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Twenty days of Crisis for Cameron

by ceebs Wed May 9th, 2012 at 08:02:39 PM EST

Ten days ago Rupert and James Murdoch were brought up before the Leveson inquiry, and the fallout is still echoing round the British political system. The thing that fired it off was the three days of evidence given by Rupert and James. In amongst this was a shot across the bows of the Cameron government, a selection of emails between News International's chief lobbyist and various others, detailing contacts between the lobbyist and the government department involved in adjudicating the control of the UK Media Market, and hence the monopoly situation on the BskyB ownership.

Now these emails were produced as part of Rupert's evidence, so the lobbyist was asked for his own statement, which was read into evidence without him being questioned and in there he claimed that although the emails said that he had discussed these things with the minister, he had in fact been talking to his underlings. At the same time having had this whole affair suddenly exposed, the government panicked, sacked the government advisor who was involved, and tried to claim he was acting outside his authority.

Now this whole situation seems at best dubious. We are expected to believe that

  1. A special advisor has decided to run his own media policy
  2. A man who has risen to be News International's chief lobbyist is a fantasist, who had risen through the ranks at the time when they were listening to everybody's phone messages.
  3. The minister wasn't on top of what was going on in his department
  4. Neither of the two managements, who met regularly, noticed this or mentioned it
  5. The email trail is false.

Now you can see one of these occurring, but all five? That stretches credulity to a point way beyond breaking. And although it is an approach that might work with compliant media, you would have to think that high court judges are made of sterner stuff (and judging from some of the pointed questions that he has asked and recipients haven't quite understood, Lord Leveson appears to have a mind like a steel trap)

The next problem that occurred is Nadine Dorries, who appeared on local TV news to say that Cameron and Osbourne were "posh boys who didn't know the price of milk". Now there are many Tory MPs who feel constrained by the coalition agreement, but she probably feels betrayed after both the collapse of her abortion time bill and the oh so subtle removal of her seat in the upcoming restructuring. And having had the carrot of re-selection removed, probably is feeling a certain lack of restraint.

Immediately after this we have the report of the Culture Media and Sport Committee on phone hacking, the Conservative members of the Committee have firmly nailed their party's colours to the Murdoch mast. It was an opportunity for Cameron to demonstrate strength and leadership, however instead of coming out strongly, he allowed the party's position to be dictated by Louise Mensch, a backbench politician and committee member. It may be that this is down to Cameron taking his eye off the ball as he is busy preparing for his own appearance before Lord Leveson.

Following on from this we then have the local elections. The Conservative Party lost 1/3 of its seats, their coalition partners lost approaching half of theirs. The economy, and a vision that they are both uncaring and callous and a view that they are irretrievably entangled with the Murdoch affair has not helped them. The right of the party came out strongly in response, suggesting that the reason that people hadn't in fact voted was disgust that some more liberal social policies were being followed (the party just wasn't cracking down on the poor and homosexuals hard enough) and the voters would have just loved them all if there had been more tax cuts and reductions in government services to pay for this. Now normally this would just be laughed off but, it was noted that two seperate factions of the right appeared to be joining together in common cause, putting aside their individual leadership ambitions, so it may show that Dorries is pushing in a direction that more than one politician inside the party is willing to head.

Then on Friday the Government really appeared to panic. Their lawyers approached Lord Leveson and requested Core Participant status. Core participants are those people who are heavily involved, victims, or likely to be criticised in the final report. Core participants get to see the evidence before the general public, so they are in a position to keep the Inquiry moving, they also get to request redactions of evidence and to put questions to witnesses through the Inquiry's lawyers.

Initially Lord L refused on the grounds that the government is not included in the groups that are allowed such status, when the rules were drawn up it was not seen that the government might come under such widespread pressure under such a blaze of publicity. His Lordship also announced that they would not be asking for any redactions as there were virtually no grounds that they would be agreed to.

Now to me this list seems somewhat odd: of the eight we have Jeremy Hunt, who already has had all the damaging details presented as evidence already. It would only make sense for him to be on the list if he thinks that there is more to come out, otherwise it's too little, too late. Next on the list is Nick Clegg, who has been presenting himself as un-contacted, although that is thought to relate to a lack of value in him for Murdoch, rather than anything else. So you would have to think there is no reason for him to be on the list. After that we have Vince Cable, the man who "Went to war with Murdoch", you have to think he wasn't on their Christmas card list either in any way that would need the attentions of his Lordship. George Osbourne is only giving evidence in writing, and hasn't been summoned to appear, so you would think that nothing contentious has been presented about him (although that is something that is making people boggle to a very large extent). In the past two weeks, William Hague and Michael Gove have been out supporting the Murdochs, so you would think nothing is about to come out about them. Kenneth Clarke has been under attack for not being right wing enough, so you wouldn't think that he hasn't had enough contact. That only leaves two people, Theresa May, who you might think has been treating attacks on the Human Rights Act as a personal hobby horse. Lord Leveson might wish to ask if there is any connection between this and the tabloid press general distaste of the act, what with its troubling privacy right which might impact on their business methods, but even then that seems minor, and probably fully legal and above board. So having run through the current mob that only leaves Dave with anything that might cause problems. Have all the others just signed up to act as cover for the Prime Minister's panic so he owes them one?

