A new era for politics and the media?

Former BSkyB Chief Executive James Murdoch (left) and Conservative party leader David Cameron stand side by side in 2007 A new era will require transparency by politicians

On the morning after the night the Commons broke the spell of Murdoch some are hailing a new era.

Never again, they say, will our political leaders be swayed by the charms and the threats of Rupert or James or Rebekah or, indeed, the owner or boss or editor of any paper.

To which I say: Clear your head, stop and think and stop fantasising. Politicians and the press are fated to be locked perpetually in a loveless embrace.

Our elected representatives crave favourable coverage. Newspapers are bought by men not to make money but for power and influence. It has always been thus and politicians have always resented it.

Back in the 1930s a Tory prime minister, Stanley Baldwin, condemned the press for wanting "power without responsibility - the prerogative of the harlot throughout the ages".

The tension has, if anything, got worse since then because politicians feel less and less able to get their message to the electorate unmediated whilst media organisations need and want legal and regulatory favours to allow them to expand their empires - buying other papers, expanding into TV or online - and to limit their competitors.

Gordon Brown's speech yesterday - more a roar of pain and anger - perfectly illustrated the problem.

He insisted that he had stood up to the Murdochs and that he and his ministers resisted demands for the BBC licence fee to be cut and its activities scaled back and for the regulator Ofcom to be neutered.

Gordon Brown told MPs he called for a judge-led inquiry into hacking when he was PM

He pointed out that he had been the target of attacks - from News International papers - the most painful of which was the suggestion that he was responsible for and uncaring about the death of soldiers in Afghanistan. All fair points.

However, he could not bring himself to do what both Ed Miliband and David Cameron have done - to admit that politicians, including himself, had got too close to the Murdochs in the hope of favours. He merely asserted that on coming to office he had tried to make friends in order to pursue the policies he believed in.

There can be no doubting that he tried very very hard to make friends.

When I made a radio profile of Gordon Brown before he became Prime Minister, his office suggested I interview a Murdoch lieutenant and Gordon admirer, Irwin Stelzer.

Rupert Murdoch disliked coming to Downing Street in those days, according to someone who worked with him, because Gordon would always insist that he as well as Tony Blair should be granted a meeting.

Rupert and Gordon, I was told repeatedly, shared a Presbyterian morality, a belief in work and mistrust of privilege.

The first person to call Andy Coulson to commiserate when he resigned from the News of the World was Gordon Brown (at least according to Mr Coulson).

As prime minister he went to Rebekah Brooks wedding and his wife Sarah invited Brooks to a "slumber party" at Chequers. And so on and so on.

My point is not to condemn Gordon Brown.

He made a powerful attack yesterday on the immorality and illegality of abuses by the press.

What's more, he only did what Tony Blair had done and what David Cameron went on to do. However, a new era will depend on politicians not simply condemning the press or promising to be virtuous in future.

It will depend, above all, on transparency in their dealings with those they can't live without but find it agonisingly painful at time to live with.

Nick Robinson Article written by Nick Robinson Nick Robinson Political editor

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  • Comment number 543.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 542.

    Looking down on the tip of the iceberg… no comfort on the Titanic

    It was the hidden nine-tenths, the mass, that took the tip thru' the hull.

    Anti-NHS blight, pro-Nuclear farce, oil-war, bank scandals not enough?

    What of despoliation, in one generation, for cash, of our children's world?

    What of 'living with' ignorance, mass-poverty, disease, war - and BOOZE?

  • rate this

    Comment number 541.

    Not all poodles… Not all the time… Art of survival… No first stones

    But amongst those with nothing to lose… Expect continued urbanity

    On R-4 Today I heard a call for Perspective… "Nobody died"

    "Murdoch just spotted winners… And backed them" And Democracy?

  • rate this

    Comment number 540.

    Quiet out there


    All with work to got to?

    Hope none 'awaiting orders'!

    Take time to think Democracy

    Need the best of Right and Left

    For historical Right v Left no win

    For the future

    Keep the good

    Move forward

    Able to trust

    Consciences free

    Make our own luck

    In it together?

  • rate this

    Comment number 539.

    To end vulnerability to corruption

    Not least in government but of All,

    Have to choose adult partnership

    Equal incomes + Get On With It

    Four years already in Phoney War

    Not facing Toxic Debt dislocations

    Making some attempt 'in together'

    But control left with Fear & Greed.

  • rate this

    Comment number 538.

    Boris says, "whole thing added-up":

    However good Sir Paul Stephenson,

    Think how much better undistracted?

