Saturday 9 July 2011

Is Labour right to burn their boats?

There's only one story in town. Goodbye News of the World. Not my thing, but plenty of other people fancied a read of it over the toast and Coco pops.

Who's had who. Which idiot minister was still being taken in by a man in a bed sheet and dark glasses claiming to want buy London Underground.

Mr Miliband himself is leading the attack on Murdoch in language that Ronnie Regan might have used about the Russians. The evil empire is in the sights of the left, and they want to give it a beating that it won't forget. Its long been believed by the socialists that all media are against them, even the Tory-led BBC and the liberal Guardian. So now, with the the king of the hill, the NOTW about to phoenix into its own flames, the Labour party is taking full opportunity to bash it.

And with very good cause. Phone hacking celebs is one thing. But the huge overstep of the boundaries of society and the hypocrisy in listening to the messages of troops and slain victims is inexcusable. The other media, long overshadowed by Murdoch's empire are also wading in with all their might and outrage. Partly to damage a rival and partly to deflect attention from of their own activities that are not 'whiter than white,' as a former Prime Minister once said.

Murdoch is in deep trouble. This is a major crisis. His long desired merger is coming apart, right at the moment it seemed assured. There are more revelations to come, says Mrs Brooks. Well they can't be good. Are they just going to do further damage here? We hacked Maddy's mum's phone!
The defence chiefs? The Queen?
But that's all minor compared to the real story which is cash payments to the police. The original investigation..was there a cover-up? Who deleted the emails? Who's hanging onto some of them. Where did the funds come from to the plod?

Even worse for NewsCorp, has this been going on in America and Australia, and are Fox news involved in any scandals? How much more will tumble out?

So its the happy time for the left. Still smarting from the Sun's decision to dump them at the last election, they are out for blood. But this seems to be leading down the wrong path. Politicians can never resist an opportunity to blame the other party for any misfortune. At the moment, Ed Miliband, Harriet Harman and Tom Baldwin are touring the newsrooms, with the usual prepared sound bites, that seem to imply that David Cameron has personally been listening in to Cheryl Cole's phone messages.
Labour are out to blame the Tories, using Cameron's unwise decision to appoint a former NOTW editor as his media guru. It certainly makes Dave squirm. It calls into question his desperation to make the Tory party Murdoch's favourites again. They like to point out Cameron's friendship with Rebekah Brooks.

But Cameron hasn't done anything criminal. Just poor judgement and an unwillingness to look beyond the immediate and powerful punch Coulson would give him. {Which, to be fair, it did. An immediate success that rattled Labour. But there was always the possibility it could all go wrong.}
The Guardian story out today that Cameron was told Coulson was a wrong 'un, is almost irrelevant. Would Labour have listened to the Daily Telegraph telling them Damien McBride 'can go a bit far?' Of course not!

And new Labour have.
This has the potential to become the biggest pot/black/kettle story since Guardian Media attacked tax planning. One party has been in thrall to the newspapers since its inception. One party was so determined to befriend the media that eventually a new word appeared in the dictionary. "Spin".
New Labour's entire early campaign was based on 'what would Rupert like us to say, so he can print it in his papers?' They spent a lot less time on the manifesto than they did on courting the press. And Murdoch in particular.
For thirteen years there was no mention of curbing the power of the red top press. Even when that press was savaging their own, like Blunkett and Mandelson. The hopeless PCC allowed to continue doing nothing, long after the excesses of the newsprint organisations had come to light.

Its no use Harman now saying Labour was like a battered wife, frightened to leave her husband, and so the party stayed with Murdoch, but they hated him, and were badly abused.
On Newsnight she virtually claimed that she had been forced to face up all the labels on the cans in the kitchen cupboard or face a beating. She only escaped Rupert's beautiful beach front property by faking her own drowning.
Danny Alexander, superbly ambushed by Hugh Grant on Question Time, for having only just returned from a News International party. Along with many of his shadow cabinet colleagues.

It seems quite a short term strategy to fight the Tories on this, There just isn't any need. The press will do the pummelling for them. If anyone saw Dave's press conference they will have seen the hacks and journos lining up to give him a whack. All without the need for Ed Miliband to pop up with his "He just doesn't get it!" faux outraged comment.
The Tories are currently under fire. They are the government so they will be. Dave is just behind the curve as he tries to do the minimum necessary, whilst pretending to do the maximum. But he is a skilled operator. This is actually what he is best at. Looking sincere. Sounding reasonable. Remaining calm. He'll catch up to the events at some point soon and then Labour's attacks will falter.

