The end of the world?

 

The intensity of the coverage of the press issues is matched only by the ferocity of the language used by politicians and others to condemn largely unnamed malefactors.

I agree that it is in bad taste and hurtful to listen to the phone messages of victims of tragedy, as well as being against the law. Let the law be enforced, by bringing charges where there is evidence. I also agree that it is a crime to bribe a police officer. Again, let charges be brought where there is evidence. These incidents may not be confined to the employees of just  one newspaper. All newspapers try to listen in to the more private thoughts of people with power or fame, though we hope they usually do so legally.

What is extraordinary is the handwringing and confessions coming from senior politicians of the mistakes that have been made cosying up to newspaper figures.  Some of us have said for years that there was too much spin. We added that politics based on too much spin was neither healthy nor necessarily popular. As we now see from these cases, the Spin Doctor can become too prominent and can become the problem. Mr Cameron now has to spend time explaining  his relationship with Mr Coulson. There is a lot to be said for politicians who tell Parliament by speaking in the  Chamber, and expand to  the media in a subsequent press conference  what they want to say.

The problem with Spin doctors is they “interpret” what the politicians has said. They may do so accurately, often in a way which hurts a colleague of the politician. We are told a given sentence was an attack on x or a signal about y. They may sometimes do so inaccurately, carried away by their own position to ascribe to the politician thoughts and feelings he or she does not share. Either way it leads people to distrust politicians more, as the public learns they always speak in code, and it damages relationships within a government or party by stressing or creating divisions.

All previous governments had spent some time on thinking what to say and how to say it to the press to present themselves.  New Labour took the arts of spinning and elevated them into a kind of political religion. It was Mr Blair who flew half way round the world to pay homage to Mr Murdoch. It was Mr Blair who appointed a Spin Doctor as the most senior official at Number 10. Mrs Thatcher’s Press Spokesman was not the most senior official, and Mr Ingham did not intervene in policy and Cabinet matters in the way Mr Campbell did. It was the New Labour government that changed many of the Press officials in Whitehall. That same government  appeared to tell its Ministers to concentrate more on trying to manage the press than on managing their departments.  Modern politicians are all to a considerable extent under the cloud of modern spinning that was created after 1997.

What should now be clear is that too much spinning can damage the politicians who think it helps them. I read that politicians can now breathe a sigh of relief that the power of the Murdoch press is broken, and they can now behave more as they would like. How extraordinary that they felt like that. I have never knowingly changed my views of a problem because a newspaper has taken a different view to the one I express. I have often tried to persuade newspapers and their journalists of my view, or at least get them to cover it.  I have relied for my views on the facts I read, my analysis of what might work, and my judgement of the public mood, including my own constituents.  My first thought is what is in the national interest, what might achieve the aims we have? My second thought is how do you express this judgement, given the range of  views that the public holds. Quite often I have to advance an argument or an explanation of the facts first before proposing a remedy, because the facts are often ignored or misunderstood in the media. Many in the media rely on the two main  sources of spin, Number 10 and the Leader of the Opposition’s office. These two bodies may not know the shape and size of a problem, or may not wish us to know it.

My advice to those colleagues who have been cowed by the media is twofold. Just because the News of the World has gone and the Murdoch papers are having to deal with a hostile press and investigations does not mean politicians suddenly have a new licence to behave badly free of  press censure. Perhaps “modern politicians” can  now understand what some of us have long said. The important thing is to govern well, and then the spinning almost takes care of itself. The best advocates of the government’s course of action should be the Ministers themselves who approved it. If they can explain and defend it to the Commons they should be able to do so anywhere. The argument used to justify all this spin is that we now live in a 7 by 24 news round. Yes, but that does not mean Ministers have to entertain the media 7 by 24. If they refused to perform at all hours of the day and night, the media would attend Parliament and hear what they had to say.

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64 Comments

  1. lifelogic
    Posted July 10, 2011 at 6:49 am | Permalink

    Hugely over blown BBC type story with Cameron tipping petrol on it with the inquiry and now he is off to see the Dowlers. It could and should be dealt with with the existing criminal laws. Does the man not have anything useful to do with his time, perhaps creating condition for growth for once, sorting out the EU, cutting the state sector in half, stop pushing our taxes down the EU and PIGS drain, ending the counter-productive ill equipped wars – just for a few examples.

    Is a photo of with the Dowlers more important to him than yet more dead soldiers – clearly it is?

    • lifelogic
      Posted July 10, 2011 at 8:00 am | Permalink

      If he wants do something about the media he should start with the over dominance of the left wing, big state, pro EU, believers in the green religion, £3.5 billion PA of unfair competition that is the BBC – with their endless back door adverts too.

      Does the EU not have rules about such state funded unfair competition? Perhaps these rules do not apply if the BBC remains on message with regards to the EU.

