer to this question?….I have asked it off a couple of Sky News journalists in the past but none were prepared to answer.

      Is it only me that feels a tad uncomfortable about how close the press and both the current and the previous government became and the almost symbiotic relationship they enjoyed?

      Reply: It is a good question. I assume the press pay but it would be nice to know.

  25. Posted July 7, 2011 at 10:44 am | Permalink

    A while back JR, you commented that our elected government delegates everything to expert groups and quangos. It is as if it is frightened to make a decision on anything. Frightened of how it will play in the media, because the media is king. Yesterday just demonstrated how pathetic our supreme combined legislating and executive body has become.

    These expert groups and quangos are now so confident of there supremacy, that they are the first to jump in front of a TV camera after an “event”. The politicians have to check their expense forms and unpaid parking tickets before they dare comment.

    Alas today we have to have some sympathy for Mr Justice McCombe. He has caused our legislature to projectile vomit even more legislation to unwind a dodgy bit in the PACE Act. Legislation passed now that will retrospectively come into force 25 years ago; is this a record?

  26. Posted July 7, 2011 at 10:45 am | Permalink

    “…how significant many politicians think a headline or story in a paper is. I have always thought the reality of what is happening and what is being done …” JR 2011

    “If I had to say which was telling the truth about society, a speech by a Minister of Housing or the actual buildings put up in his time, I should believe the buildings.” K Clark 1969 ‘Civilisation’

    —–

    “the way the media reports the interviewing of witnesses and possible suspects whilst an important criminal investigation is underway”. If ( – how big is this if?) the authorities are actually doing their job, there should be no public interest argument for this reporting, it is unhelpful to the process.

  27. Posted July 7, 2011 at 10:53 am | Permalink

    I think the whole affair is being grossly exaggerated; this is not listening to phone conversations but to voice mail. Anyone could dial our home phone number and access our “answerphone” because I haven’t password protected it, so it would at least in part be my own fault. People should realise that messages of this nature and also using e-mails, are similar to sending a postcard – the postman probably won’t read it, but he could if he wanted to! However I do find it strange that no-one has complained about e-mail being hacked as my e-mails contain far more detail than my voice-mail and would be of far more interest!

    What I do find of great concern is Peter Oborne’s piece in yesterday’s Daily Telegraph, which, if the facts about the “Chipping Norton set” are correct, questions David Cameron’s judgement in his choice of close friends, and thus even his suitability as Prime Minister. His choice of Andy Coulson as his (ex-) director of communications is, I believe, symptomatic of his poor judgement, as he must be the only person in the country who believed that Coulson (would cause no more concerns-ed). (words left out)Thus I am not surprised that Cameron is opposed to a Judicial enquiry with evidence being given under oath.

    • Posted July 7, 2011 at 2:57 pm | Permalink

      The PM is up against a nasty lot of people in the media, out to destroy his administration. He must have weighed it all up and decided Coulson was the best man for the job – poacher turned gamekeeper is still a good means of defence.

    • Posted July 7, 2011 at 4:00 pm | Permalink

      Absolutely agree. “Is this another Profumo moment?”

    • Posted July 7, 2011 at 5:48 pm | Permalink

      As soon as I read the Oborne piece I wondered whom the author knew, or had met, in his professional and private life. Guilt by association used to be regarded as a dubious form of conviction, and not one favoured by prigs.

  28. Posted July 7, 2011 at 11:18 am | Permalink

    Its a very interesting problem, I think back to the mp’s expenses scandal where the investigative nature of the print media was being praised for saving politics and acting in the national interest. Hacking the victims of is crime unacceptable, but if by hacking a perpetrator a crime were exposed would that be acceptable? If so what is the central issue,the act of phone hacking or our presupposed moral code towards the behaviour of the press. I worry about the unintended consequences of any legislation rushed through on the wake of this public tide of outrage, as much as I hate the NOTW.

  29. Posted July 7, 2011 at 11:36 am | Permalink

    Spot on! The main background noise was the sound of politicians using the Dowler tragedy to avenge themselves against the Murdoch press, score points off the PM for appointing someone who at least resigned, and conflating two issues – the acquisition of BSkyB by NewsCorp with activities at a subsid in a different sector.

    The media is obsessed with itself and politicians with headlines. This explains much that has gone wrong in recent years – policy by press release, lightweight PR people being given “strategy” roles and the resulting reluctance from politicians to tell us the unpalatable truth about public finances. (Do we really need a series of enquiries – usually a bunfight for consultants and public sector types? Also people outside Westminster don’t care about nailing Coulson – a man who resigned twice. What a great distraction from governance of the nation.

    Yesterday on TIP I was listening wrapt to a story of how the fire service managed to spend 469 million on a national service to join up our fire services nationally – a glorified series of call centres that does not work at all. Why? (Most interesting was to hear increasingly increduluous Margaret Hodge the Committee Chair who doubtless as a Labour minister wasted billions in her own right.) The jobsworth civil servant’s attitude seemed to be “stuff happens.”