After the initial legal OK to these ministers standing, there was an outburst of outrage, and a variety of campaigners appealed, and Lord Leveson announced that any attempted redactions would be announced. Which no doubt didn't go down well in the Cameron household. The Government responded by announcing that they would not be asking for any redactions.

This morning we had the Queen's speech, to open a new session of parliament. It was widely seen as poor, lacking in any drive and looking like something to come from a failing government. Right-wing comentators and party members seem to think there was very little in it for them, which can only increase the unrest within the party.


And so we come to the next few days. Tomorrow afternoon we get Andy Coulson up in front of the Inquiry. As usual there will be a range of things that cannot be asked. We will steer clear of phone hacking and who did what when. We will probably also steer well clear of any suggestion of perjury in the Tommy Sherridan case, as either has the risk of jeopardising the on-going investigations and from there any possible court cases that may emerge from the investigation.

The main details that will be involved will be his deals with Number 10 and News International after his leaving the News of the World. How he came to have such a low level of background checks, even though he had left his previous job under a cloud (if this is at the request of the Prime Minister then it's going to cause chaos).

Then on Friday we have a full day with Rebekah Brooks. There are rumours of major bombshells to come on this day, none of which can be good for Cameron.

Best thing to read about this is probably this article:

The Woman Who Could Bring Down Cameron - The Daily Beast

In the spring of 2010, Paul McMullan found himself staking out a hoof-marked riding trail alongside some woodland near the country mansion of Rebekah Brooks, his former boss. A veteran Fleet Street journalist who'd spent much of his career at the notorious News of the World tabloid, McMullan was now hunting for a front-page shot: Brooks, one of Britain's most powerful press players, on horseback alongside David Cameron, the man many pegged as its next prime minister.

So the coming weekend may see the whole thing come apart. Coalition crumbling, Dave resigning. (It's reported that Kelvin Mackenzie, a former tabloid editor, has bet £1,000 he'd be gone before Christmas.) If this results in a new election, the coalition parties will be starting from the worst place possible.

Thanks for doing this ceebs.

If the government falls it's going to come from a Conservative Own Goal.  The Lib-Dems will be wiped-out so there's no incentive for them to bolt.  

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

by ATinNM on Wed May 9th, 2012 at 08:38:24 PM EST
If Cameron goes, then you might think that the Tories will leap to the right, in reaction to  the coalition (altho they may hang on for grim death and stay central)

If they do head right, then it would be hard  for the lib dems to stay.

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.

by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Wed May 9th, 2012 at 09:15:26 PM EST
[ Parent ]
but aren't the lib dems toast anyways?
by rootless2 on Wed May 9th, 2012 at 09:35:33 PM EST
[ Parent ]
but they may not be toast till 2015 and you never know, they may be able to teach the horse to sing

( http://en.wikibooks.org/wiki/Sufism/Nasrudin#Nasreddin_and_the_Sultan.27s_Horse )

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.

by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Wed May 9th, 2012 at 09:52:45 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The way things are going it is a long way to 2015 if this lot remain in charge.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Thu May 10th, 2012 at 03:02:26 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I honestly can't see why the govt would fall. After all, even if we have absolute evidence that the government were about to sell out to the Murdochs, it would be no more than would be expected.

We know that the Surrey police covered up evidence for the Murdochs, we know the met police did the same. We are pretty sure that News International conspired with persons or persons unknown to launch a vendatta against the head of the Met. We know the conservative party (and the blairs) sat on the sidelines and thought this was all jolly good knockabout fun.

What more do we need to know to convince us that none of the buggers should be in charge of a whelk stall, elt aone governing the country ? But this is Britain and, as I've said before, if you haven't got a sense of humour, don't stay

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Thu May 10th, 2012 at 11:51:37 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The government will fall if Murdoch pushes it. It's reasonable to expect he has some interesting dirt on Cameron, and if he makes it public Cameron would likely face - and lose - a vote of no confidence.

Cameron's problem is he's being squeezed from one side by the UKIP-wannabe frothing wingnuts in the party and by Murdoch on the other.

He has a lot of very unhappy backbenchers who expected a career, and are now resigning themselves to being one-term wonders.

Ironically - or not - he may be saved by the LibDems who have already resigned themselves to being one-term wonders. Since most of them are middle class and don't have other (better) jobs, the £100K plus expenses they're earning now is a solid incentive not to vote themselves out of a regular income.

