Hooray for a former Sun editor!

David Yelland is spot on about the our media"consensus".

It's often said that working for the Murdoch media empire is like selling your soul to the devil - with no prospects of a refund.

I'd like to think I emerged from my two-year stint at Sky News with my (progressive) soul intact and unsold.

So too, it seems, did David Yelland, editor of the Sun between 1998 and 2003. In a fascinating article in the Guardian, Yelland describes the threat posed to his former bosses at News International by the Lib Dem "surge" and takes a pot shot at the Tory-supporting media consensus.

He says:

Make no mistake, if the Liberal Democrats actually won the election - or held the balance of power - it would be the first time in decades that Murdoch was locked out of British politics. In so many ways, a vote for the Lib Dems is a vote against Murdoch and the media elite.

I can say this with some authority because in my five years editing the Sun I did not once meet a Lib Dem leader, even though I met Tony Blair, William Hague and Iain Duncan Smith on countless occasions. (Full disclosure: I have since met Nick Clegg.)

It is indeed the press, and specifically the Murdoch-owned media, which has propped up the Labour-Tory duopoly in power in recent decades. And Murdoch's switch from Conservative to Labour back to Conservative (last year) reflects the cynicism so endemic in British journalism.

Yelland continues:

Over the years the relationships between the media elite and the two main political parties have become closer and closer to the point where, now, one is indistinguishable from the other. Indeed, it is difficult not to think that the lunatics have stopped writing about the asylum and have actually taken it over.

We now live in an era when very serious men and women stay out of politics because our national discourse is conducted by populists with no interest in politics whatsoever. What we have in the UK is a coming together of the political elite and the media in a way that makes people outside London or outside those elites feel disenfranchised and powerless. But all that would go to pot if Clegg were able to somehow pull off his miracle. For he is untainted by it.

Just imagine the scene in many of our national newspaper newsrooms on the morning a Lib-Lab vote has kept the Tories out of office. "Who knows Clegg?" they would say.

There would be a resounding silence.

"Who can put in a call to Gordon?" another would cry.

You would hear a pin drop on the editorial floor.

A hilarious image - and so true!

Yelland then targets the pro-Cameron partisanship of the papers, which long ago put all their eggs in the Cameron basket - as my colleague James Macintyre and I have argued time and again.

The fact is these papers, and others, decided months ago that Cameron was going to win. They are now invested in his victory in the most undemocratic fashion. They have gone after the prime minister in a deeply personal way and until last week they were certain he was in their sights.

I hold no brief for Nick Clegg. But now, thanks to him - an ingenue with no media links whatsoever - things look very different, because now the powerless have a voice as well as the powerful.

Hear, hear!

Mehdi Hasan is a contributing writer for the New Statesman and the co-author of Ed: The Milibands and the Making of a Labour Leader. He was the New Statesman's senior editor (politics) from 2009-12.

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Why the Labour rebels have delayed their leadership challenge

MPs hope that Jeremy Corbyn may yet resign, while Owen Smith is competing with Angela Eagle to be the candidate.

The Eagle has hovered but not yet landed. Yesterday evening Angela Eagle's team briefed that she would launch her leadership challenge at 3pm today. A senior MP told me: "the overwhelming view of the PLP is that she is the one to unite Labour." But by this lunchtime it had become clear that Eagle wouldn't declare today.

The delay is partly due to the hope that Jeremy Corbyn may yet be persuaded to resign. Four members of his shadow cabinet - Clive Lewis, Rachel Maskell, Cat Smith and Andy McDonald - were said by sources to want the Labour leader to stand down. When they denied that this was the case, I was told: "Then they're lying to their colleagues". There is also increasing speculation that Corbyn has come close to departing. "JC was five minutes away from resigning yesterday," an insider said. "But Seumas [Milne] torpedoed the discussions he was having with Tom Watson." 

Some speak of a potential deal under which Corbyn would resign in return for a guarantee that an ally, such as John McDonnell or Lewis, would make the ballot. But others say there is not now, never has there ever been, any prospect of Corbyn departing. "The obligation he feels to his supporters is what sustains him," a senior ally told me. Corbyn's supporters, who are confident they can win a new leadership contest, were cheered by Eagle's delay. "The fact even Angela isn't sure she should be leader is telling, JC hasn't wavered once," a source said. But her supporters say she is merely waiting for him to "do the decent thing". 

Another reason for the postponement is a rival bid by Owen Smith. Like Eagle, the former shadow work and pensions secrtary is said to have collected the 51 MP/MEP nominations required to stand. Smith, who first revealed his leadership ambitions to me in an interview in January, is regarded by some as the stronger candidate. His supporters fear that Eagle's votes in favour of the Iraq war and Syria air strikes (which Smith opposed) would be fatal to her bid. 

On one point Labour MPs are agreed: there must be just one "unity candidate". But after today's delay, a challenger may not be agreed until Monday. In the meantime, the rebels' faint hope that Corbyn may depart endures. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.