But Labour need to remember they were in government DURING the scandal. It happened under Mr Blair/Brown's watch. And they did nothing about it. Once the initial phase of this scandal is over the media will move to looking at what went on before. There are many, many bones in Skeleton city.

The Murdoch barbecue is well alight. If Labour try to pour even more lighter fluid on it they may well find themselves in A&E with bandaged hands and a very red face. Already lord Ashcroft is trying to open up a second front where Labour whips and spinners are implicated. New/New-Labour are behaving as if the Murdoch days are over. As if The Sun might be about to run its last issue and Sky news go off air.

Mr Miliband should reflect on CU's End of the World post, where it was revealed that the NOTW was already being prepared for closure. The advertisers who fled NOTW this week aren't suddenly planning to run adverts with the Sunday Times and Observer culture magazine.
Morrisons don't sell a Tender Pork Loin Rubbed w/ a Sweet Chili Guava Barbeque Glaze Served w/ Mashed Sweet Potato & Topped w/ a Mango Coulis & Candied Pecans... microwaveable pizza.
The people who read the News of the Screws aren't going to decide to give up on sex stories and scandal and read the Independent's literature and art section on Mayan tapestries.

Murdoch has been around since Noah. He's seen off a lot of better and more powerful figures than Miliband. So Rupert may be wounded. May be facing some tough times and difficult questions. He's left it very late to begin doing something about the scandal. He may feel the pinch as the shares slide. He will have to face the abuse of the world's public for a while. He's not a young man any more and may decide to cut his losses. But Labour are behaving as if they have slain the Giant. But the Giant isn't dead.

And one day he's going to come back.
And he'll be mighty pissed.


Mark Wadsworth said...

"Is Labour right to burn their boats?"

I'll answer that once you make up your mind whether Labour is singular or plural.

"Would Labour have listed to the Daily Telegraph"


"And they did absolubtely nothing about it."

And so on.

Stop Common Purpose said...

Common Purpose is exploiting the News of the World hacking scandal to further its media control agenda:

Budgie said...

Many of the Labour MPs braying at the corruption within the NotW and at Murdoch are the very selfsame individuals who had their snouts in the expenses trough.

Old BE said...

Excellent post, best I have read so far on this issue - including MSM.

"The people who read the News of the Screws aren't going to decide to give up on sex stories and scandal and read the Independent's literature and art section on Mayan tapestries. "

Exactly. This doesn't suit those who argue that Murdoch should not own Sky outright, they think that if Murdoch's empire keeled over and died the remaining papers would shift the whole political debate in this country leftwards. They fail to understand that people don't blindly buy the product and absorb the viewpoint without engaging their brains.

The Mad Scientist said...

good post.
but it does highlight just how insidious an influence murdoch has been. yes govts over the past 25 years have been toadying up to him, but why? its certainly not been to our benefit has it?
Will Slef made the exact same point on the public's appetite for tittle tattle. But if you're only fed garbage what else are you going to eat?
a line has to be drawn somewhere. if EdM is attempting to do so now, then fair enough.
@budgie, i'm not sure that many folk want to shift the media leftwards, just somewhere resembling reason and fact. not hyperbole, sensationalism and hysteria. Though that being said, i just heard stephen nolan on R5 as earl spencer if he thought a regulated ,edia would have meant diana still being alive today. oh dear.

Nick Drew said...

yes, an excellent essay Mr Q

I am with Auberon Waugh who wrote: for crushing the print unions, Murdoch deserved a dukedom. For the rest, he deserves the outer darkness

but as for saying: he'll be back & he'll be mighty pissed - that's just the bogey-man. Every mafia chieftan says to every witness, every copper, every prosecutor, every juror, every judge, (every politician, every editor) - one day I'll be out: and I know where you live

stake through the heart, only way

bish, bosh, job's a good'un

andrew said...

One of the great things about the increasing range of media available is that if you dont like something, you can switch it off.

Or buy a different paper.

This is one reason why NewsIntl has closed NOTW.

As time has progressed, the number of papers has dropped and so the range of views has shrunk.

The downside is that we increasingly live in a smaller world where we only hear people we agree with and we become less tolerant of differing views.

This increasing control over what we read is oddly leading to a decreasing choice in print media as you need large scale to be profitable.

