Posts Tagged ‘Rupert Murdoch’
Another beautiful morning boded well for we hen-cleaners, but does it bode well for our dear leader? Chipping Norton’s favourite son seems besieged, a feeling hardly helped by the Daily Torygraph featuring a huge picture of Nigel Farage on its front page. To be fair it has also headlined David Cameron’s latest anti-Ukip wheeze which involves bringing forward legislation for an EU referendum. Nice thought but since the dreaded Nick Clegg has immediately announced that the Lib Dems will not allow it, the odds are that the hastily constructed torpedo will explode on loading.
We sat outside with our mugs of tea this morning, an experience so rare that the gang was in the sort of warm reflective mood that is usually unique to the Bull & Royal. The general view was that, given such amiable but weak leadership, Britain is back to being ruled by unelected Barons. But this time around it is not the union variety that is ruling our roost. Beer and sandwiches will not placate the new groups that turn the organ-grinder’s handle whilst monkeys, disguised as ministers, dance.
Today two groups are the equivalent of the unions of yesteryear. The first are the boardroom tax avoiders, whose corporate and individual taxes, if paid as intended, would transform the public finances from deficit to surplus in an instant. It is hard for ordinary folk to understand the grip they hold on their fellow clique of elitists at the heart of government, but it has become increasingly clear that our Old Etonians lack the courage to seriously challenge them.
The second group is the British press with its collective interest in weak government. The Leveson report, published last November amid so much hope for much needed change following the phone-hacking scandal and much else, has failed. Its 2,000 pages are history.
Today the Leveson report is to press reform what ‘In Place of Strife’ was to union reform. Harold Wilson flirted with union reform after the seaman’s strike in 1966, and then got scared off in 1969. David Cameron has done the same thing, flirting with press reform after the phone hacking scandals in 2011 before getting scared off in 2013. In both cases vested interests prevailed. In 1969 the Daily Mirror ran a front page editorial headlined; “There exists in Britain a power outside parliament as great as that which exists within it!” And so it is today, only the identity of the power has changed.
There is perhaps a slight hope that the government, backed by the all-party agreement, may stand firm on press regulation but as the general election draws nearer it is unlikely. The prime minister’s links with Murdoch et al are well known and he is unlikely to jeopardise their support. And should Ed Miliband triumph he is unlikely to want to pick a fight with the press in the difficult circumstances of a Labour government.
So we now have not union barons, but those of the boardroom and press variety. There seems no prospect whatsoever that government will tackle the former, and only a remote hope regarding the latter. The implications for us all are unnecessarily harsh austerity and continued bullying and unethical hounding by the media.
At times like this one tends to think back for examples of champions lost, of tough characters who would have said enough is enough, and meant it. Sadly it is a short list, only Thatcher and Churchill spring to mind. Perhaps a continuing success on the part of Ukip might just force David Cameron’s hand on the tax avoiders at least.
But we shouldn’t hold our breath, barons have a tradition of ruling for decades!
THOUGHT FOR TODAY; “I’m tired of all the nonsense about beauty being only skin deep. That’s deep enough. What do you want – an adorable pancreas? …Jean Kerr in ‘The Snake has all the Lines’.
Since it was the Sun that yesterday invoked words by Churchill in its last-ditch attempt to intimidate our easily intimidated politicians, we codgers this morning presume to refer to another phrase from our wartime leader. It was, he once said, always better to have “Jaw jaw than war war”. And so it proved yesterday when David Cameron surrendered to the prospect of an inevitable defeat in the Commons on the Leveson Report.
Having decided that earning the wrath of the press barons was a better option than that of the public at large, our dear leader left it to Oliver Letwin to throw in the towel in the small hours of Sunday night. Who better to sum up what happened than Nick Clegg, who for once found the inner strength to stand up for what his party believed in; “If it looks chaotic that Letwin was meeting members of Hacked Off in Ed Miliband’s office at 2.00am to discuss press regulation, that is because it was. It was chaotic because the prime minister walked out of the talks unilaterally on Thursday rather than sitting down and having sensible discussions!”