      I see Chris Huhne is to be on Andrew Marr this morning after a welcome period of rather low profile. Always such a popular figure (has he resolved his local difficulty yet?) perhaps they should put his pretty face on all the much over priced energy bills his policies do so much to increase.

      I do not imagine Marr will challenge him much on this more likely to be a love in – could we please have Andrew Neil at least – who might ask some sensible questions?

    • wab
      Posted July 10, 2011 at 8:44 am | Permalink

      Never give up trying to bash the BBC, eh, even when, as here, it is a red herring. The Guardian was the main player in this story, not the BBC. Is that what you mean by “BBC type”? How quaint.

      • lifelogic
        Posted July 10, 2011 at 9:59 pm | Permalink

        Yes “BBC think” is pretty close to “Guardian think” but there are differences. The Guardian is aimed more at the younger and slightly dimmer non numerate students at Universities often with a chip on their shoulder due to a poor background and an arts bias. Also some teachers, even Blair and Cameron types at the other end with a chip on their shoulders too due to a too up market background.

    • Peter Richmond
      Posted July 10, 2011 at 10:42 am | Permalink

      Well said, Mr Redwood and, yes lifelogic, I fully agree with you.

    • Bazman
      Posted July 10, 2011 at 12:46 pm | Permalink

      Give some specific examples of BBC think and BBC bias, as you mention it in almost every post this should be easy for you, or at least as easy as giving an example of a health and safety regulation that needs to be revoked. Which you still have not managed to do. Its a bit like saying do away with benefits without thinking of the reality of such an action.

      • lifelogic
        Posted July 10, 2011 at 10:08 pm | Permalink

        BBC think is that the following is always good – more regulation of everything, more EU, more government, more green expensive energy, bikes, buses, trains, immigration, equality of outcome and a bigger state with often a bit of Israel bashing in the mix too.

        I have already said the working at heights directive – but nearly all and certainly half is overdone, top down rules, written by people who have rarely done the jobs they seek to regulate.

      • APL
        Posted July 11, 2011 at 12:16 am | Permalink

        Bazman: “Give some specific examples of BBC think and BBC bias, ”

        (there is a website dedicated to BBC bias which I have not checked out-ed)

        • lifelogic
          Posted July 11, 2011 at 8:12 pm | Permalink

          Well do so.

    • lifelogic
      Posted July 10, 2011 at 6:10 pm | Permalink

      Sorry I meant “photo op” not “photo of”

    • Morningstar
      Posted July 10, 2011 at 6:59 pm | Permalink

      Please don’t be silly !
      There is NOTHING more important than Dave having his picture taken !
      Those whiter than whites are a must show credential for leading the country !

  2. Dave Branwood
    Posted July 10, 2011 at 7:44 am | Permalink

    To balance your attempts to root these problems with the birth of New Labour:

    – By the time Blair came to power in 1997 the media bore no resemblance to the one facing Thatcher / Ingham. 24 hour rolling news meant that role of the Press Officer inevitably took an increased prominence.

    -Labour has always been playing on an uphill pitch against a tory dominated media. To no attempt to meet and cement good relations with the biggest player in the media field would have been foolish.

    -There is a world of difference between Blair’s cementing good relations and Cameron’s current ‘error of judgement’

    • backofanenvelope
      Posted July 10, 2011 at 9:25 am | Permalink

      So the BBC is dominated by the Tories? I would never have guessed that!

    • Amanda
      Posted July 10, 2011 at 10:29 am | Permalink

      Whilst Cameron has certainly made an error of judgement, indeed a series of errors of judgement, I seriously question yours if you think Alistair Campbell was merely ‘cementing good relationships’. The unscrupulous manipulation and bullying of the press by Blair’s henchman is now well documented in a variety of books – may I suggest you might like to protect yourself from making foolish statements by reading them.

      Further, I will say 1 name that can hardly be called ‘good relations’ – Dr David Kelly.

    • REPay
      Posted July 10, 2011 at 1:49 pm | Permalink

      The media is not Tory dominated! The BBC, while not party political, tends to automatically accept/support state spending and intervention as the norm and a natural suspicion of business and popularly held views. The BBC is essentially the Guardian as broadcaster. The print media – which is what I believe you meant to say, is more Tory dominated. However, it has far less impact than broadcast media in shaping opinions.

      • Andrew Smith
        Posted July 10, 2011 at 9:44 pm | Permalink

        Quite right.

    • Morningstar
      Posted July 10, 2011 at 7:01 pm | Permalink

      Rubbish !

      Fall for the spin why don’t you ?

      24 hour rolling news = take the phone off the hook !