    To use a PM type soundbite “I was truly sickened and appalled…”

  30. Posted July 7, 2011 at 11:37 am | Permalink

    Maybe slightly on the periphery of the subject. But customer/user security and privacy is at the very bottom of the priority list of the big IT and telecoms suppliers. So it will be exploited whatever the regulations and occasional exposes. I predict it will get much worse with IT style software being forced into the mobile phone market.

  31. Posted July 7, 2011 at 11:55 am | Permalink

    Whilst it is right that there should be a judicial inquiry into the hacking of telephones with evidence being given under oath. Why oh why, wasn’t this done with the Chilcott inquiry where 100’s of thousands lost their lives based on a war that was justified by repeated lies. We all now know that the weapons of mass destruction were a falsehood that was used to justify an unlawful war. When are these people being brought before the international courts for war crimes?? Double standards once again I think.

    • Posted July 7, 2011 at 4:09 pm | Permalink

      Surely a police investigation and trials over the hacking ?

      Good point though.

      • Posted July 22, 2011 at 3:37 pm | Permalink

        I love reading these articles because they’re short but infomratvie.

    • Posted July 7, 2011 at 10:49 pm | Permalink

      Was WMD a falsehood? They wanted Iraqi oil and gas back on tap, so they could ither lift the sanctions and trade with Saddam or remove him. If they had done the former his track record suggested he might invest in WMD to threaten his neighbours. I doubt very much the Sauds, Israelis or Ayatollahs would have liked the idea of a rich and powerful Saddam.

  32. Posted July 7, 2011 at 12:00 pm | Permalink

    I think there should be strong consideration of a truth and reconciliation commission, giving amnesty to all those involved in exchange for truthful testimony. If genuinely thousands of people by many journalists in several institutions have been hacked, police have been paid for information and many other allegations are correct, then our society would be better off getting the best possible information about how to move forward and improve the press, police et alia rather than compensation transfer payments destroying press organisations and loads of imprisonments. JohnZ

  33. Posted July 7, 2011 at 12:22 pm | Permalink

    Yes, I think Cameron is finished.

    • Posted July 7, 2011 at 2:39 pm | Permalink

      What was the Speaker’s intention in suspending the serious business of Parliament for this bogus “emergency” debate to be held? As if there weren’t enough real emergencies staring us all in the face.

  34. Posted July 7, 2011 at 12:42 pm | Permalink

    It’s gotta be parliament wot wins it.

    Put plod’s feet in the fire, remembering it was the Labour party that put them in harm’s way. But Dave’s up to his neck too because he sold his soul and the Conservative party to the Sun god, or his rep on earth, Andy.

    And don’t let the Beeboids off the hook either. The DG admits today that left-wing bias in that institution has been just as insidious as anything in Muckydochs’ empire.

  35. Posted July 7, 2011 at 12:46 pm | Permalink

    Notwithstanding the sordid nature of this hacking it says something about the way the ‘real’ use of parliamentary time is used.

    Everything in the country is falling around our ears – billions shipped overseas – without adequate debate or consideration. Web host apart politicians are the lowest of the low and only suitable for having an input into to sophiticated gossip.

    Saw (lady whose expenses were queried-ed) Jacqui Smith last night on Sky News critising the abuse of trust – what an absolute cheek that woman has!!

  36. Posted July 7, 2011 at 12:48 pm | Permalink

    “Did yesterday change British politics?” I wouldn’t have thought so but could be wrong. Chris Bryant, why does that name ring a bell?

    Rather more important in politics and economics was the day before yesterday and the IMF increased subscription. Thank you for your intelligent contribution to the discussion. Have just read Hansard and pretty worrying reading it makes. One thing that remains unclear to me is what % interest do we get from our investment in the IMF?

  37. Posted July 7, 2011 at 1:07 pm | Permalink

    People seem to like the phrase “A race to the bottom”. Nowhere does this apply more than in the media, particularly the broadcast and cinematic media which have more compelling power over people’s minds than the printed word or photograph.

    The most sickening thing about the witch hunt against Rupert Murdoch which has been going on for much of my life is the way it is conducted by the black pots of the so-called Quality Press and their friends in broadcasting.

    But they are all in it together, trying to rival global waves of gossip, pornography, and violence. Good taste and morality were sacrificed to the bottom line long ago. There are still little pockets of civilization – Jenny Abramsky did a splendid job of upholding standards on Radio 4, and the back end of the Spectator is still quite civilized.

    For the public to be made to feel that they should be in a different league when it comes to gossip and bad taste, let alone the methods used to disseminate them, seems strange to me. If it is alright for the Royal family to be bugged and splashed across the media then why not their subjects too?

    “First they came for the Prince of Wales …and then they came for me…” is the only lesson to be drawn from all of this. As long as people buy gossip, pornography, and violence, it will be supplied to them.

