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Afternoon, folks, welcome to the Daily Politics, on the day when the
prospects of Rupert Murdoch taking over the whole of BSkyB are getting
slimmer and slimmer. Labour is threatening a Parliamentary vote on
the matter on Wednesday, and Culture Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, has
this morning written to Ofcom and the Office of Fair Trading to ask
for further advice on allowing the takeover. Almost everybody thinks
the Government is looking for a way to stop the takeover. What will Mr
Murdoch's next move be? After months of wrangling, the Government
is finally about to release its public services white paper,
promising power to the people. We'll examine the details.
And we'll bring you tales of drunkeness and debauchery from the
Why don't we get invited to those parties?
I have never seen that! All that in the next half hour. With us for the
duration, journalist Simon Jenkins, welcome to the show. Rupert Murdoch
has flown into the country to give his support to Rebekah Brooks, who
is likely this week to be interviewed by the police.
Meanwhile, it has emerged this morning that Culture Secretary,
Jeremy Hunt, is writing to Ofcom and the Office of Fair Trading to
ask for further advice on whether there should be an inquiry. I also
heard yesterday that they've just commissioned a new series of Dallas.
I don't know why they bothered. There's much more intrigue, double-
dealing and corporate bad behavious at Wapping.
-- bad behaviour. Here's Adam Fleming with a round up of the
story so far. Here are the comings and goings
since your last tuned into The Daily Politics. Gone, the News of
the World, 5 million copies were printed of the last ever edition.
Coming, Rupert Murdoch touched down in the UK for a show of support for
his top executive and former News of the World editor, Rebekah Brooks,
and to see what effect his -- the scandal is having on his bid for
the trunk of the satellite broadcaster BSkyB, which he doesn't
already own -- the truck. Walking into Nick Clegg's office, the
family of Milly Dowler, whose firm was allegedly hacked. The Deputy
Prime Minister had this message for Mr Murdoch. I would say, look how
people feel at honest. Look out the country has acted with revulsion to
the revelations. So do the decent and sensible thing, and reconsider,
think again about your bid for BSkyB.
Arriving in the Commons on Wednesday, a motion to that effect
from Labour, which is getting support from many Lib Dem MPs and
some Tories. But potentially tromping that is a letter winging
his way to the communications regulator of Comp, from the Culture
Secretary, Jeremy Hunt -- Ofcom. Asking for fresh advice which could
put the kibosh on that takeover. The advice I already have is that I
should allow this deal to go ahead. But obviously in the last week, we
have had some horrific revelations which I think have shocked everyone.
I am writing back to them and saying, do you still stand behind
the advice you gave me before, that this deal should be allowed to go
ahead, or are there some new facts which have emerged that will cause
you to change that advice? knows what the next headline will
be in a story that's changing by the minute.
It is indeed. Simon Jenkins has worked for News International, he
knows the media scene back to front. It is pretty clear that if the
government can find any possible way of stopping or delaying this
together, they will do it. Yeah. ain't going out and if they can
stop it. The politics is all over it now. They will do that and there
are ways of doing it. Whether it matters is a different matter. It
has become so toxic politically that they have got to do it.
Labour Force did to a vote, it probably won't go to that, I would
suggest Mr Cameron would have difficulty whipping his own side --
forced it to a vote. He would lose This is increasing his shareholding
in a company he already runs. A bigger story than famine in East
Anglia -- East Africa? It is leading every news channel in
Britain. You don't think we should? This is a commercial rival. The
media are not dispassionate in this story, it is a masher -- matter of
commercial rivalry. It is a watershed. Since Harold wasn't,
prime ministers, or those who have wanted to be Prime Minister, have
paid abeyance to Mr Murdoch -- since Harold Wilson. That ain't
going to happen again. Yes, it will. Insofar as papers have power, media
groups have power. They will do it again. Nothing will change.
don't think that Mr Murdoch has become such a toxic figure that a
politician would be better to try to get elected by saying he has got
nothing to do with him? We can remember when he was a toxic vigour
before, he has been all his life. He has never been a toxic figure in
the way that it is because of the phone hacking. This week, yeah. And
last week. We will see. I am not sure you are right on that. Tessa
Jowell, good to see you. At what point did you and Labour decide
that Mr Murdoch's ownership of so much media was maligned? I think it
has been a continuing preoccupation, and when I was Culture Secretary, I
made sure that the Communications Act had a provision in it to
safeguard plurality, in the light of convergence, and to address
precisely the kind of situation that we are in today, with News
International wanting to acquire BSkyB. As Culture Secretary, you
relaxed the rules on media ownership in this country. No, I
made it easier for local newspapers to own up local radio stations.
relaxed the laws, you made it easier for mergers and cross
ownership of different kinds of media to happen. That was one of
the purposes of the bill. I remember covering it at the time, a
lot of people didn't like it. we safeguarded the fact of
convergence, that people would read newspapers online. The threat to
local newspapers. With the plurality provisions, to ensure
that the number of voices and the range of views still predominated.