    • zorro
      Posted July 10, 2011 at 7:42 pm | Permalink

      Your last few posts have been right on the button for me. I think though that the 24/7 scrum for media/politician tarts came about with the ascent of SKY news and BBC 24 in response. From memory that was at the end of Thatcher/beginning of Major in earnest. They were always happy to have egotistical politicians on who would happily misinterpret others to get a higher profile. It has been an unfortunate fact of life but I am glad that the medium for more exposure and examination of policies is there. The debate needs to be lifted to another level though. I a m more concerned about David Blair trooping off to apologise to all and sundry and putting political pressure on the findings of any ‘independent’ examination of this issue. I sincerely believe in a free press and am not prepared in any way to see it muted. ‘Publish and be damned’ is fine by me.

      zorro

  3. davidb
    Posted July 10, 2011 at 8:07 am | Permalink

    I dont accept the second of your assertions. The media is dominated by the BBC and that has become a bastion of the left. That is very unhealthy. I read many more “papers” now that they are online, and what it looks like to me is that they pander to their audiences viewpoints. So while you may perceive many of them to be Tory they seem to me to be populist. Is that a crime in a “market”?

  4. justin shaw
    Posted July 10, 2011 at 8:39 am | Permalink

    i believe a true democracy would let the people vote on every thing the goverment of the day wants to do if you can bank online you can vote online allowing the people to vote to brake the hold of the donors (name left out-ed|) who gives the most money only to gain what they what thats not true democracy take a good look at party donors in the western world and you will see these are the people how really run the show

  5. Brian Tomkinson
    Posted July 10, 2011 at 8:48 am | Permalink

    Unlike many other MPs, you have strongly held views and opinions which you can articulate well even in the days of “24 hour news”. Perhaps that is why you are ignored by the new “modern politicians” who need the media to tell them what their opinions should be.

  6. wab
    Posted July 10, 2011 at 8:48 am | Permalink

    Once again Cameron has just shown himself to be Blair Mark II. Well, at least the Blair spin doctors were not investigated for such serious illegalities as bribing the police, so Cameron, with his ill judged appointment of Coulson, has managed to bring the reputation of the office of Prime Minister to a new low. (Of course it remains to be seen if Coulson will actually be convicted of anything.)

  7. Mike Stallard
    Posted July 10, 2011 at 9:17 am | Permalink

    “My first thought is what is in the national interest, what might achieve the aims we have?”

    Precisely.

    If only we had a government which did the same!

    It really doesn’t. Look at all the things which are not being done out of funk.

    Meanwhile, the country drifts closer and closer to the rapids…..

  8. Simon
    Posted July 10, 2011 at 9:41 am | Permalink

    “It was Mr Blair who appointed a Spin Doctor as the most senior official at Number 10” .

    Mandelson or Campbell ?

    People who used to work for Labour have told me that Mandelson was the P.M. in all but title .

    They took politics in the UK to a completely different level .

    Politics went from being the meens to being an end in it’s own right .

  9. Electro-Kevin
    Posted July 10, 2011 at 9:52 am | Permalink

    Mr Redwood,

    I agree with you wholeheartedly and 100 percent.

    Beware that there are ambitions to muzzle the free press – “Justice for Millie” being the cause celebre where super injunctions and celeb/politico griping failed because their is no sympathy for them.

    So long as we have a tabloid press which is free to mock and inquire we know that we have not quite become a dictatorship and that the people do, at least, have a voice – if not a political party – to represent their deepest concerns.

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

    Well we will no doubt see some of the easy politicking and spinning from both the Coalitionand Opposition sides over the coming days and weeks. There is of course a chance here for ‘the media’ to actually be grown up in response to the games that the higher ranking politicians will feel they have to play.

    I do feel nervous that, having lost the ITV’s 24 hour channel, the UK could stumble into leaving domestic 24 hour news to the BBC – one source, one viewpoint (I do not see how centre-left corresponds to impartial). Although there obviously has to be some focus on News International, I also fear that the tendency to centralise the blame could again have the effect of centralising editorial policy. As it stands the stable has not shown absolutely homogeneous policy, and charitably one could interpret the ‘News of the World’ closure as a clear message that if a paper is going to keep its independent editorial policy then it must behave ethically*. I think, less knee jerk by all in widely passing a yet to be informed judgement would be sensible. Intellectually anorexic that the UK media is, it could end up even poorer.

    But what a challenge it is that the UK has before it; a 50 year investigation of politicians, police and media? This is a large, expensive task and should need a few days thought before being started.

    * Though the same ‘ethical behaviour for independence test’ could be applied to the BoE/MPC – which continues to fail and damage the UK’s prospects.

  11. Elliot Kane
    Posted July 10, 2011 at 10:04 am | Permalink

    There are still a few politicians on all sides who are genuine men and women of principle, of conviction, but sadly they seem to be in the minority.

    For most politicians, the highest aim appears not to do what is best for the nation, but rather to do whatever is best to keep themselves and their party in power.

    If this means changing their minds every five minutes, well, so be it! It’s not like they have any ethics to go against, or so it seems.