Those sensible discussions have now taken place and the newspaper industry has lost its powers to veto appointments to the body that will replace the Press Complaints Commission. The regulator has a statutory underpin and the body will have powers to impose fat fines and direct apologies as prominent as the offending article.
David Cameron had talked about crossing the Rubicon. It seems that the real one in this matter is a shallow, muddy river. In crossing it neither Miliband nor Clegg have even wet their socks. They have won all that they demanded, the public at last has protection against intimidation and lies yet no one in their right minds really believes that press freedom has been eroded.
Predictably the barons are threatening all sorts of retribution. Equally predictable is Cameron’s claim that this is what he meant to achieve all along. Perhaps even more predictable was yesterday’s news that the Sun has paid “very substantial damages” to Labour MP Siobhain McDonagh after it admitted that it accessed text messages from her mobile phone after it was stolen. In court the Sun admitted to “serious wrongdoing” and it was revealed that hundreds of further claims are in the pipeline. So much for yesterday’s page- three girl’s lecture on Thomas Jefferson!
As we cleaned out the hens this morning, we codgers gave credit to Ed Miliband who has quietly stood firm against Murdoch, the Barclays and the rest of the overseas-based newspaper owners. To quote Churchill yet again the “whole might of the enemy will soon be thrown against him”, but that would probably have been the case anyway. As Albert put it, the boy done good.
What this debacle does to the coalition is open to debate, but for now one thing is certain. At least some of the people who supposedly run this country are prepared to stand up to the bully boys who believe that they do!
We can now expect much talk about freedom. But with freedom comes responsibility. Parts of the press have so frequently abused that maxim that they do not deserve serious attention. To quote Chris Eubank in the High Court yesterday, News International “destroyed my life and my marriage and they made a mockery of the British justice system”. They are, he said; “Liars and bullies!”
THOUGHT FOR TODAY; “”Mr Speaker, I withdraw my statement that half the cabinet are asses – half the cabinet are not asses!”…..Benjamin Disraeli
According to the front page of today’s Sun this is D-Day. Hilarious tripe, but it angered some of my fellow chicken-keepers who, unlike Rupert Murdoch, experienced the Normandy landings. They were also less than impressed at the huge picture of Winston Churchill. The great man is probably spinning in his Bladon grave at the misuse of his name!
For those of you who are not Sun readers, I should perhaps explain that Murdoch’s men are using a quote from 1949 to justify the most blatent attempt to influence parliament since Guy Fawkes. Yes, Churchill did emphasise that a free press is the “unsleeping guardian of every right that free men prize”, but he was talking about the perils of a state-controlled media. He was not advocating a freedom to hack phones, to bribe policemen or to intimidate at will.
Turn to page three and the claims get even more bizaare. Topless ‘Poppy’ from Somerset is quoted as demanding that her audience pressure politicians to “remember the wise words of U.S founding father Thomas Jefferson. He said that where the press is free every man is safe”. In the unlikely event that ‘Poppy’ wrote this nonsense, she should perhaps remember that Jefferson defined freedom as every man being equal and free from unfair persecution. In today’s world he would certainly have viewed what happened to the family of Milly Dowler with outrage.
Tonight the Commons is due to vote on Leveson. Faced with possible defeat, David Cameron may well perform another of his U-turns or Nick Clegg may lose his suddenly discovered backbone. But whatever they do it would have been good to believe that it was aimed at the public interest rather than ingratiation of press barons who would prefer to influence the selection of those appointed to regulate them.
If the Sun, and some other nationals are to be believed, Britain’s press stands at a historic crossroads. One arrow points to freedom, the other to the end of all that Milton, Wilkes and Mill lived and died for. The truth is rather more mundane. MPs are being asked to choose between two versions of a royal charter – a medieval piece of constitutional nonsense that fudges the issue of statutory regulation. There are good and bad in both versions, not a straight choice between virtue and evil – and nothing in either to signal the death of press freedom.
Thetre are two issues causing so much furore. Clegg and Milband argue that the charter needs reinforcement to prevent it being unpicked by ministers without parliamentary debate. They also believe that the press should not be free to veto appointments to the regulator. The argument for parliamentary underpinning lies in the curious and unsatisfactory nature of the royal perogative – a profoundly undemocratic device which allows ministers of the day to interfere with, or even abolish, a charter without any kind of open debate. And this could happen if a powerful press baron was able to intimidate!