    I do however think the public service broadcaster should have kept itself in a different league, of decency and uplifting enlightenment and education, and above all truth, but it has failed us – disgustingly and disgracefully. I cannot stomach its holier than thou attitude to Mr Murdoch..

  38. Posted July 7, 2011 at 1:13 pm | Permalink

    As a defence tactic, if thats what the blog is, it stinks. There is no getting away from – “the News International stable”. Forget arguments about due-process, David Cameron has his reputation hanging by a thread, due to his closeness to several people in News International. He should have called for Rebeka Brooks to resign – she should. That he didn’t – crazy, he’s in denial. They may be his friends but they are dirt in the eyes of most people in the UK. Any sort of pretending to be fair, and saying that the BSkyB takeover not be judged of phone hacking, is simply, chronically, misreading the thoughts of people in the UK.

    Whatever, David Cameron is already seriously damaged, he’ s in a hole and should try to get out of it (if he can), and not dig himself in further.

    Reply: My blog is not a defence tactic – it is an invitation to hear views on what has happened.

  39. Posted July 7, 2011 at 1:20 pm | Permalink

    As usual the response of politicians (on all sides) is to wave their arms in disgust and propose new laws.

    The only argument for Parliament or the government to be involved in this at all will arise if, and only if, (i) police investigations and CPS ruminations conclude that laws were not broken and (ii) the facts disclosed provide a rational argument for the current law to be amended so as to render illegal certain specific activities that are currently lawful but should not be.

    One was hoping the coalition government’s knees would jerk somewhat less than those of the string of hapless Home Secretaries inflicted on us by Messrs Blair and Brown. Oh well, you can’t stop a fat man dreaming.

  40. Posted July 7, 2011 at 1:25 pm | Permalink

    Two things matter here. Firstly the relationship between the press and government. It’s probably fair to say that politicians have been pretty craven before the press, at least since the Sun claimed – inaccurately – to have decided the result of the 1992 general election. John Major spent much of his time in office blown this way and that by the media, and his successors – in the absence of a strategy for government – decided that the way to neutralise the press was to live extremely closely with it. This futhered the ‘Murdoch myth’ and looks to have led to an unhealthy culture of invincibility at News International.

    I’d argue that politicians and governments with a sense of principle and strategic direction have far less to fear from the media than those who merely have a PR strategy. I’d also argue that if British politicians – in government and out – were to be seen holding real responsibility for important decisions rather than impotent implementers of decisions taken elsewhere, they would command more respect with the press and public. Triviality breeds triviality.

    The second important point is the alleged improper relationship between the press and the police. Clearly, if the stories of recent days are true, this needs sorting, but it comes back to point 1… it’s a responsibility for parliament to properly scrutinise that relationship and not be cowed by a print media which is not nearly as powerful as it presents itself to be. Labour may be indulging in sour grapes after being jilted by NI in 2010, but they are onto something here, and it is to be hoped that parliament as a whole treats the issue seriously.

  41. Posted July 7, 2011 at 1:45 pm | Permalink

    I trust that Mr Hunt, and above all the PM, will not mistake the internet pressure group 38% for public opinion. It has been surprisingly slow to jump on this particular bandwagon, but is making up for lost time. It is nothing more than a front for the Labour Party, and whatever its supporters may tell it are their own preferred issues – such as the EU or Immigration – it will always calculate the order of its campaigns according to how much defeat or embarrassment it can inflict on the government.

  42. Posted July 7, 2011 at 1:51 pm | Permalink

    What I find so laughable in all of this are the ideas that: (1) the tabloid press have ever shown to have any humanity – whether to celebs or to victims of crime. The classic example is of greiving families being doorstepped to be asked “how do you feel” following a murder – it is a short leap of imagination from doing that to hacking voicemails – they are not called the gutter press for nothing; (2) that it is so shocking that politicians court this press – of course they do – millions read them; or (3) that the “general public” or more to the point, the huge readerships of these rags are somehow innocent, when frankly, all the tabloids are doing is working hard to fulfil a demand for this sort of tawdry material. It’s not unlike people complaining about Tescos killing off small shops etc, then the moment one opens nearby, shopping there.

    On the other hand, policemen tipping off the press has been going on forever and it is about time this petty corruption is stamped on.

  43. Posted July 7, 2011 at 2:06 pm | Permalink

    I am more concerned at the reports that policemen are helping this to happen, it is surely illegal to pass on information from police sources. It calls for serious sentences on anyone found guilty of such crimes.

  44. Posted July 7, 2011 at 2:50 pm | Permalink

    Did yesterday change Britsh politics ?

    No !

    It just showed how low, how influential, and how powerful the press have become over the years. So powerful in fact, that they have now become the victims of their own methods, of so called investigative journalism, and in general terms lost the plot.

    The press have however changed the way British politicians have presented their case to the population over the past 15 years.
    Ever since the Labour Party realised how important it was to use the press to their advantage, and developed political spin to an art form, (for their own political advantage) we seem to have developed lazy journalists, who are happy to be spoon fed informaton without any proper forensic analysis of the facts.