Basically print is dying because you need millions of readers of one identifiable thing to be profitable and if you do not like (say) the political reporting of the Telegraph, but do like the sports, chances are you won't buy it.

If you do not like (say) Thought for the day at 7.50, you can probably live with R1/2/3 for 5 mins and it does not cost you money.
You cannot hand back pages 5-13 of the Telegraph and get the Guardian's political coverage without spending more.

You can do this on the Radio / TV / Websites.

This is one reason why NewsIntl wants BSkyB so much.
I also think that for the same reasons, the Sunday Sun might not be a print newspaper.

Murdoch himself is a businessman. If he thinks he can work with you, I dont think it matters what hot air you blow right now (Tory or Labour).

On the third hand, as mass readership declines, NewsIntl has less leverage over the political landscape and so Ed can probably get away with being mean even if Murdoch takes offense.

The flip side is that Ed may want to wonder who he is talking to. He is slowly losing the ability to reach the Great British Public en masse.

In the same way that print is declining, so are traditional party memberships.

The question I am left with is how do you - a journalist or politician or a person with a cause - reach a lot of people that do not initially agree with you in a time when it is so easy to turn the unwanted message off. Never mind persuade them.

Advertisers are quite good at selling beer to men aged 18-30. They are not so good at selling pension plans to the same market, so looking to these people for a ready solution does not look too promising.

Budgie said...

The Mad Scientist said: "@Budgie, I'm not sure that many folk want to shift the media leftwards, ...

Mmm, neither am I, since I didn't mention it. My original comment was meant to highlight the hypocrisy of Labour MPs.

"... just somewhere resembling reason and fact."

Ahh, the famous "reason and fact". That is just the problem - one man's "fact" is another man's bigotry.

Bill Quango MP said...

MW - Ok. Fixed a few. Damn Granma police.

BE: Thanks, And yes. There is a very strange response from any audience when TV ownership is mentioned. People seem to assume that a fully owned SKY would be a bible reading, tea party supporting, gun totin' anti-liberal network.
Why? That would appeal to about 0.5% of UK audience. It couldn't possibly survive, and if it did,no one would be watching it anyway.
This isn't America. Soviet style state TV wouldn't do much here either.

The Mad Scientist
Welcome. I don't think journalism has declined all that much. It was always like this in my memory.
But it has got sillier. A 'university' reports eating metal makes you live longer, becomes a feature, which becomes a comment page, which becomes a full blown discussion on the radio and the talk of the news reviewers. Everyone knows its a crap , made up story. Yet the circle of pointlessness continues without anyone saying 'hang on a mo'. That's not true.

As for Ed trying to draw a line, I don' think he is. I think he's trying to boost his support amongst his own MPs by being tough on the paper that ditched them.

Budgie: Quite. That's where he's making a mistake by being so vocal. Something will come out that reflects very poorly on Labour. And then all the latest self serving clips will be buzzing around the net.

ND: Yes, I doubt Mr M will be too worried by the barbs of the labour party.
But it was very noticeable that the moment the Sun supported Cameron a large number of anti Labour pieces appeared. Some of them backfired, like the letters to the dead soldier's relatives, but it shows how willing to to support the blues he was.

Andrew: Agreed. And very interesting comment.
I have not bought a newspaper for about 3 years now. I remember the last time I bought a Sunday paper. Several friends were staying over and on Sunday morning I asked 'what does everyone want, and the reply was 'nothing.'
Only me still reading them. And I wasn't really reading them. whole pullout sections into the landfill unopened.

Now I watch TV or online news.

andrew said...


wrt Sundays, I am in the same boat.
I used to buy the Observer so I could read Bill Keegan, but I (being a bit slow) found the column online about 12 months ago.
Now the only traditional newsprint I read is trade rags or the Economist.

When the Kindle becomes ubiquitous / the price drops below £50, the same process will be apace in books.

CityUnslicker said...

Disagree re the Sunday Sun not being printed. The C2DE's are not the people equipped with ipads and Kindle's; its white van man happy to buy a paper for a few years yet.

Still, printed media is in terminal decline - see Yell!

One hard reason I find for Sunday papersi that once you have kids you have no time; but people who don't yet have them or whose prgeny have fled the nest are probably still a big market - as they always were.

James Higham said...

Rupert may be immune but James is in for a tough time.

Right Way Forward said...

Excellent post. Miliband's 'bandwagon' strategy could indeed prove counter-productive.