Tag Archives: Eastleigh

Farage meets Murdoch; Leveson has achieved nothing

Why is HE looking so happy? Could it be that Nigel Farage's meeting with Rupert Murdoch signifies support for UKIP from News Corporation? If so, would it really be in the public interest, or in that of the individuals concerned?

Why is HE looking so happy? Could it be that Nigel Farage’s meeting with Rupert Murdoch signifies support for UKIP from News Corporation? If so, would it really be in the public interest, or in that of the individuals concerned?

Was the Leveson Inquiry into media standards just an incredibly lengthy distraction from the ravages being wrought on the British system of government by the Coalition? In the light of current evidence, it seems so.

The inquiry found, and I quote from the executive summary, “the political parties of UK national Government and of UK official Opposition, have had or developed too close a relationship with the press in a way which has not been in the public interest. In part, this has simply been a matter of spending a disproportionate amount of time, attention and resource on this relationship in comparison to, and at the expense of, other legitimate claims in relation to the conduct of public affairs.”

We know that the Coalition government has resisted efforts to put Lord Justice Leveson’s recommendations into practice.

Now we see that UKIP leader Nigel Farage is courting Rupert Murdoch, the long-time boss of News Corporation, which owns many British newspapers and a huge stake in BSkyB satellite broadcasting. Murdoch was cast as one of the principal villains in the inquiry, as staff at his newspapers were responsible for hacking the phones of celebrities and other people in the news – most notably the family of Milly Dowler – thereby hindering police investigations.

“Too close a relationship with the press in a way which has not been in the public interest”. Although UKIP came second in the Eastleigh by-election, that party is in no position to call itself an official Opposition, but the BBC report saying Murdoch is “interested” to find out more about it is disturbing.

Even more disturbing is the fact that Farage would not comment on what was discussed during the meeting.

From Leveson, again: “The evidence suggests that politicians have conducted themselves in relation to the press in ways which have not served the public interest. They have placed themselves in positions in which they risked becoming vulnerable to influences which are neither known about nor transparent.”

The Daily Telegraph seems to think Mr Farage discussed the possibility of an electoral pact with the Conservatives if David Cameron stood down as leader. If that is true, then he was seeking an assurance of support from Murdoch, whose newspapers can do much to sway public opinion – often in spite of the facts.

Would this serve the public interest? No.

If Murdoch wished to influence Farage on such matters, would we be allowed to know about it? No. Would it be transparent? No, because that would show that the press was manipulating politicians, a situation strongly opposed – not only by Leveson but by the general public.

So the details of the meeting are kept from us. Never mind.

The fact that it took place at all is damning enough.

Still, we can thank Farage and Murdoch for several things.

First, the Leveson Inquiry into the culture, practices and ethics of the press was lengthy, expensive and pointless. Nothing has changed.

Second, the press – the Murdoch press, at the very least – is still keen to influence British politics for its own purposes.

Third, politicians – as represented here by Nigel Farage – are equally keen to be influenced and corrupted by the press, if it will help them gain power.

Do not trust the Murdoch press.

Do not trust Farage or UKIP.

Do not trust any UK administration that does not, at the very least, follow the Leveson recommendations.

Ask not for whom the clock ticks, David Cameron

D'oh! David Cameron realises he has just described as problems all the conditions he is trying to create in the UK, after his speech to the United Nations. This photograph used because I couldn't find one of him sticking his own foot in his mouth.

Here are a couple of items on the Guardian website that are worth putting side-by-side:

John O’Farrell, Labour’s losing candidate in the Eastleigh by-election, has written about how uncomfortable it was to be subjected to the “two-minute hate” on the social media – and David Cameron has been given a two-month warning by members of his party.

If he doesn’t revive their fortunes in the budget or the May local government elections, he could be out on his ear.

“And not a moment too soon!” I hear you cry, as the One Nation that Ed Miliband wants to build.

Apparently it will take 46 letters to Graham Brady, the chairman of the Conservative Party’s backbench 1922 committee, to trigger a leadership contest.

Already, according to tweets by Tory vice-chairman Michael Fabricant, there are rumblings from the lower ranks. “The Conservative voice is muffled and not crisp,” he tweeted. “It does not clearly project Conservative core policies or principles.”