    It’s a sad state of affairs. But it also explains why the politicians and the media have grown so close. After all, if a person cares more about how they are seen than what they do, the media is their very best friend…

  12. Amanda
    Posted July 10, 2011 at 10:35 am | Permalink

    The end of the world, John?

    No, the world will survive – a good look at history is all we need. But it is definitely beginning to feel like the 1630’s, 1930’s. We all need to ‘hunker’ down and look after our own family and communities – making best judgements as to how to survive the next few years. By strengthening personal bonds, and having to be more self-reliant we will unleash more positive forces to fight the tyranny and corruption that is threatening us.

  13. libertarian
    Posted July 10, 2011 at 10:36 am | Permalink

    Dear David Branwood,

    Please pay a visit to our country at sometime. During the 13 odd years of New Labour, the lies ( a war with Iraq, as spun by WoMD Al Campbell) smeering al la Damian McBdride, Derek Draper, Charlie Wheelan, lobbygate etc, Jo Moore “burying bad news”, the Red Rag Blog publishing outright lies. On and on and on. I’m not defending Cameron by the way, just pointing out that your are quite clearly, plainly and obviously wrong.

  14. English Pensioner
    Posted July 10, 2011 at 11:05 am | Permalink

    It is my view that only elected politicians and permanent civil servants should work in Downing Street. Advice, if required should come from the civil service on a strictly impartial basis. If they do not have the expertise readily available, an appropriate expert should be recruited through normal civil service channels and paid as civil servants.

    All the party oriented “spin doctors” and “special advisers” should be banned from government offices. If ministers need these “special advisers” to advise on the political aspects of their job, they should be paid for by their political party, not the taxpayers, and any meetings with them should be held on party premises, so that government and party activities are properly separated.

    The media, of course could help by making it clear whether statements, etc., come from ministers (or civil servants acting on their behalf) or from party political spokespersons.

  15. alan jutson
    Posted July 10, 2011 at 11:28 am | Permalink

    The Public get the Press they deserve, so do politicians.

    We now seem to want to live in a world of fantasy, where breaking news is expected every minute.

    Journalists no longer report facts, or do forensic interviews to extract the facts, they give opinons and either manipulate the truth to suit themselves and their impression of what the public require, or miss out relevent facts completely.

    John over the years, certain elements of the press have attempted to ridicule, and label some Ministers/Mps/businessmen/sportsmen and the like, and catagorise them.
    I well remember ringing in to take part in a BBC radio 5 live talk in show on one occssion, as soon as I mentioned your name as my Mp ( I was asked the question) I got the sighs, and a numberof unflatering comments from the so called researcher, so I asked had they had actually read anything of yours, like your books, or even your blog site, there was silence, so I asked if they knew of a constituant who had used/asked for your help and did not get it, silence again.

    I politely suggested that before he prejudged anyone else, he should perhaps as a researcher do some proper research, before making any further comment or judgement in future, needless to say I did not get an opportunity to put my point across on the programme.

    The present situaton has been caused by:
    Lack of proper factual journalism, lack of clear priacy laws, lack of political judgement, lack of poliical will, lack of proper/disinterested policing, lack of management/supervision, but above all a complete lack of anyone making a stand for moral standards to be upheld.

    People with little talent seem to have risen to the top, with a view that their ideas and opinions are of greater value than the truth, and therefore manipulate the real facts to their own benefit, and whilst we contiue to reward such people, keep them in a job, and purchase the newsprint, it will continue.

    Reply: Thanks for the support. Yes, there can be tough headwinds for the truth!

  16. James Matthews
    Posted July 10, 2011 at 11:31 am | Permalink

    While the allegations of hacking are clearly serious the sound of the grinding axes of the enemies of Murdoch and of a free press (not necessarily the same people, but with a coincidence of aim) is becoming deafening.
    The BBC is the most egregious example, taking the unprecedented step of devoting the whole of Any Questions to the issue, with the “neutral” chairman joining in to interrupt and impede Murdoch’s only defender on the panel.
    Yes it really does matter if the NOTW hacked Milly Dowler’s phone or those of the families of British war casualties, but the allegations of Alistair Campbell’s interference in the Iraq war dossier or those on the death od David Kelly did not receive this level of undivided attention. Surely something more at work here than the BBC responding to public concern.

  17. forthurst
    Posted July 10, 2011 at 11:39 am | Permalink

    What now should have become totally obvious to even the simplest of souls is that the ‘significance’ of events is determined by the MSM, not by any objective assessment of its importance to this country or anyone or anything or anywhere else. The non-Murdoch press is in a feeding frenzy that a wild life photographer might capture but once in lifetime, and the polticos are hoofing to their tune: a brace of public enquiries, expressions of extreme horror and disgust, pilgrimages garbed in sackcloth and ashes to the martyr’s shrine. That newspapers intrude on private lives and private grief, overstepping by far the bounds of decency and and good taste is hardly news and why is the mechanism of the intrusion more significant than the intrusion itself and why is it so wrong for the media to spy on the public, but so right for the state?