But it all comes down to Murdoch. If Cameron takes on Murdoch, he'll lose and be out soon. If he fails to pretend to take on Murdoch awkward questions will be asked, but he'll last a full term.

Leveson is actually a side show. Levenson has to work in a very tiny political space, and he doesn't have room to do much damage to either Rupe's or Dave's interests.

The possible wildcards are former Murdoch employees who may still have varying degrees of knowledge and/or cash and/or loyalty, and might be interest in rocking the boat some more, and - perhaps - Companies House, which will get aggressive if proper accounts don't turn up soon.

It's possible that behind the scenes neither Murdoch nor Cameron are in a good position. If News Int is heading into financial difficulty, Murdoch's pay-out pile will dry up and he'll have to face court action from former hackees.

But if he goes down he may decide to take Cameron with him, just because.

Interesting times.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Thu May 10th, 2012 at 12:19:10 PM EST
[ Parent ]
well at the moment News international has worked about half way through their share buyback scheme which came to £5 billion, which is keeping the share price up. this has taken about eight months.  Last night  The FT's media editor said that a second £5 billion was being added to the support pot. Makes one wonder what is coming out soon.

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.
by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Thu May 10th, 2012 at 01:54:13 PM EST
[ Parent ]
UK Polling Report has both UKIP and the Lib-Dems polling at 8%.

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre
by ATinNM on Thu May 10th, 2012 at 04:15:26 PM EST
[ Parent ]
News International misses another accounting deadline | Media | guardian.co.uk

News International has missed another deadline to file its accounts with Companies House.

The company, which trades under the name of NI Group Ltd, is now facing a fine for failing to comply with the legal requirement to post its accounts for the year up to 30 June 2011.

Its directors also face penalties and the potential threat of legal proceedings.

After failing to file by the original due date, of 31 March, the company requested, and was granted, a month's extension.

When it did not file by 30 April it requested a further extension, arguing that the delay was due to an internal reorganisation.

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.
by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Wed May 9th, 2012 at 09:40:50 PM EST
As someone that as been living in the UK for many years and likes it here (weather exempted), the current events bring a smile.

Clegg never fooled me, indeed I was warning Lib Dem cheerleaders before the election. But he beat my worse expectations.

I actually like Ed, so I am optimistic and hopeful. If there are elections I just hope that the Greens at least maintain Caroline Lucas (and Labour wins in a landslide, of course).

Fingers crossed, I and hope Labour reverts at least the NHS wrong-doing of the coalition...

by cagatacos on Thu May 10th, 2012 at 07:35:11 AM EST
Clegg is a fool, and I said so when he cut the coalition deal and turned the Lib-Dems into the Zombie Party, a dead thing walking.
by rifek on Thu May 10th, 2012 at 03:30:33 PM EST
[ Parent ]
on the internet, while I'm at work. Thrills and drama over a five-day match.

Today it's the Levenson inquiry.

Today they start the fourth innings, focusing on the relations between politicians and the press.
Robert Jay, counsel to the inquiry, is a hard hitter, and he's got some runs on the board with his opening remarks.

Now we've got the editor of the Independent on Sunday, John Mullin, who has been hauled in by Levenson for contempt, or something similar : he published this article about Coulson owning Newscorp shares while he worked for Cameron, which is alleged to come from Coulson's leaked witness statement to the inquiry.

But Mullin is skilled with spin, and it looks like he's in the clear...

It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II

by eurogreen on Thu May 10th, 2012 at 08:08:22 AM EST

There's always a mixture of frustration and glee when mainstream media miss the blindingly obvious, leaving a lowly blogger like me to point it out. Most have focussed on Andy Coulson's lack of security clearance and BSkyB shares - granted, both important issues. "No killer blow" have declared BBC correspondents, Sky reporters, journalists, politicos and other assorted lotophagi reviewing the Coulson evidence. I beg to differ.

The Prime Minister has been caught, today, lying. On record. Repeatedly.

Cameron was pulled up recently by MP Chris Bryant for meetings with Rupert Murdoch which had not been declared, despite his many statements to the House of Commons that he had published all of them. The reaction from Number 10 was swift, categorical and bullish. Rupert Murdoch's lawyers rushed to withdraw the list of meetings attached to Rupe's statement, and re-submitted it with some of the meetings in question omitted and some shown as "possible" or "proposed". They could not be confirmed.

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.
by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Thu May 10th, 2012 at 04:10:40 PM EST
Rebekah Brooks at the Leveson inquiry - live coverage | Media | guardian.co.uk

David Cameron has been revealed by Rebekah Brooks to sign off some of his texts LOL, in the belief the acronym means "Lots Of Love". She told the Leveson Inquiry she has explained to him it actually means "Laughing Out Loud". In fact, they're both right and they're both wrong, as it means both. Here, to help both of them, is a list of other popular acronyms and what they absolutely don't mean, tempting though it might be for them to believe otherwise if Cameron happened to use them:

Rebekah, On For Lunch?