    It now seems normal for Governments past and present to sex up documents/policies for public consumption, aided by a grabbing headline o soundbite, in order to show them in best light, meanwhile the truth is either buried in the small print, or not exposed at all (just look at Budget statements made by Brown over the years)

    The real problem we have is that journalists and the press (and TV and Radio) do not simply report the facts anymore, they try to manipulate them, and in doing so they are deliberately misleading their readers/listeners/viewers.

    We have got to the present situation, simply because the media have been trying to out do each other with sensationalist news stories, in a circulation battle for ever increasing effot to retain its circulation/readership numbers, and in doing so it has bent the rules so far, that commonsense and decent behaviour has has been forgotten.

    Sadly recent events just shows how far we have sunk into the gutter, I predict worse is to come.

    • Posted July 7, 2011 at 9:11 pm | Permalink

      Good news is that we have this forum.

  45. Posted July 7, 2011 at 3:10 pm | Permalink

    I suspect more than a little of the coverage (the first half of the BBC 10 oclock news and all of Newsnight yesterday) is related to the fact that Murvoch wamts to be allowed to but the rest of Sky which would make it a genuine competitor to the BBC’s semi-monopoly.

    Some years ago I put in a complaint to the PCC that a Guardian article had published “text of an email that came my way from ……….: The message was sent from ……. electronic address …….September 14, 1995, at 10.11am. ”

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2000/mar/15/pressandpublishing.tvnews

    they refused to even look at it.

  46. Posted July 7, 2011 at 3:50 pm | Permalink

    Newspapers have forfeited their right to zero VAT.

    Slap 20% on newspapers. The economy needs the revenue.

    While we’re at it, sell the BBC. Royal Mail does a service while the BBC does a disservice yet it is Royal Mail earmearked for sale (to foreigners no doubt).

  47. Posted July 7, 2011 at 4:02 pm | Permalink

    What went wrong ? A PI and some hacks broke the law.

    What should be done ? They should be prosecuted under present law.

    That’s all. The markets will do the rest.

    The way the PM is going on about it you wouldn’t think that there’s an unfolding disaster going on in Libya or that a soldier was abducted and killed in Afghanistan. There are far worse things he should be getting angry about on his people’s behalf, though rather strangely he doesn’t.

    It’s quite clear that our politicians don’t like democracy. It’s quite clear that they don’t like a free press and will use this as an excuse to attack other papers – some of which were the only effective opposition against the Labour Government and certainly a darn sight better than the Tory party. I forsee a tightening down on press activity – this is because it’s the last bastion against our leftist ruling class.

    • Posted July 7, 2011 at 6:16 pm | Permalink

      Yes, an unholy alliance between MPs itching to get back at the press, and broadcasters wanting to see off the competition, both parties colluding in manufacturing news of “An Emergency”. And let us not forget the vital part played by the high-minded and disinterested Speaker.

  48. Posted July 7, 2011 at 4:33 pm | Permalink

    There is a James Bond film (Tomorrow Never Dies) about Carver Media that is interesting viewing.

    • Posted July 7, 2011 at 11:12 pm | Permalink

      I thought it was one of the worst Bond movies ever, only pipped by the one with the invisible Aston Martin where Mr Brosnan surfs the tidal wave on a sheet of fibreglass.

  49. Posted July 7, 2011 at 4:34 pm | Permalink

    “The most sickening thing about the witch hunt against Rupert Murdoch ”

    The News International (plus friends) tactic may be to spread the blame around and claim ‘everyone was at it’. Thats not a defence that will wash with anybody with a brain.

    News International, and in particular Rebeka Brooks need to accept responsibility.
    She should certainly resign. These events were going on her watch, if she didn’t know – she should have.

    David Cameron should have called for her resignation: despite the fact she is a friend. His decision to hire Andy Coulson was proven to be seriously flawed. At best, it makes his judgement look poor. The man is in a proverbial hole. And not calling for her to resign, makes it look like he lacks the cojones to do so.

    He’s put personal frienship ahead of what he should have done. In the circumstances, disgraceful.

    • Posted July 8, 2011 at 11:56 am | Permalink

      How do you feel when you are watching Channel 4 News proudly displaying their “secretly filmed” reports – for example on this very subject? The elephant in the room, to use another of their favourite cliches, is the over-weening power of the broadcasters. These people are unelected, unrepresentative, uanaccountable, often hereditary, in for life, and hugely powerful. They use underhand and dishonest methods themselves, MPs are terrified of them and dare not bring them to book, and the public lap it all up. In this instance they set out to manoeuvre the authorities into making a very specific arrest, both for their own party’s political advantage, and in their own business interest. In order to procure this arrest, normal public life has been suspended.

      An interesting remark was made by Danny Finkelstein this am on the Today Programme. “Who’s next?” Is it too much to hope that one day the broadcasters will be called to account for their abuse of power and privilege?

