11/07/2011 Daily Politics


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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.


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