Those of us who follow developments in social security legislation would probably agree, adding that they seem more like Nazi core policies (I make this point for a twofold purpose – firstly because it’s accurate; secondly because it really riles right-wingers who think Coalition benefits policy is a good idea). The trouble with that is, we can be sure as mustard that Mr Fabricant would urge a move to the right.

What is more right-wing than a Nazi?

Don’t bother trying to answer that – Mr Fabricant is likely to be about as significant to future Tory policy as a snowflake is to the temperature on the sun. He has undermined the Tory plan to play down the significance of being beaten by UKIP and the comedy Prime Minister’s insistence that he will not leave (what he seems to think is) the centre ground.

Of course, the budget is not Gideon George Osborne’s strong suit – let’s face it, the economy isn’t his strong suit and he’s supposed to be the Chancellor of the Exchequer – so the immediate future isn’t looking good for Call-Me-(Please)-Dave. Mr 0 was scraping the barrel with the pasty tax last year, and after his ideologically-based economic tinkering forced the nation into the longest depression in decades, it seems unlikely he will have anything revolutionary to pull from that famous red briefcase.

That leaves the local elections in May. Mid-term local elections – and, as the Tories told us within the past 24 hours, sitting governments rarely do well during mid-term elections.

Tick, tock, Tory boy.

Labour’s Eastleigh defeat could provide a map to general election victory

While Cameron and Clegg beat themselves - and each other - up over Eastleigh, Miliband can learn the lessons and prepare for victory in 2015 - if he wants it.

While Cameron and Clegg beat themselves – and each other – up over Eastleigh, Miliband can learn the lessons and prepare for victory in 2015 – if he wants it. (Cartoon: The Spectator)

Most of the UK is probably sick to death of Eastleigh by now.

We all woke up to the news that the Liberal Democrat candidate had narrowly held the seat for his party, with UKIP as the surprise challenger. The Conservatives came an ignominious third and some commentators have tried to get mileage from the fact that Labour came fourth.

The fact of the matter is, Eastleigh is extremely Liberal Democrat. The local council is entirely Lib Dem, if reports on last night’s Question Time are to be believed, and the party held the Parliamentary seat, even against Labour’s landslide of 1997. The headline result is no surprise.

But this election has shaken out a wealth of detail and the Labour leadership should study it well.

All parties agreed that the main national issue on the doorstep was immigration and the influence of Europe – this is why UKIP won so many votes. The British people think an undemocratic European bureaucracy has far too much influence over their lives and Labour now needs to shape its policy with that in mind. The correct way forward is to seek reform of the European institutions, to return power over matters like immigration – among others – to sovereign nations. Labour would do well to start discussing these matters with politicians in other EU countries, in order to seek consensus on a way forward.

Of course immigration into the UK has fallen, according to the latest figures, and the Conservatives have been quick to leap on this as a vindication of their current policies. It’s a bold claim, but not really supported by the evidence. What we’re seeing is an evaporation of interest in a country that is no longer an attractive place to live or work. So the Conservatives are admitting their policies are putting people off the UK. We’ll come back to this later.

The other big issue is a perennial problem for politicians: Honesty. If Labour comes away with anything at all from this by-election it is that the party must keep faith with the electorate. The Liberal Democrat share of the vote fell by more than 14 per cent – in what that party calls it’s own backyard. The blame for this can be fairly put on Nick Clegg, who spent the last week squirming under questioning about allegations against Lord Rennard. Did he know anything about this before? At first he denied any knowledge but when evidence came to light, he had to admit that he did. Is this an honest man? Of course not. As someone mentioned on Question Time, he said he was sorry in his video apology for U-turning on student tuition fees, but his current behaviour shows he isn’t at all.

Of course the honesty deficit in the Conservative Party beggars belief. How many of David Cameron’s election promises have proved to be untrue? Can anybody keep score any more? We’re all aware of the great betrayal of the National Health Service – and you can only hope for the success of opposition to the new regulations his government quietly introduced, to enforce privatisation of health services in England from April this year. That’s next month.