    Politicians have believed they must embrace 24×7 ‘news’ by offering an equally omnipresent panoply of soundbites. politicians have joined the entertainment industry without obtaining their Equity cards using only their egos as qualification. If the MSM wishes to broadcast ‘news’ without end, that should not be a concern of politicians whose job is to rule the country not entertain it.

    It is difficult not to admire Murdoch for his achievements as a businessman: Wapping, BSkyB, both achieved to a backdrop of political incompetence, negligence and stupidity. However, in terms of his journalistic preferences, he has left much to be desired. It is of course totally unacceptable that, like the BBC, he should be able to interpose his own predjudices and affiliations on our national life. The NOTW always was a purveyor of smut, but the Times rightly claimed to be the paper of record: look at it now.

    The MSM, Murdoch or not, cannot be trusted: it ignores the important and magnifies the trivial. That our political parties should be subject to a beauty contest by Murdoch is wrong but so is the BBC’s permanent support for the Opposition. When I read in the MSM a proper appraisal of the last ten years starting with the 9/11 false flag operation, I will know that we have an independent media. Until then I will assume that the MSM is in essence a disinformation project to divert people away from what is being done in their name and under their noses.

  18. Javelin
    Posted July 10, 2011 at 12:07 pm | Permalink

    It would be good if things changed. But people won’t change. Politicians are a little like actors and need to be liked. There is an underlying insecurity in many politicians that causes them to cosy up to the media. Presentation of bad policies doesn’t make them good policies.

    There needs to be more explicit judgement of what makes good policies. For example “exceptions shouldn’t make the rule”. There must be books on these sorts of widow and the media need to scrutinise policies on this basis and not try to use terms like the “fairness” of the policy. Because fairness can be used in so many ways. For example is it fair OAPs pay for their nursing? Fair to who?

  19. Richard
    Posted July 10, 2011 at 12:16 pm | Permalink

    I agree with all you say in your article which is a very calm and logical analysis of the near hysterical reaction to the News of the World saga.

    This is now an ideal opportunity for those in power who would like to see the
    “europeanisation” of our newspaper industry to press ahead with new regulation, legal controls and privacy legislation until the press are cowed and emasculated as many are in Europe.

    Then our ruling elite can go about their business largely uninterupted by scrutiny and criticism.
    The opportunity for criticism of our leaders and the exposure of wrongdoing will increasingly come from the internet and the various blogs we see multiplying.
    But already there are calls for controlling what may be said on the internet.
    Talk of the need for legislation, stronger libel laws and injuncions which specifically impact on freedoms of speech on the internet is growing.

    There is no need for public inquiries just let the Police and the courts do their work and allow a free press report it.

  20. grahams
    Posted July 10, 2011 at 12:25 pm | Permalink

    Dear Mr Redwood, it is true that you have not cosied up to the press. Unfortunately, I think that partly explains why your political career has been so much less successful than your ability, in office and opposition, deserves. There has been plenty of spinning against you from both sides.

    There are two points here: The general relations between press and Government and the particular power, or perceived power, of News International.

    On the first, cosying up goes in both directions, both to the detriment of the public. Newspapers are desperate for political exclusives. They earn them by being nice to the Government of the day. The more leaked exclusives a newspaper is given (let alone “exclusive” interviews with a Prime Minister or Chancellor) the more its readers can be sure its editors are toeing the Government line and turning a blind eye.

    In the other direction, to give just one example, no serious (ie ambitious) politician dare suggest a “liberal” or free market approach to recreational drugs. They would immediately be battered and blighted by the popular press. It may well be that the press in this instance reflects popular opinion. Since there is no real debate, however, we cannot tell.

    News International is by far the biggest media opinion former in the media, having the biggest chunk of both popular and quality markets. And its ships sail in formation, guided by an annual global conference of editors and potential editors. That is why Governments and Oppositions are anxious for its support, but do not worry about cosying up to the BBC.
    NI papers pursue an economic/business line that most readers of your blog agree with. You should not underestimate the importance of that in forming Mr Blair’s New Labour programme, including its promises on income tax.

    But NI papers also stream other agendas: anti-monarchy, anti-religion, anti-EU, pro-America, which also influence Governments in more subtle ways. Without the fervent support of NI papers, for example, would not (could not) have invaded Iraq. On the positive side it also partly explains why Mr Brown came out against joining the euro.

    It is a symbol of this relationship that the current NI chief executive has managed to be a close personal friend of both the Blairs and the Camerons. That is only a symbol but it indicates that the relationship, and therefore the dominance of NI, is not healthy from the public’s point of view.