An interesting rewriting of history. I don't think so. You were
presented by the Information Commissioner with a report that
showed the illegal gathering of information was rife in British
newspapers, it was endemic, and the News of the World was not anywhere
near the worst. Why did the last Labour government do nothing about
that? We certainly should have done. Why didn't you? I don't think there
is any good reason to explain why we didn't do anything about it. We
certainly should have done. Because you were in bed with Rupert
Murdoch? No. I think this is overstated. The focus now is on a
news organisation which appears to have committed, in a pretty
systematic way, a number of criminal acts. I think you have got
to create a bit of sense of proportion about the inevitability
that politicians like me and Bonn will have relationships, with
newspaper editors. But will continue. It should be motivated by
the public interest and not other interests. The relationships that
New Labour had with Rupert Murdoch and his people were on a different
level to relationships I have with various governments. Let me bring
in Don Foster. You have got clean hands because Rupert Murdoch never
thought you mattered and didn't want to waste his time dealing with
the Lib Dems, who he thought were useless. You now have a free hand
to do what you want. Am I right in saying, in so far as I can divine
it, it is your party's policy that this takeover must not happen?
don't want it to go ahead, that is certainly true. I am concerned
about this rewriting of history about the Labour Party. 1996, John
Major tried to control ownership of the media, when in opposition, the
Labour Party opposed that, and Tony Blair flew over to America, to see
Murdoch. We then had... Tessa says in 2003, they wanted to put
plurality rules in. You didn't, it was only your backbenchers in the
House of Lords who forced that upon you. You have done some rewriting
of history as a, it was Australia he flew to, but never mind. --
history yourself. I think events may make the vote below --
irrelevant, but if it is a vote, will the Lib Dems vote against it
one last? The real problems we all face is we all know what we want to
achieve, the question is how you can do that. The issues to do with
the competition arrangements in relation to the takeover are dealt
with by the European Commission. The issues to do with fit and
proper persons are dealt with an independent regulator, Ofcom. The
issues to do with plurality, the range of voices, is in the hands of
one person in a quasi judicial role, the Secretary of State. The
question is, what can Parliament do that will achieve the end that we
and the public want. I understand all that. Just be clear from the
Lib Dems, you will split from your coalition partners, if need be, on
this issue. We will do what we can, to prevent this merger going ahead,
and to all of the inquiries have taken place, if we can do it
legally. We can't go round and say other people have been acting
illegally... I understand that. If it need be, you will vote with
Labour? If the motion is one that delivers what we want and provides
a legal route of doing it, that is likely to be... I haven't talked to
my parliamentary colleagues yet, we have got to have those discussions,
but I imagined that is what we are likely to do. All right. Your
leader, Mr Miliband, has taken quite a lead in this and set the
pace. Is he not running a huge risk, having Tom Baldwin as his press
secretary? Of News International. He was recruited from The Times, as
Bob Roberts was recruited from The Mirror. It is a good thing to have
as your head of communications, somebody with frontline media
experience. The mayor has also been up to quite a few dodgy ways of
getting information -- The Mirror has also been. Is it sensible for
someone who would like to be Prime Minister to surround themselves
with red-top tabloid journalists? Tom Baldwin was not a red-top
tabloid journalist. The chap from The Mirror was a. He was a
journalist of repeat from The Times. Who has been accused of using
someone to break into Lord Ashcroft's bank account.
allegation which he has emphatically and categorically
denied. So did Andy Coulson. think that this is a very
dangerous... If I can say, improper line of questioning. An allegation
was made in the newspaper yesterday. Tom Baldwin has flatly denied it,
he has denied it to me and to the leader of the Labour Party. We put
the same 0.2 the Tories about the employment of Andy Coulson. -- the
same point to the Tories. Where does this line of questioning take
us? When the truth comes out... are saying that in denying this
allegation, Tom Baldwin is not telling the truth. I am saying that
Mr Coulson denied many allegations And journalists shouldn't work for
government. I have always thought that. It always ends in tears. It
ended in tears with Alastair Campbell. The people who should
work for government are civil servants. Bernard Ingham was a good
press officer. He was a civil servant. We are on one side of the
fence, they are on another side. And we should not jump over the
fence. It always leads to this kind of mess. I think the whole thing
has blown way out of proportion. The Andy Coulson affair was clearly
sad, a lot of people are advised Cameron, including myself, don't
get a red top editor in your office. I am afraid, I just think they have
all got mud on their hands. We are going to have to leave it there. We
have run out of time. We asked for someone from the government to talk
about this, including from the Department of Culture, Media and
Sport, but surprise, surprise, nobody wanted to come on. I don't
know why. This afternoon, David Cameron will
unveil his long-awaited plan to reform public services. I say long-
awaited - in fact, this white paper has been delayed for months because
of furious rows within government about the plans. Despite all this,
the Prime Minister says he remains committed to transforming the way
public services are delivered and ending the "top-downm "take what
you're given" culture. So, Anita, will he get his way?
