Honeyball’s Weekly Round-Up

Labour Party

Once again the headlines were dominated by the News International scandal. First Rebekah Brooks, former News of the World editor and CEO of News International stood down from her post as the chief executive and then earlier today she was arrested, over the phone hacking scandal.

We could be forgiven for believing there was no other news worthy of headlines for the way in which this story has dominated both print and broadcast coverage.

One point worth mentioning is how Ed Miliband seemed to capture the mood of the nation so effectively. During Prime Ministers Questions earlier in the week he used sound bites to great effect, telling the PM ‘he just doesn’t get it’ and calling upon him to apologise for what Miliband labelled ‘a serious error of judgement’. You can watch Michael White’s Guardian podcast here for full analysis.

To confirm this, today’s Sunday Mirror carries a poll by polling firm ComRes which states Miliband has received a ‘big bounce’ following the scandal. You can read the analysis of the ComRes poll here.

Perhaps now Murdoch’s media empire has been shaken we can once again have a proper debate about media plurality. Indeed the Independent raised such a point in its leading article: ‘Our democracy is stronger for the dropping of BSkyB bid: We now know that the integrity of our public institutions is not for sale to the highest bidder’. You can read the article in full here.

Media plurality and the demise of the Murdoch empire will, I’m sure be a big moment in British history, but there was other news. Greece is dangerously close to defaulting on its debts and if it does so the consequences threaten to spread far across Europe and will be a complete disaster for the euro.

An article in last week’s Guardian claims that the euro is run according to Germany’s monetary interests and in order for the euro to survive Germany must reconsider its position. If European monetary policy is run according to German interests, the article states, then huge structural imbalances will accumulate. It goes on to argue that Germany will then either have to pay to correct those imbalances, or agree that the euro should not be run primarily according to German interests. If they are unwilling to do either of those things, the euro can’t survive. You can read the full article here.

I was also saddened to learn that there has been a dramatic rise in the number of older workers who are staying in employment simply because they can’t afford to retire.

The report by the TUC shows a significant increase in the number of over-50s and people over the retirement age in work over the past two decades.

Brendan Barber the TUC general secretary was right when he said ‘the increasing number of over 65s in work shows that older workers are highly valued and that the government is absolutely right to scrap the default retirement age.

‘But there is a darker side to people to working beyond their retirement. Low wages and poor pension provision, particularly in the private sector, mean that many people simply cannot afford to retire at 65.’ You can read the article in full here.

Murdochs finally held to account by select committee

Labour Party

Following the News of the World scandal, I wrote an article about the fate of Murdoch’s media empire which was just published on PublicServiceEurope.com. It is copied out in full below:

The media empire of such might that was seemingly indestructible is now being rocked to its foundations

Yesterday afternoon, the Murdochs agreed that they would appear before a select committee in the Houses of Parliament. The committee is not able to summons them, as such, but the invitation was forceful nevertheless. Initially, they declined the request stating that they would appear before an inquiry – but that they could not appear in front of the select committee. Perhaps, there was a diary clash, eventually there was a U-turn and they changed their minds. The above scenario sums up the whole scandal.

An empire of such might existed and it was seemingly indestructible. Those at the top felt they were above any authority and it is this culture which, to us outsiders at least, appears to have permeated and flourished throughout the empire. We are even hearing from the FBI that it is now reporting 9/11 victims had their phones hacked by News Corporation, adding further violation to the uncomfortable feeling that those at the top encouraged unscrupulous behaviour.

In Britain, the scandal is considered to be so serious, that is has dominated all media coverage and shocked the nation over the last two weeks – precisely, because we have such a strong media culture which sets high investigative standards and which is highly regarded internationally. Was it right that the News of the World closed last Sunday? That is a difficult question, but it seems there was little choice – the brand was deemed to be untrustworthy. How would it ever find advertisers, who would be prepared to appear in their paper and pay to advertise? The brand had been irreparably damaged. The 200 or so staff suffered as a result of the actions of others, who had since moved on. The future of these journalists is unclear, many hope to be redeployed within the empire – but there is no guarantee.

And so their future along with that of the British print media remains uncertain. Murdoch may leave the paper industry all together and focus his efforts on broadcast media. We do not know – but next week when he and his son, James, and former News of the World editor and erstwhile chief executive of News International Rebekah Brooks appear in front of the Commons Culture Media and Sport Select Committee – the world’s eyes will be following their every movement and hanging off their every word, because finally they will be held to account.