FFS: Freud Fixed Shenanigans

FFS: Fuck! Farewell Sky

WTF: Was Tony Funnier?

OMG: Oh, Murdoch's Gorgeous

Is My Horse OK?

It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II
by eurogreen on Fri May 11th, 2012 at 09:27:24 AM EST
Latest news - a copy of an email from Fred Michel (News Corp PR) to Rebekah Brooks. 27 June 2011 16.29:
Hunt will be making references to phone hacking in his statement on Rubicon this week.

He will be repeating the same narrative as the one he gave in Parliament few weeks ago.

This is based on his belief that the police is pursing things thoroughly and phone hacking has nothing to do with the media plurality issues.

It's extremely helpful.

On the issue of the privacy committee he supports a widening of its remit to the future of the press and evidence from all newspaper groups on the regulatory regime.

He wants to prevent a public inquiry. For this the committee will need to come up a strong report in the autumn and put enough pressure on the PCC to strength itself and take recommendations forward.

JH is now starting to looking to phone hacking/practices more thoroughly and has asked me to advise him privately in the coming weeks and guide his and No 10's positioning...

(My bold.)

As everyone who has read this will have noticed by now, this is clear evidence that News Corp were dictating government policy.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Fri May 11th, 2012 at 10:48:14 AM EST
I thought that although that was significant, the possibly more significant section was

This is based on his belief that the police is pursing things thoroughly and phone hacking has nothing to do with the media plurality issues.

It's extremely helpful.

which to my way of thinking, is possibly evidence of a cover-up being conducted on both sides of business and government

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.

by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Fri May 11th, 2012 at 01:50:42 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Sadly, I think that the entire issue is about cover up. Through mismanagement we have become privy to some aspects of the real way things are organised between corporates, the police and the ongoing govt.

the gap is closing and soon we will be left with the comforting taste of soma reassuring us that all is well

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Fri May 11th, 2012 at 02:17:51 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Independent - Editorial - Conclusive evidence of the cosy club at the top

After two days of evidence from Andy Coulson and Rebekah Brooks at the Leveson inquiry, there can no longer be any doubt of the inappropriate proximity of the political classes and News International. From the friendships, to the text messages, to the social dinners at which matters of high politics and high business were discussed; the picture painted is of a world where the lines between the professional and the personal are altogether blurred.

There is, of course, always going to be contact between politicians and the media. And so there should be. It is right that journalists be fully informed, and much is gained from less formal discussion. But the testimony from the former editors of the News of the World and The Sun points to something else entirely.

Ms Brooks may claim to be confident that, whatever the relationship, she never forgot she was a journalist and they never forgot they were politicians. It is a reasonable assertion, but one that is difficult to square with either once-weekly text messages from David Cameron - then leader of the Opposition - commonly signed off "lol" (by which he meant "lots of love") - or her attendance at his private birthday party after he became Prime Minister. Neither was such familiarity specific to Mr Cameron. Tony Blair was "a constant presence" in Ms Brooks's life while she was a newspaper editor, and she was good friends with Gordon Brown's wife Sarah, although her relationship with Mr Brown himself soured. Over a period of 10 years or more, Ms Brooks was at the centre of a web that went far beyond the purely professional contacts of a senior journalist.

keep to the Fen Causeway
by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Sat May 12th, 2012 at 07:44:06 AM EST
Independent - Front Page Headline - Hunt `asked Murdoch to steer No 10's policy on hacking'

Jeremy Hunt stood accused last night of conspiring with News International to prevent a public inquiry into the phone-hacking scandal.

The revelations at the Leveson Inquiry implicate Downing Street for the first time in a potential cover-up and heap further pressure on the Culture Secretary as he prepares to give evidence to the Inquiry later this month.

A damning email released to the Inquiry yesterday suggests Mr Hunt asked the company to "privately advise" and "guide his and No 10's thinking" on the unfolding scandal. The existence of the previously secret email emerged during more than five hours of questioning of News International's former chief executive Rebekah Brooks at the Leveson Inquiry.

Brooks also revealed that:..

keep to the Fen Causeway
by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Sat May 12th, 2012 at 07:47:06 AM EST
Twitter / @mattmoorek: This letter in yesterday's ...
This letter in yesterday's Guardian somewhat alters the complexion of Coulson's evidence to Leveson. lockerz.com/s/208634207

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.
by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Sun May 13th, 2012 at 07:55:58 AM EST
Perhaps, like 'W', Cameron has powers of instant and even retroactive declassification on a case by case basis.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Sun May 13th, 2012 at 11:27:53 AM EST
[ Parent ]

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