Citizen Cameron wants to give "power to the people" with his new
public services white paper. In a speech this afternoon, he will say,
"The old dogma that Whitehall knows best - it's gone. There will be
more freedom, more choice and more local control." The white paper
will mean that the state is no longer the default provider for
public services. Instead, outside organisations, like charities,
community groups and private companies, will be able to bid to
run things like local health services, parks and libraries. The
plans will also allow personal budgets so individuals can buy
their own services. And there will be more payment by results, to
encourage markets to develop across the public sector. The white paper
was supposed to have been published in February, but the initial plan
provoked a huge backlash from the unions, who accused Cameron of
driving a Thatcherite-style privatisation agenda. The initial
plans also sparked rows within government, between Cameron's
policy guru, Steve Hilton, and some senior Conservatives and Lib Dems
who had doubts. Andrew. Tessa Jowell, the Shadow Cabinet
Office Minister, is still with us and I'm also joined by the
Given the difficult birth of this White Paper, will it be stillborn?
I do not think so. This creates a blueprint for the way we want
public services to work in the future, to create an opportunity
for diversity of provision and the people to take responsibility for
running their own services. There are two nurses in my constituency
who set up a community health partnership and are running a lot
of community services in Mid Surrey better than was the case previously.
That kind of model offers a blueprint for the way we can
continue to deliver public services. But we entrust the poet --
professionals to do it for us. can you assure us that your Lib Dem
colleagues in the coalition are 100% behind these plans? Absolutely.
We are bringing forward the white paper together this afternoon. It
has the endorsement of both coalition partners. So the Lib Dems
have not been kicking back in the formation of this White Paper?
Lib Dem philosophy has always been about decentralisation. They have
always been about local control and devolution. That did not work with
health reform. I know what they stand for, but are you telling our
viewers today that this comes with the wholehearted endorsement of
your Lib Dem coalition partners? Yes, if you look at the things we
are doing with the free schools policy and the work programme, the
devolution of responsibility of welfare to work to third-party
organisations, saying to them, you deliver what works, and we will pay
you. Why did it take so long to see the light of day? It is a
complicated policy. You want to make sure you get it right. There
has been plenty of discussion on that. The two parties have one
thing in common, which is a desire to devolve and decentralise, and a
belief that the old adage of government knowing best is not
quite. Tessa Jowell, your party in government was in favour of
competition. Mr Blair used to complain that he was not allowed to
do enough devolution. Why have you changed your mind? We have not
changed our mind. However, I have not seen the white paper yet. There
are three things that concern us about this. Firstly, there may be a
lot in the rhetoric on which we can agree. But the test will be in the
detail of how this is applied, specifically, perhaps Chris can
give us assurances on this, that competition by price will not
feature in the White Paper. Not at all? That it will not feature as
the defining criteria for decentralising services to third
sector organisations. Price is a factor, but so is quality. We look
to both the quality of provision, not dictating what it should be,
but seeing what people's ideas are, and then looking at price. But the
reason the health service reform had to be knocked back was the
insistence on competition by price being the driving force for
commissioning healthcare. In the health service, you want both
quality and price. Within the health service now, some hospitals
operate more efficiently and can offer a comparable service at a
lower price. We do not want to see a third party commercial
organisations coming in and exploiting the health service for
profit. And similarly community services? But within the health
service, if you have a group of nurses who can take over the
community service they operate and deliver it at a lower price, that
is a good thing. I had a second question. You have already had two!
Let's see what Simon says. It is probably the same thing. I am a
fanatical localist and I have read the same document from both parties
for year after year. Hazel Blears' White Paper was identical. The nub
of it is privatisation, not localisation, and there you have
problems. PFI has been a mess. Some of it has worked. Serco do good
work running the congestion charge and so on. But other services are
not benefited by privatisation. There are two different concepts.
In focusing on the cliche power to the people, what does it mean? It
does not mean power to local government. It does not mean
devolving power to raise taxes locally. It is a vague concept of
the community and neighbourhood, which hazel Blears had the concept
of, and Tony Blair and Gordon Brown liked it. Let the localist - it
does not mean anything. And your third question? My third question
is about the stuff that was briefed yesterday, that schools and
hospitals, under this new set of proposals, would be allowed to fail.
Can you assure us that schools and hospitals will not be allowed to
fail because of their commercialisation? Simon is asking
what is different. Free schools are something we have already started.