It is perhaps siginificant that the Guardian prefers the Lib/Dem proposal. The Guardian more than any other paper has exposed wrongdoing on the part of politicians. It sees no barrier to doing that in what Clegg/Miliband propose, and comments that; “We doubt John Milton will be spinning in his grave!”
Whether there is a vote or not we hope that our elected ones are strong enough to make up their own minds in an objective fashion. It is surely time for them to demonstrate that they, not Rupert Murdoch, are running the country.
THOUGHT FOR TODAY; “The difference between a taxidermist and a tax collector is that the taxidermist takes only your skin!”…Mark Twain
The rain is back. The Spring-like spell lifted our spirits and, lest we return to being a bunch of moaning and muddy old codgers, we must keep on reminding ourselves that Easter looms. It is a time set in our memory banks as one of sunny days and cheeping chicks. It is only recently that we have learned that it really was thus a few decades ago. Unfortunately a lot of ice has melted at the Arctic since then. But fingers crossed, perhaps God will be on our side this year.
He, or Rupert Murdoch as he is known on earth, is certainly on the side of Nigel Farrage. Today we learn that on Tuesday he entertained the Ukip leader to dinner at his London flat. Farrage’s cronies have let it be known that he told the great man that he has plans to join forces with the Conservatives come the election, but only if David Cameron steps down. That may well be down to our dear leader’s description of Ukip as a party of “fruitcakes” and “closet racists”.
Someone should advise our red-faced hero that bouts of temper are not always the best way to get ones points across. Messrs Johnson and Gove seem to have realised that if Murdoch’s post-dinner tweets are any indication. They, says our least favourite Aussie, are “excellent, frustrated ministers”. Frustrated? Mr Murdoch is thought to share Farrage’s disdain for our beleagured leader. Beleagured? He now faces a resurgent bunch of Lib Dems happy to contradict his every word, he has hordes of his own backbenchers yelling for his blood, and he is wedded to the Osborne recipe for knackering the economy. Now he has to read a Murdoch tweet declaring that Farrage “reflects public opinion on Europe!”. Will it be the Sun ‘wot wins it?’
But to those who, like us, pass our days in Lancashire this is all a mere sideshow. Yesterday our biggest and most highly regarded Teaching Hospital was obliged to cancel all non-emergency operations. It was bad news for patients who had counted the days to their admission. It was a PR opportunity for politicians who rushed to the cameras to cry shock and horror. How, they demanded, could one of our top hospitals reach the point where the need to provide urgent services overwhelmed it. Even our usually supportive local MP asked if this is the “third world”.
As a former chairman of that Foundation Trust I can tell them precisely who is to blame. It is them. From the day we earned Foundation status the management, clinicians and governors devoted ourselves to an intensive efficiency drive. Every system was examined and every possible saving made short of reducing the quality of patient care. By the time we had completed our work there was no scope for further savings.
Since that time the Lansley/Nicholson madness has led to massive so-called efficiency savings. Across the NHS these amount to £20 billion. But efficiency savings where there is no scope for further efficiency become cuts in funding. Apply that alongside a huge and chaotic reorganisation plus a continuingly rapid increase in elderly admissions, and you have swamping.
Of course we are told that the pressure on hospitals will be eased by the transfer of services into the community. I am not aware of a single one and, given that GP services are already inundated, cannot imagine other than that this is a fantasy.
The harsh truth is that unless hospital funding is increased every one in the country will slowly seize up. What happened here yesterday will become the norm.
The public has a simple choice. If we accept the political view that there is to be no more incremental funding, we must also accept that our hospitals will gradually lose their ability to handle increasing volumes.
And those such as the excellent Lancashire Teaching Hospitals who will not compromise on quality of care will take the only other course open to them!
THOUGHT FOR TODAY; ” An Englishman, even if he is alone, forms an orderly queue of one!”…..George Mikes
Miracles do happen! We arrived at the allotments this morning under blue skies and found that the overnight high winds had dried out the surface of the hen-runs. Even the chooks seemed to be walking with a happier gait. Whatever next, we have all the makings of a good-news day. But say it quietly for the weathermen are predicting a monsoon before it ends.