  50. Posted July 7, 2011 at 4:45 pm | Permalink

    We all know that the British Press has a poor reputation throughout the world. I have often read many condemnatory comments in the US press about incorrect reporting and indeed making up of quotes. This is particularly apparent in the scientific world. The criticism relates to our broadsheets and not just the tabloid press.

    I, like many others, know that the sources of (some-ed) stories are obtained illegally. I have been amused at the tenacity of two of your colleagues and one noble lord who have done their utmost to keep the press in the public eye. It has been utterly boring. They must be feeling wonderful as the latest revelations which include the Dowler family has ensured they have enjoyed recent events and have created a stupid media frenzy which many of us are not interested in. As to be expected, the opposition have had a field day although I think they need to be careful as they too have sucked up to the powerful Murdoch media machine. I do not read national newspapers any longer and have never read the tabloids as I am uninterested in celebrity gossip. I find the newspapers out of date and rely on the internet and radio for the news.

    What is to be done? It seems clear that the law has been broken and this will be dealt with. We have lots of rumour circulating but as yet no criminal charges and all individuals are innocent until found guilty by a court of law. It does seem clear to me that the PCC is useless and always has been. We removed the police from investigating themselves yet we permit Editor’s to rule on their professions conduct. I personally feel that the press need to be reigned in and subject to the law. This may rid us of poor journalists, fabricated stories and journalists who stretch the truth to the limits. I can recall during the Chilcott enquiry reading stories in many newspapers (on line) which were quite horrific and did not reflect the testimony that I heard. The newspapers got away with it. It is impossible for me as a citizen to complain about their reporting too unless I have personally been affected. Their lies effect many people who do not have the funds to instigate legal proceedings. We were all made aware of this in a recent television documentary series. In all the law protects the press under the illusion that by having an unregulated press we somehow are more democratic. The concept of an unregulated and a free press have become confused….

    I also feel that the Press Briefings at Downing Street should be televised and that no other briefings should take place. I tire of political journalists saying that senior figures have advised them etc etc. It is all rather cosy between politicians and the press and not a situation I find healthy. It gives the press the inflated notion that they are very important and that they can influence the public. The ego’s of some political journalists knows no bounds.

    Similarly, all police forces should have daily press briefings and no police officer should be permitted to have contact with crime reporters. All police forces have press officers and only they should be permitted to brief the press. Investigating officers should always have press officers in attendance and all briefings should be taped. Everything should be in the public domain regarding contact with the press and that is the only way we will have a press that is responsible and acts in the best interests of the country.

  51. Posted July 7, 2011 at 5:05 pm | Permalink

    What has gone wrong is that newspapers have (apparently-ed) bribed police officers for confidential information, including telephone numbers. The papers have them used this information to hack into peoples private phone messages. When this was discovered and brought to the attention of the police by MP’s and others they failed to investigate throughly and routinely withheld evidence from parliament. This strikes at the very heart of our democracy.

    The individuals harmed can off course seek redress through the courts against the newspaper proprietors. The criminal acts of bribery and corruption must be investigated , those responsible charged and tried without fear or favour.

    Parliament must defend our democracy and ensure that checks and balances are in place to stop this bribery and corruption within certain parts of the media and police. If the public inquiries are to be effective they must have all party support.

  52. Posted July 7, 2011 at 5:12 pm | Permalink

    This is an internal issue for the media/political elite, and of trivial concern to the general public. The elite live in a middle-class metropolitan bubble in London’s fashionable districts. They are so withdrawn from everyday life they believe what interests them is of concern to those of us struggling to keep afloat in the economic mess, suffering from poor services, mass immigration and taxed to the hilt. So much of news output is manipulated these days its hardly worth reading or watching. Virtually every story originates from a Govt sponsored press release. Papers like the Guardian contain a very small proportion of reporting, it is mostly comment or comment based reporting.

    As for the legal issues, if there is a case to answer, prosecutions should follow. One of the reasons hacks will abuse their position is the cost and time involved in pursuing legal redress. This is a systematic failure of the legal and justice system. Every facet of life is constantly targeted for ‘reform’, bar one; our legal system. It needs to be overhauled, made quicker and more efficient. All politicians do is strengthen its hold on our lives, adding more layers and laws.

  53. Posted July 7, 2011 at 5:29 pm | Permalink

    The purpose of hacking phones and paying Police for leaks was to publish exclusive and lurid information. The details of this scam has been leaked by a Police investigation to journalists seeking to publish exclusive and lurid information. How can they claim moral superiority when they are playing the same game?

  54. Posted July 7, 2011 at 6:28 pm | Permalink

    The non-Murdoch press is in a feeding frenzy, overcome with bloodlust and righteous indignation, the BBC that has shown two programmes ‘explaining’ how WTC7 was not obviously demolished but collapsed due to ‘fires’; the BBC that failed to report the secret Labour Party policy of (high migration to) this country from the third world even after it had been reported elsewhere.