That is a radical new departure, saying to parents, if you believe
you can run a school better than the school down the road, you can
do that. I expect that the free schools to take pupils away from
the failing schools if they are good. And will the other school
therefore close? I am confident that we will see improvements in
standards across the board. But logically, if a failing school
comes under pressure from a school that is doing well, that may happen.
You have run out of questions. will have my chance later. Both of
you should come back again. All this arguing is enough to drive
you to drink. That seems to be the case for MPs and their researchers.
In the bowels of Parliament, there is a place, a bar called the Sports
and Social, where they do not play sports. And sometimes things are
anti-social. It is a place where the hard working parliamentary
staff can let off a bit of steam. But it seems they might have been
overdoing it a bit, and in a bid to stop raucous behaviour, Black Rod,
no less, has limited the number of guests allowed in.
In the Palace of Westminster, that icon of sober democracy, trouble
has been brewing. In Parliament's Central lobby, you get what he
expect, the guilt, the grandeur, the statues of past politicians.
But right under my feet is a part of hidden Parliament, the Sports
and Social bar. And down there, things have been going a little
awry. # But all I found was cigarettes
and alcohol. The Sports and Social baris in the bowels of the building,
behind the trash compared to, to give you an idea of what it is like.
It is like an old working man's club. It smells of booze. It has a
trophy cabinet and boards telling you who is the darts champion.
There are MPs' researchers, about 3000 of them. The rest are staff of
the house, maintenance workers, cleaners, catering staff. They make
up the largest client base. It is a place where the researchers can go
and bring their friends. What went wrong? They became a bit too
enthusiastic about bringing their friends in. In the last Parliament,
there was a bar where the Tory researchers used to drink. And the
Sports and Social was whether Labour researchers would drink.
of the staff bars was closed down recently, so it was an issue of too
many groups of people using the same bar. There was a problem with
the researchers having a bit too much to drink, forgetting that
their guests were only guests, and they were leaving people without
passes to wander around full of drink. Blackwood has ruled only two
guests per member of staff on certain nights. There is an urban
myth that it is a subsidised bar. It is not. They have lower
overheads, but prices are set at market rates. It is important for
both researchers and MPs that they have places they can go and relax
with colleagues without the public listening over their shoulder.
her Black Rod's rules observed, that allows insiders to continue to
drink for Britain. As Chris Grayling was leaving, he
said, I do not even know where it is. Two people who do know where it
is are two Westminster veterans known to have the odd swift half in
the parliamentary bars, Labour's Austin Mitchell and Kevin Maguire
from the Mirror. Austin Mitchell, what kind of bad behaviour has
there been? Very occasional fights. In my time, two MPs fell down the
steps going home. One suffered brain damage, and that was
noticeable -- not noticeable, of course, in the Commons. One of the
Tory whips was something of an alcoholic. We used to get a
uproariously drunk. But drinking happens far less now. We do not
have all-night sittings any more. And there are more women. Some have
died of alcoholism. Allegedly! Kevin, it begs the question, why is
there a drinking club in the bowels of Westminster? You are meant to be
working. They are supposed to be off duty when they are there.
Whether they are is another matter. It is to keep them on site. Do you
think pubs want these parliamentary researchers? You get the sense that
there is a lot of pressure and they need a place to let off steam. Was
it a mistake to close down one of the bars? De new Tory lot are very
thirsty. One of them collapsed and could not vote. Allegedly. He was
poured into a taxi. I know he did admit it. But it is nothing like it
used to be. I do not know why they do not ban drinking altogether.
They have banned smoking. A male guest collapsed recently. His wife
came to pick him up, and she collapsed. There was a lot of
drunkenness. There was less drinking when I arrived at the
House of Commons, a long time ago, than there was at the BBC. Nobody
drinks now. We have no hospitality here. We did not even give you
water today. The main drinking used to be where the journalists went.
Tony Blair used to have a whisky and half a bottle of wine, and
thought he was becoming an alcoholic. They are sadly out of
time. I say thanks to all our guests.
It seems the prospect of Rupert Murdoch taking over the whole of BSkyB are getting smaller and smaller.
The Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt has written to Ofcom and the Office of Fair Trading to ask for further advice on allowing the take over. So what will Mr Murdoch's next move be?
The move comes as Labour prepares to put a motion in the Commons calling for the bid to be delayed until the criminal investigation is completed, we ask LibDem Deputy Leader Simon Hughes and Labour's Tessa Jowell for their views.
After months of wrangling the government is finally about to release its public services White Paper, promising 'power to the people'. We look at the detail.
And tales of drunkenness and debauchery from the Houses of Parliament - a film about what goes on below the Commons. The guests are Labour's Austin Mitchell, Kevin Maguire from the Mirror, and the journalist Simon Jenkins.