There are many other examples. To choose one that is topical, he promised that the bankers who caused the economic crisis would be made to pay for the disaster they caused. In fact, he is even now fighting to make sure that the European Union does not put a cap on the obscenely bloated bankers’ bonuses, that are still being paid by the UK’s financial organisations to the people who caused the crisis, even when those organisations have been losing billions of pounds per year. His reasoning for this is that these financial experts (and I use the word sarcastically) would probably leave the UK if they weren’t guaranteed these huge bungs all the time. Good riddance, I say. There are plenty of people both willing and able to fill the void and I dare say they would do a better job. Mr Cameron is trying to reward the financial betrayal of Britain. It is interesting to note, getting back to the point on immigration, that he has no problem with letting foreign bankers into our country.

His attitude to the richest in society contrasts brutally with his treatment of the poorest. It seems, if you are rich, you need a tonne of money to motivate you into work; if you are poor, you need to be made poorer, according to his philosophy. That is why the benefits budget is being squeezed so hard that the poor, sick and disabled are actually dying as a result – from lack of food, lack of heat, lack of medical care and lack of hope. Never forget that this man pursues economic policies that kill his own fellow citizens.

Now we hear that his government has been deliberately misusing evidence and statistics to misrepresent the plight of the poor, according to a report by a group of British churches. Evidence has been skewed to put the blame for poverty at the door of the poor themselves.

Honest? Trustworthy? Fit to govern?

Again, there are lessons for Labour. Ed Miliband’s party must realise that the Conservative Party’s attitude to social security – and New Labour’s before it – is completely at odds with public feeling and must be scrapped in its entirety. The social security system needs an overhaul with new values placed at its centre – values of fairness to the claimant, whether they are jobless, sick, disabled, or simply poor. It is the need of the person applying for help that must define what they receive – not a grubby money-grabbing plot. Above all, Labour must accept that any policy that leads to a claimant’s untimely death must be halted at once.

The fact that the Coalition has allowed these deaths to continue – and in fact increased their frequency – should be a matter for criminal proceedings in the future.

The question of how we pay for social security leads us back to the nation’s economy. Labour must come forward with a robust plan for investment in the nation because – if done right – this will pay for itself. Conservatives run down the idea of borrowing to invest, even though this is how Tory entrepreneurs made their own fortunes, but it is the only way forward. The economics of the Coalition can only lead to ruin.

So: Reform of the economy; reform of social security; reform of the health service; reform of our relationship with the European Union; and trustworthiness, to keep its promises. That’s how Labour will win the next election.

Let’s face it; there’s no opposition from the other main parties.

The only way Labour can lose is if it doesn’t see what’s staring it in the face.

Citizens of Eastleigh: Beware!

Eastleigh by-election - who's going to win? "I don't know" says Huhne.

Eastleigh by-election – who’s going to win? “I don’t know” says Huhne.

Some of you may remember just after Christmas I wrote an article entitled “Lib Dems’ new message for the New Year: Don’t laugh – they mean it”.

Last night we had proof of it on the BBC’s Question Time.

The discussion was about Chris Huhne’s court case, abandonment of his Parliamentary seat, and the by-election that will take place as a result.

Michael Moore, representing the Liberal Democrats, vowed that his party would fight hard to retain the seat. He said the Liberal Democrats were about “building a stronger economy in a fairer society, enabling everyone to get on in life”.

Those words are taken directly from the Liberal Democrats’ new ‘party message script’, released between Christmas and the New Year, that I dismissed as “utter, utter nonsense” in the earlier article.

The fact that Mr Moore felt comfortable quoting it merely reinforces my opinion that no Liberal Democrat should ever be allowed to get a seat in Parliament with it.

Allow me to reiterate what I wrote at the time: The economy is NOT strong; society is becoming more UNfair. FEWER people are now able to get on in life. It’s complete doublespeak and they need to be challenged on it at every turn.

The Eastleigh by-election is a perfect opportunity to do so.

Humza Yousaf MSP suggested that the poll might be a good opportunity for the Scottish Nationalist Party to field its first-ever candidate south of the English border; if I wasn’t a member of the Labour Party, I’d probably be telling you to vote for such a candidate!

One thing is certain – neither the Liberal Democrats nor the Conservatives deserve to win that seat.

Personally, I think the party that mobilises the 18-24 vote will be the winner, overwhelmingly if it can also engage the senior citizens. That means the message will have to be pitched just right.

My prediction: Eastleigh is about to be overwhelmed by a torrent of verbal and literary tripe.