    Hacking into the phones of the families of dead soldiers is bad, but the lies that lost their lives were far worse. The media are far more guilty of crimes of omission than of commission. Most of the last ten years could not have happened without the complicit silence of the media: politicians have got away (so far) with (extremes-ed) as a consequence.

    The MSM has comprehensively failed and politicians pretend the blogosphere does not exist, containing as it does comprehensive exposures of their treachery. The MSM has failed not through overstepping the mark but by comprehensively understepping it. It does not serve the public interest and does not deserve to be VAT zero-rated..

  55. Posted July 7, 2011 at 6:34 pm | Permalink

    A lot of hysteria, (and old scores being settled) more attention has been given to this story than to life and death issues. The story is being used by some to cynically hammer News International.

    Had the Sun and NOW being backing Labour still, then Mr Ed and his front bench would be more mooted.

    Sad about the phone hackings into those unfortunate families.

  56. Posted July 7, 2011 at 6:42 pm | Permalink

    if those that want to muzzle the press,think that the NOTW being closed is a victory,they must think again. There will now be spawned journalists like FRED ON EVERYTHING from the usa,who lives in mexico and whose columns expose with no fear or favour and all it’s targets in the usa can do NOTHING ,remember that all the cowboys of old escaped OVER THE BORDER.He gets DONATIONS from grateful readers and acts as a seed bed of ideas and opinions to people in the usa,where thank god there is freedom of speech.I invite all commenters on here to google and read his columns,I got my first link to this site from a friend working in the police service,who all copy and pass on his stuff regularly,despite the attempts to muzzle us all here by the Left wing establishment.the term I think of to use with the establishment is AS YE SOW SO SHALL YE REAP.I predict that the next election results here will shock everyone because the blogosphere is changing everything and people are fed up.The establishment is just too STUPID to realise,we shall see the rise of some people like Gert Weelders in politics,and old buggers like me who are prepared to be Martyrs for free speech.You deny us a decent pension while sending Billions overseas in aid to buy Museveni a Gulfstream G5,and in the past NKRUMA a solid gold four poster bed
    and much else to big to mention

  57. Posted July 7, 2011 at 6:47 pm | Permalink

    A disgusting stupid massive media and public over reaction like the Beko fridge/freezer recall that is not a recall as they are to be repaired on site. I ask you how many people have been killed by a fridge? The customers took the risk by only spending two hundred quid. Would have been cheaper to send out a smoke detector (words left out-ed). Most of them are 5-11 years old anyway. White goods manufactures must wonder why they bother, and if this elf and safety madness goes on they will stop selling their goods in this country. Car manufactures are about at this point saying they will concentrate on china and India which is less regulative and has more customers who are less fussy about safety and other nonsense like expensive reliability.

  58. Posted July 7, 2011 at 7:30 pm | Permalink

    I agree with many of the comments posted so far in that I grow increasingly concerned about the wall to wall hysterical, & in many ways gloating, coverage by the BBC regarding this story. I wonder why!!
    I am also extremely irritatedannoyed by the blatant “holier than thou” rants by many ex & current Labour MP`s who are using the guise of moral outrage about 77 victims, dead soldiers, murder victims etc to progress a political agenda to block the BSkyB deal & damage the PM.
    I also had the misfortune to see Jackie Smith on Sky News “Press Preview” last night, being a complete hypocrite, & I am absolutely appalled at the number of programmes both John Prescott (Rent a Rant) & Alistair Campbell (the real DPM to Blair) are being invited onto to pass judgement.
    These people were all part of a government which for years before & during their time in power, were hand in glove with News Int. so therefore it begs the question why did they not pursue this issue with much more vigour at the time, whilst also allowing a slipshod investigation by the police (Blair appointed by Blair!!!).
    Bring on the Public Inquiry

    • Posted July 7, 2011 at 8:35 pm | Permalink

      At least Campbell tried all day to bring some sanity to bear on the frenzy.

  59. Posted July 7, 2011 at 7:59 pm | Permalink

    A more authoritative view than mine giving a fuller explanation.

    http://www.pcpro.co.uk/realworld/368506/why-the-mobile-networks-are-to-blame-for-phone-hacking

    I trust this will not incite anyone to commit a crime!

  60. Posted July 7, 2011 at 9:54 pm | Permalink

    The internet is ripping up the old fabric and disinfecting the room. The internet has introduced crushing competition and the establishment cannot fight it. Every person is now a potential reporter and we are all witnesses.

    The next pillars to fall will be the sham democracy and the dishonest money system. Murdoch and the rest can put any number of new papers in place on sundays , or any other day, and they will still battle in vain against the New Media.

    Not even Gutenberg spawned this power. For the first time in human history, control of the message has been lost. The implications are staggering. I suggest govts will try and shut it down or censor it.