  21. Derek Buxton
    Posted July 10, 2011 at 12:38 pm | Permalink

    Ask first “what is being hidden”. Most of the problem could have been dealt with under the Common Law, at least if the police had done their job, and the rest by firing a few of those who should never have been employed in the first place. It certainly calls into question Cameron’s judgement!

  22. Kenneth
    Posted July 10, 2011 at 1:12 pm | Permalink

    And it’s not just the newspapers. I think that any enquiry into the media must include all broadcast media.

    Far more serious even than disgusting phone hacking is the way the arena for political debate has moved from Parliament to tv studios.

    The big difference is that tv producer decides who will be invited to debate whereas the invitation to debate in Parliament comes courtesy of a majority vote by constituents.

    The BBC proposed the 14-day rule during WWII in order to stop itself being hijacked by political interests. The 14 day rule meant that broadcasters could only discuss politics that had been aired in Parliament prior to the previous 14 days.

    The BBC (and ITV) then lobbied successfully to have the rule removed in the 1950s.

    I think we have gone downhill ever since with the centre of power moving from Parliament to tv companies (not to mention Brussels).

    I think John Bercow should look into the merits of bringing back the 14 day rule so that voters can decide who to give a platform to, rather than unelected tv producers.

  23. rose
    Posted July 10, 2011 at 1:19 pm | Permalink

    I agree with all you say. Government spinning as we know it did indeed begin in 1997, and it has corrupted and debased our public life. He who lives by the Media shall die by the Media.

    If only government would make announcements to the broadcasters and press after speaking first to Parliament; and if only we could just have one serious and accurate news bulletin a day.

    But the BBC et al are idly chatting and spinning all day and all nght, over-excitedly churning out their junk news/entertainment, in cahoots with the opposition, other interest groups, and backbenchers, all of whom are only to happy to appear at any time of day or night, and at any price. It would take a brave government, and above all a disciplined one, not to break ranks and join in the disgusting fray. I wish they would have the nerve to hold back. If it were understood that no government spokesman would be available until after Parliament had been addressed, both Parliament and the Government would be accorded greater respect by the media – because the media would just have to wait for the valuable information istead of deigning to allow it to filter through the idle chatter. But we will never get rid of the horrible “X is expected to say… Y is understood to be about to…” which marrs the “news.” And the eavesdropping, the framing, the posing as someone else, and the stealing of documents? Do we really think all that is going to stop because the News of the World is no more?

    • rose
      Posted July 10, 2011 at 1:40 pm | Permalink

      Oh, and I forgot to add the leaks.

  24. REPay
    Posted July 10, 2011 at 1:43 pm | Permalink

    Your article is spot-on. The problem with this story is it involves the media so it will run and run and the BBC sees NewsCorp as its main rival. I find the constant Labour/BBC demand that PM apologize for a poor choice of adviser. We the people took no harm from Coulson being there except the distraction we now suffer. However we did suffer massive damage Labour’s incompetent management of public finances and the wreckless spending which we will be paying for decades! Will Miliband or Balls ever admit this, let alone apologize? I forgot, it was the bankers…

    Also is it right for the BBC to state so categorically that the PM has taken “massive political damage.” Have they polled for this or have real evidence? No – just their fervent prayer…

  25. Suze Doughty
    Posted July 10, 2011 at 2:12 pm | Permalink

    The messenger has been shot, so what happens to the message? More messengers, the Times, Sunday Times, and The Sun, are likely to close if Murdoch cannot find a buyer soon enough. They are all loss making enterprises and he looks like a man ready to divest himself of losses.
    We must all rue the loss of influence that manipulating those newspaper via PM Tony Blair’s in tray brought but what was happening was wrong and in the end it had to be stopped. Who, me, plant soundbites in the Downing St Office in tray? Yes, and wasn’t it fun to watch where the same sentence came out! It saved the grammar schools.

  26. Tim Almond
    Posted July 10, 2011 at 2:49 pm | Permalink

    “The argument used to justify all this spin is that we now live in a 7 by 24 news round. Yes, but that does not mean Ministers have to entertain the media 7 by 24. If they refused to perform at all hours of the day and night, the media would attend Parliament and hear what they had to say.”

    I wish I could agree with this, but I don’t think that would be the case, sadly. TV can already report from parliament, yet rarely does. They favour reporting about an MP in a school or a hospital making a statement, because of the visual, emotional messages it sends, that they care about such things.

    It’s why I rarely watch TV news now and read far more blogs. Because argument isn’t reduced to a 5 second soundbite like “education, education, education” or “NHS, NHS, NHS”. I don’t want to know that you care about education (who doesn’t), I want to know what you think the solutions are. And TV rarely explores it in any depth.