    Truth & Reconciliation for the future,

    For now name and shame Mammon

    And get on! But in Democratic way!

    Not less than National Government

    And a date next year for G Election

    Meantime, sense on 'in it together'.

  • rate this

    Comment number 537.

    Flames to be fanned by Surviving Press

    Attentions taken up by personality falls.

    But come the day, who to deserve Votes?

    Might it now be allowed, deemed proper,

    To ask all about stances on Democracy?

    Facing the choice: Equality or Corruption.

    It has been well said, and long ago,

    To Caesar ONLY what is Caesar's,

    No man can serve two masters.

  • rate this

    Comment number 536.

    Bad enough Coulson & Co. at No 10

    Perhaps worse influence on Blair

    Worst: what influences ON Murdoch?

    Could have used oil to power build

    By now have tidal barrages etc

    Instead Energy Gap, Russia for Gas

    Went 1939-1945 to 'a little trouble' to free

    Now free selves: Renewable + Democracy

    However suspect, even thinned-out

    Must watch hackneyed debaters

    Poodle interviewers but need Vote!

  • rate this

    Comment number 535.

    Murdoch's team skittled

    Sir Paul Stevenson gone

    Who sold policy to Blair?

    Tried it on with Brown?

    Managed Cameron?

    Dither, then 'Nuclear'.

    AV referendum allowed

    Then tabloid 'advice'.

    Blog comments free

    Now only 400 ch.

    Will the last out

    Call General Election?

  • rate this

    Comment number 534.

    The incestuous relationship between politicians and the news media (principally Fox) here and in England (we are really cousins in this respect) is what Reginald Perrin would have described as a grotty situation.

    There is one encouraging note; you have people who are willing to fall on the grenade. On this side of the pond, they must be forced to walk the plank at sword's point. UK-1; USA-nil.

  • rate this

    Comment number 533.

    rhymer @526
    Hope a good trip!

    Were you nearly there?

    Did they nearly make it?

    Myself not carried away

    Even then 'Labourism'

    Failure to think freedom.

    Result: Instant Rebuttal

    But victory only pyrrhic.

    Another day comes


  • rate this

    Comment number 532.


    Our greatest Prime Minister was an outsider.

    Who do you have in mind?

  • rate this

    Comment number 531.

    Let's hope that the UK Bribery Act (which came into force July 2011) will do the requisite damage to all the big players involved!

  • rate this

    Comment number 530.

    It's not just media spin that needs to stop, political spin must stop also.

    Misleading (spinning) the Public is a skill communications directors are sometimes employed for.

    "Mili's" personalisation against Murdoch is telling.

    Excessive power in all things is unhealthy and partly why the UK is in a mess, perhaps 5% should be a maximum interest in anything except public bodies.

  • rate this

    Comment number 529.

    I find the sanctimony of the politicians, so soon after the scandal over their expenses, and the thinly veiled delight of the BBC at their competitor's fall from grace and the possible fulfillment of their ultimate fantasy, the discrediting and even the resignation of PM David Cameron even more nauseating than the hacking of people's mobile phones.

  • rate this

    Comment number 528.

    521 JH66

    Does your tendency to personalize reflect your disillusion with the great institutions of state or do you think history is made by great men?

    My father in his professional life was still fighting over the origins of the English civil war.Did Cromwell "own" it,or was it a radical middle class fighting against restrictive remnants of feudal power.

    His debates were very heated.

  • rate this

    Comment number 527.

    re #513
    The Wallis arrest raises questions for Brown. Did he really provide him with a recommendation if not an actual reference? And did a Labour Home Sec, or their Civil Servants, have any influence over the decision not to pursue this matter before May 2010?

  • rate this

    Comment number 526.

    all for all 524 and 525.
    Wow! You have just described all my flashbacks from the '60s.

  • rate this

    Comment number 525.

    obsagoodin @506
    I Name you Mr Blobby
    And Claim my Prize
    Strictly funnily never wrong.

    Incomprehensible to obvious
    Surely you begin to see
    One thing to see wrongs
    Another to see the right

  • rate this

    Comment number 524.

    To all sore troubled

    Life is difficult enough
    In every sphere
    Can trouble the most expert
    Drawn out-of-field...

    Without freedom to trust
    To ask and to help,
    We will forever be
    Jumping at shadows!

    Neglect your freedom
    Equal share of Freedom
    Vision of IndefatigablePG
    Might prove too true...

    None of us would like that!


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