  61. Posted July 7, 2011 at 10:24 pm | Permalink

    Bazman peed of by elfinsyfty? Is this a satirical post or has he realised how much cobblers is around, caused by the basic catch everything laws and ambulance chasing parasitic monopolistic moneygrubbing lawyers.

  62. Posted July 7, 2011 at 11:31 pm | Permalink

    Can someone help me out please, I am confused. I thought all this took place whilst NI was supporting the last government and that the Police enquiries took place under a labour administration. Am I wrong?

    • Posted July 8, 2011 at 7:27 pm | Permalink

      I’m confused too. Why is Aljazeera reporting a police raid on the Star, while the wall to wall coverage by our own dear broadcasters hasn’t included this interesting detail? Could it be because the Star is a Labour supporting paper? Or is it just thought by the people running this media war to be in better taste than the News of the World?

  63. Posted July 8, 2011 at 7:50 am | Permalink

    A free press often said to be a cornerstone of a democracy and the fourth estate. Not just for the sake of it, but because it would allow the public and electorate to hear the truth about what is happening in their country. It allows opinions to be spread, with greater weight given to those the public may deem more expert on each issue. Debate and conflicting opinions would assist the public to assess an issue and develop their own opinions. The end result being a better informed public and electorate which should lead to better government, both through the ballot box and because the government know it will be judged on how things are and not on how it would wish to represent them to be.

    However, the media is a business driven to improve revenue and reduce costs. Costs can be managed down, in a number of ways. Employing a smaller number of journalists with limited specialisation rather a larger number each expert in their own area (and perhaps commanding higher salaries as a result). Reducing the time spent and research effort behind stories. Cheque book journalism and hiring PI to hack phones, requires little expertise and I am sure is cost effective, as is simply making up stories and quotes.

    If you have personal knowledge of an event or expertise in an area typically you will realize the appalling ignorance behind a media story on the same.

    Profits are driven by reader/viewer numbers. Titillating and exciting stories and those with human drama (the story of the victim or survivor) can tempt the public more than those more informative or expert stories.

    The press uses the importance of its freedom as a shield, easily fending off any criticism as an attack of that freedom. Till now there seems to be little in the way of criticism of journalistic standards of one journalist by another and so little sign of the media policing itself. Attacks on the views of other journalists can even assist those attacked by publicizing their views and their name and should not be confused with the (largely absent) criticism of how they go about their craft. This has helped develop a lack of accountability. The police are wary of getting involved in cases where they can be cast by the media as acting against freedom and democracy. Taking payments from the media for information must also cloud their impartiality to put it mildly.

    These pressures have directed the development of the media over the years. With the current phone hacking scandal is the just tip of the lowering of standards. At the same time the media have grown ever more influential with media management a growing priority for government.

    This matters because the media is a power component of how this country is run. The result of this is that too much of the information the public is provided with is trivial, false or simply uninformed and the result of ignorance. Information requiring some depth of knowledge is being driven out or marginalized as a result.

    Free speech should give democracies a strong advantage over more authoritarian rivials, but its misuse greatly reduces this advantage.

  64. Posted July 8, 2011 at 7:50 am | Permalink

    I hesitate to suggest a solution, but my first thought is establishing a body dedicated to investigating the media, that can demand knowledge of how information was obtained. Its principal stick would be the right to demand space in the same media to publish its results. It could also audit the amount of factual content and make the media publish its ratings (e.g. ‘this publication contains 11% accurate, serious news…’, like with cigarette packets). Perhaps the good use of free expression can drive out some bad.

  65. Posted July 8, 2011 at 10:19 am | Permalink

    Was Boris correct to get rid of Sir Ian Blair? Based on this little saga yes, because all the new information that is coming out is not new. It is held by the Met, and who is leaking this information? Are (there more police personnel-ed) taking more money?

  66. Posted July 9, 2011 at 12:42 pm | Permalink

    When Mrs Thatcher needed someone to take her fully occupied mind off the hostile media forces out to bring down her government, the civil service threw up a pro who had done the same job for Barbara Castle. Tough and effective, he quickly became a hate figure in his own right, and the media fought him, every day, day after day. She just got on with the complex business of government. As she said, if you read a hostile report about yourself, you may think you can rise above it, but it spoils the rest of the day. When one looks back at what was written and said about her, and still is, that was an understatement. But it was a wise one. She concentrated on what mattered, and Ingham drew the fire, filleting and feeding the serious coverage through to her when it was helpful.

    Could the politicised civil service Brown has left us with throw up such a strong figure of integrity today, to serve first a socialist cabinet minister and then a conservative prime minister with equal professionalism? And have things been better since subsequent PMs fell into dwelling on the problem of media barons and broadcasters, and trying to square them themselves?

    It seemed that this PM, having long studied the difficulty of achieving anything in the face of overwhelmingly hostile media forces, wished to revert to Mrs T’s method of delegating this trivial yet lethal part of political life to someone really competent to manage it. But where was he to find an old-fashioned civil servant who had been to a good grammar school in Yorkshire, and really knew the trade?