  27. Neil Craig
    Posted July 10, 2011 at 3:07 pm | Permalink

    Unfortunately this is not a combat between Murdock and the truth but between Murdock and the BBC (of whom the Guardian is a subsiduary). The BBC is defending their effective monopoly of British broadcasting (ITN & C4 being regulaterd by Offcom and thus tied to the official BBC definition od “due balance”).

    They fear that if Murdock gets full ownership of Sky he will be able to present a real alternative to the BBC.

    The power of the BBC monopoly can be shown by the way they have given over hours on end tof “news” programmes almost entirely to this, as if nothing else in the world is happening. Compare with the fact that they reported nothing whatseoever when, some years ago the Guardian publicly boasted of hacking.

    The way they have been able to protray this as the only news happening shows that the BBC can never be trusted. and proves that their monopoly should indeed be weakened, or better yet, ended.

  28. Tim
    Posted July 10, 2011 at 4:34 pm | Permalink

    I agree with you Mr Redwood. It would also follow that your leaders should start to consider the wishes of the electorate instead of the constant spin and their own personal agendas. Let us see the outcomes of some of their promises on immigration, the EU, Human Rights Act, CAP, Fisheries Policy, Schools, The West Lothian Question and an English Parliament, NHS (particularly stopping free services to foreign people), Energy Strategy, not windmills or climate change hogwash, real term cuts in public service costs etc……………….Oh, nothing is actually happening on the ground!
    Most Tory voters are at their wits end with this coalition and are concluding the only real chance for change is UKIP!!

  29. Hugh
    Posted July 10, 2011 at 6:05 pm | Permalink

    The best possible outcome of this affair, perhaps though only devoutly to be wished, is that those whose analysis and comment is rigorous and consistent are preferred in Government. The alternative where those whose skills consist primarily of knowing and consorting with media commentators detracts from the business of good government.

  30. JimF
    Posted July 10, 2011 at 6:22 pm | Permalink

    “I have never knowingly changed my views of a problem because a newspaper has taken a different view to the one I express. I have often tried to persuade newspapers and their journalists of my view, or at least get them to cover it. I have relied for my views on the facts I read, my analysis of what might work, and my judgement of the public mood, including my own constituents.”

    But you are a thinker and your leaders are followers. That is the difference and explains largely why we are in this mess.

  31. Bernard Otway
    Posted July 10, 2011 at 7:00 pm | Permalink

    I agree with Peter Hitchens stance on this in today’s Mail,I also ask people and then explain my viwpoint “why do they think these phones were hacked [Millie Dowler etc ie the Game Changing hacking]” ,they think they will find evidence of the State’s callousness which is all pervasive and mostly has to be excavated from the deep places it is hidden in,as an example
    in the same Mail today is a story [true] of a botched lung transplant covered up by Harefield hospital in 2007,which IF it had been addressed properly at the time,would not have led to a recent botched lung transplant that led to death of the patient at the same hospital,caused
    by incompetence in computer inputting donor information ,the patient who died had the lungs of a donor 5 inches taller transplanted EXCEPT that one lung had to be FORCED into the chest cavity which could not accomodate it. UNLESS we have a free press to investigate and reveal cover ups of all kinds we as a society will be living in a DICTATORSHIP allowing malfeascance and worse on a grand scale by the political ruling class and WORSE STILL ,the rich and powerful will use their knowledge of the rulers wrongdoing to exact a price.I then tell people that the witch hunt actually LOVES the fact that this has happened,so those who are shouting the loudest will gain the most by the lessening of scrutiny.

    • A.Sedgwick
      Posted July 11, 2011 at 8:40 am | Permalink

      Agreed.

  32. Alan Wheatley
    Posted July 10, 2011 at 7:42 pm | Permalink

    I like all that I read here.

  33. lojolondon
    Posted July 10, 2011 at 7:57 pm | Permalink

    Does the public care if a journalist hacked Prince Charles’ phone?? No.
    Do we really care if the NOTW hacked a fat cabinet minister’s phone? No.
    This is purely a media feeding frenzy, instigated by the Guardian and supported by the BBC, and Labour. It is anti-Murdoch, and designed to strike at his business as he tries to buy BSKYB. Labour sucked up to Murdoch when they were in power, when their popularity waned and the Sun supported the Tories, Labour were apoplectic, and this is payback time.
    Shame on Brave Dave for supporting this campaign to close down a (loss-making) business that was employing hundreds of people, making Murdoch’s decision so easily justified.
    The BBC should be made to stand on it’s own two feet, stop being subsidised by public funds, and then they can be as biased as they like, but then they will have to satisfy the public and reflect the beliefs of the public.

    • Bob
      Posted July 10, 2011 at 9:56 pm | Permalink

      I think it’s time that the BBC published the Balen Report.

    • rose
      Posted July 10, 2011 at 10:12 pm | Permalink

      Yes, I care if the Prince of Wales’s telephone is bugged, and so should you. But as long as the public pay for it, the only defence against such vile behaviour is “Publish and be damned.”