But in embattled Britain even the shortest break from the unrelenting tales of disaster is welcome. Unfortunately, today’s lead story failed to lift our spirits even further. To be fair to all those who believe that high-speed rail will herald an exciting new age, we have to admit that our lack of enthusiasm is in part down to the fact that none of us will be here when the first arrow-like missile shoots from London to Brum at the speed of light. And the cynics amongst us wonder what all those world-saving business wizards will do with the minutes shaved off their commuting times. And will laptops, skype and the rest not have advanced somewhat over the next twenty years, possibly to the point where they have no need to travel to carry on their dynamic deals?
Other aspects of the great Westminster train lanch also left us soemwhat puzzled. Great play was made yesterday of the reduction in travel time. But will not the next generation of locos have kicked in by 2032, making the difference much less? And what about the financial benefits? In the Commons transport secretary, Patrick McLoughlin, banged on about the £2 economic benefit forecast to result from every £1 spent. What? Every year? Every five minutes? To the end of time? Or what? Benefit to whom? How? It was all somewhat vague.
All we know for sure is that the capital and operating costs are estimated – and we all know what that means – at £59 bn at current costs with revenue at £33bn. This leaves £26bn to be funded by the taxpayer, a good deal of which must be found long before any revenue accrues. Presumably the £26bn must be found at the expense of something else.
Many experts claim that the end result will be a few high-speed journeys for those who can afford the higher fares, and a rail service for most almost as crappy as the one we endure today. Who knows? One thing is for sure, those politicians nailing their reputation to the concept won’t be in office when the project reaches its launch, probably in 2037.
Yesterday our dear leader made much of the fact that other countries have high-speed trains, but conveniently forgot to mention that they cover much bigger land masses. But fresh from his conquering of Aunty Merkel he was in no mood for cynicism.
Just as well for he also had to face questions about the Leveson Report. Had the super-rail excavation already started we might suspect that it had been buried, since it hasn’t we can only assume that it is somewhere in the long grass north of Watford. Certain it is that its lessons seem already buried. Last week George Osborne attended a party thrown by Rupert Murdoch in London. It is good to know that some friendships can withstand the harshest condemnation.
In fact there was some good news yesterday. Doctors announced that cancer will soon become a manageble disease rather than a death sentence thanks to a revolutionary treatment which will be available within three to five years time. All patients will soon have their tumour’s DNA, its genetic code, sequenced enabling doctors to ensure they give exactly the right drugs to keep the disease away.
There is every reason to believe that this will be the biggest step forward yet towards transforming many forms of cancer into chronic rather than fatal diseases. Prof Alan Ashworth, chief executive of the Institute of Cancer Research, says that none of this is “science fiction”. “One would think that within five to ten years this will be absolutely routine practice for every cancer patient”, he added.
It is a pity that such startling news should have been overshadowed by what sounds to many a pricey irrelevance, a load of high-speed hogwash. But then politicians can claim no credit for findings resulting from research funded charitably. Those of us who realise only too well that cancer affects far more families that do even the fastest trains should be delighted.
Perhaps even at this moment our failing Chancellor is asking his friend Rupert why the really good news received so little coverage. Then again probably not. Tying up the support of the Sun and Times is the only priority on his list!
TODAY’S INFAMOUS QUOTES ARE ON HUMANITY: “When I looked up my family tree I found out I was the sap”….Rodney Dangerfield “Telling a teenager the facts of life is like giving a fish a bath”……Arnold Glasgow “The worst eternal triangle is teenager, parent and telephone”……Lavonne Mathison ”I get along well with my parents. I still talk to them once a week. Its the least I can do . I still live in their house!”…..David Corrado “There are two things we can all live without – haemorrhoids and neighbours”….Spike Milligan “A neighbour is someone who has just run out of something”…..Robert Benchley “Everyone wants to save the earth. No one wants to help Mum wash the dishes”…..P J O’Rourke “Adolescence is the stage between puberty and adultery”……Denis Norden “The main purpose of children’s parties is to remind you that there are children worse than your own”…..Katharine Whitehorn