    The most important thing was that he, and for that matter the Chancellor, should be able to get on with the serious business of governing, while someone else dealt with the reptiles. No-one, however hostile, has suggested that Coulson was no good at that job. And for that very reason, as with Ingham, the man himself became a target, a proxy for getting at the PM himself.

    Add to this political hostility, the huge commercial interest the BBC has in retaining its privileged monopoly, and the week’s crazy events make sense. The phrases “Tory Press” and “Gutter Press” trip off everyone’s tongue. So does “The Murdoch Empire”. But why is there no equivalent for the Guardian and the left wing broadcasters who succeeded in shutting down the news this week?

    • Posted July 9, 2011 at 4:53 pm | Permalink

      The media war which shut down the UK’s public life this week was partly prosecuted from the USA, where hostility to Mr Murdoch for providing an increasingly popular alternative to the former left wing monopoly of the airwaves has not been taken lying down. On both sides of the Atlantic, left wing chatterers who mingle expensively with each other – at our expense in the case of the BBC – still want to control people’s minds, and believe that is done chiefly through broadcasting. The diverse press is only relevant in as much as it influences opinion formers on the air. So attacking a handful of newspapers belonging to one family as the monstrously all powerful brainwashing machine is ridiculous, and becomes ever more so as influence passes to the blogs and internet pressure groups. The News of the World was neither here nor there; that is why it is no more. It was the broadcasting bid the left were terrified of, for both ideological and commercial reasons. so it was all out war. The News of the World and its editors were just pawns. And no-one here is even reporting that the Star has been raided by the police. That the PM could be dragged down right at the beginning of this media war instead of at the end was just a bonus.

  67. Posted July 9, 2011 at 12:47 pm | Permalink

    If “the whole question of the relationship between those in authority and the media is up for change”, then, leaving aside the legal perspective, hopefully now is the time to change the emphasis by which Parliament and political parties communicate with the electorate.

    It seems to me daft that the only way this can be done is via the editorial control of the media. Thus politicians have to cosy up to the media to be allowed to get their message across, and to accept that what is communicated is under the editorial control of the media channel. And politicians have to develop techniques so as to get across the message they want to communicate irrespective of the editorial priorities. Of course the media need politicians for much of their copy and programme content, and so there becomes a love/hate relationship where both sides need each other but want to be in control.

    Of course an independent media is a vital part of a modern democracy, but where the media is dominating communications the balance is too far in that direction.

    So I propose that politicians give themselves their own broadcast media channel. With the arrival of digital broadcasting there is no shortage of channels, so giving up one to politicians is no hardship. Programmes would be available to government, opposition, and all other political parties who obtained enough votes at a general election to pass a “credibility threshold”. The purpose of the programmes would be to provide information to the electorate. The electorate can then get an un-edited version on topics of interest, as well as all the media criticisms they choose to sample.

    I appreciate that we already have election broadcasts, and full-time election broadcasts on a politician dedicated channel is likely to be a big turn off. But more fool the politicians if they choose to exploit their editorial control in such as way as to discourage an audience.

    The state would provide funding for making programmes, and this form of political party funding in kind is likely to be far more acceptable to tax payers than handing over cash.

    • Posted July 9, 2011 at 3:54 pm | Permalink

      If the “free” political newspapers which come through one’s door from the council are anything to go by, then this apparently good idea still needs thinking about. Who would pay for the free political broadcasting? The council charges its modest little newsletters up to its permanent residents, and they feel some annoyance at having to pay for what they see as propaganda on the part of the local tax and spenders. A full blown national broadcasting operation to rival the partisan coverage of the bloated BBC might raise a few eyebrows. But in principle I think you are on to something.

  68. Posted July 23, 2011 at 4:37 pm | Permalink

    I really don’t know what the current fuss is all about.

    Before Police Radio traffic was encrypted that was widely listened into by those with scanners and even obsolete pocket radios easily obtainable at radio rallies for a fiver. Were it not for the Wireless Telegraphy Acts that prohibit me telling you that was not the half of what could be listened to. All radio traffic is vulnerable.

    If I understand the so called phone hacking correctly it has only occurred because the injured persons have failed to take the basic precaution of changing the default pin number in their mobile phones?

    There are other issues but I suspect a bit of the Jo Moore effect and I guess if no one has tried to hack your phone then you are just not that important?

    Reply People should obey the law. The fact that you can buy a knife which could injure someone does not mean you should try using it like that.

  • About John Redwood


    John Redwood won a free place at Kent College, Canterbury, and graduated from Magdalen College Oxford. He is a Distinguished fellow of All Souls, Oxford. A businessman by background, he has set up an investment management business, was both executive and non executive chairman of a quoted industrial PLC, and chaired a manufacturing company with factories in Birmingham, Chicago, India and China. He is the MP for Wokingham, first elected in 1987.

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