  34. Dennis A
    Posted July 10, 2011 at 9:03 pm | Permalink

    John,

    What an excellent commentary.

  35. lola
    Posted July 10, 2011 at 10:42 pm | Permalink

    An excelent piece Mr R. Thank you

  36. David John Wilson
    Posted July 10, 2011 at 11:12 pm | Permalink

    Perhaps if there are fewer Sunday Newspapers people will have more time to attend church on a Sunday to pray about the problems likely to cause the end of the world.

  37. Michael Lewis
    Posted July 11, 2011 at 1:15 am | Permalink

    ” These incidents may not be confined to the employees of just one newspaper.”

    But you have to play what is in front of you. Thus far, its New International. So, those trying to muck-spread doesn’t play well to the general UK public.

    Those trying to suggest this overblown by the BBC – sorry, won’t wash, and if David Cameron had try to suggest its overblown, it would have damaged his reputation even further than this affair already has.

    @lojolondon
    “Does the public care if a journalist hacked Prince Charles’ phone?? No.
    Do we really care if the NOTW hacked a fat cabinet minister’s phone? No.
    This is purely a media feeding frenzy, instigated by the Guardian and supported by the BBC, and Labour. ”

    The public do care very greatly about the 7/7 victims and service veterans being phone hacked. If that does prove to be the case – then News International deserves everything that
    it surely coming its way.

    Instigated by the Guardian? No, its hurting David Cameron, because he appears to have ignored advise not to appoint Andy Coulson. That decision looks serious flawed, at best.
    The comments about the BBC et al. (not an organisation I would chose to defend) are deranged, its no going blaming the messenger…

    • Conrad Jones (Cheam)
      Posted July 13, 2011 at 10:37 pm | Permalink

      I think it is a News Media smoke screen – the more I hear and read of this story, the thinner it gets when thare are real stories out there not being covered.

      We are involved in a War in Libya – that use to be News once.
      Gold is increasing dramatically in value in response to fears that Ireland and Portugal are going to “need” further IMF Bail Outs. Italy is now looming nearer as the next major catastrophic failure of EURO folly.

  38. Bernard Otway
    Posted July 11, 2011 at 12:40 pm | Permalink

    The Bolshevik BC is like a pack of vultures descending an a hoped for corpse egged on by it,s pathfinder the Gruniad,which I have nicknamed TAVDA[for the uninformed a cross between Tass and Pravda the old Soviet propaganda machine],please pass on my nickname to all and sundry.

  39. Bernard Otway
    Posted July 11, 2011 at 12:52 pm | Permalink

    Is it coincidence that the film ‘The Loop” was shown late on TV last night.

  40. Conrad Jones (Cheam)
    Posted July 11, 2011 at 5:46 pm | Permalink

    All I hope is that we get back to a Press that investigates stories and seeks the truth and also hope that this story is not being used by politicians to bring through new laws to paralyse honest Investigative Journalism.

    Main stream media merely prints what Politicians want them to print. I guess it’s a lot easier to just do what the Government tells them to do as if they don’t, they will be prevented from access to News Briefings at the House of Commons.

    Whatever happened to Woodward and Bernstein?

  41. Conrad Jones (Cheam)
    Posted July 11, 2011 at 5:59 pm | Permalink

    Why does David Cameron need a spin Doctor – why did Tony Blair need a spin doctor; to present a case to the public in order to sway public opinion?

    Why can’t the Government just present the facts directly to the media and if the media mangle the truth – the orignal details can be presented on gov.co.uk.

    Politics seems to be mainly about creating illusions for public consumption.
    The illusion that NATO is bombing Libya to save people
    The illusion that CPI is an accurate representation of inflation
    The illusion that we need to bail out banks, otherwise, the end of the world is nigh.
    The illusion that the Bank of England can control inflation
    The illusion that the standard of living has improved over the last 30 years.
    The illusion that Banks are the power house of the economy and generate wealth
    The illusion that income tax and National Insurance are how we are taxed and not the hidden tax of inflation.
    The illusion that Banks were not commiting fraudulant mortgages, thereby inflating the housing market and money supply.
    The illusion that we are more likely to be killed by a terrorist than in a car accident.

    The government needs the Press inorder to funnel

    • Conrad Jones (Cheam)
      Posted July 11, 2011 at 6:02 pm | Permalink

      .. illusions to the public.

      Also:

      The illusion that 100% of overseas aid gets to the people who need it in Afghanistan and is not carted away to end up in a Swiss Bank account or is spent on weapons.

  42. Conrad Jones (Cheam)
    Posted July 13, 2011 at 10:27 pm | Permalink

    I think that phone tapping and hacking into Alistair Campbell’s life would have been of great benefit to the British Public.

    His involvement in the attack on the reputation Dr David Kelly would be of particular interest.

  • 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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