Alex Salmond: News Corp lobbyist?

The Michel emails suggest Salmond acted as News Corp's political champion.

Jeremy Hunt wasn't the only political cheerleader News Corporation enjoyed the services of. The full emails of the company's public affairs director Frederic Michel, now available on the Leveson inquiry website, reveal the extraordinary lengths that Alex Salmond went to to support the BSkyB bid. According to Michel, the Scottish First Minister offered to lobby both Vince Cable and Jeremy Hunt on the company's behalf and to brief the Scottish press on the "economic importance" of News Corp for the country. All of which goes some way to explaining Rupert Murdoch's recent description of Salmond as the "most brilliant politician in U.K.".

Below are the full, damning emails.

On 1 November 2010, Michel told James Murdoch:

Alex Salmond is very keen to put these issues across to Cable and have a call with you tomorrow or Wednesday. His team will also brief the Scottish press on the economic importance of News Corp for Scotland.

Following a conversation with Rupert Harrison, George Osborne's special adviser, on 9 November 2010, Michel reported to Murdoch:

He (Harrison) was very much taken by our commitment to Scotland and Alex Salmond's desire to support us. He thought it was a strong ally to put forward, very contrarian/unexpected.

On 11 February 2011, Michel told James Murdoch:

I met with Alex Salmond's adviser today. He will call Hunt whenever we need him to.

Finally, on 2 March 2011, Michel wrote to Murdoch:

Alex Salmond called. He had a very good dinner with the Editor of Sun in Scotland yesterday.

The Sun is now keen to back the SNP at the election. The Editor will make his pitch to the Editorial team tomorrow. 

On the Sky bid, he will make himself available to support the debate if consultation is launched (emphasis mine).

News Corporation head Rupert Murdoch with Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond. Photograph: Getty Images.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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Richmond is a wake-up call for Labour's Brexit strategy

No one made Labour stand in Richmond Park. 

Oh, Labour Party. There was a way through.

No one made you stand in Richmond Park. You could have "struck a blow against the government", you could have shared the Lib Dem success. Instead, you lost both your dignity and your deposit. And to cap it all (Christian Wolmar, take a bow) you self-nominated for a Nobel Prize for Mansplaining.

It’s like the party strategist is locked in the bowels of HQ, endlessly looping in reverse Olivia Newton John’s "Making a Good Thing Better".

And no one can think that today marks the end of the party’s problems on Brexit.

But the thing is: there’s no need to Labour on. You can fix it.

Set the government some tests. Table some amendments: “The government shall negotiate having regard to…”

  • What would be good for our economy (boost investment, trade and jobs).
  • What would enhance fairness (help individuals and communities who have missed out over the last decades).
  • What would deliver sovereignty (magnify our democratic control over our destiny).
  • What would improve finances (what Brexit makes us better off, individually and collectively). 

And say that, if the government does not meet those tests, the Labour party will not support the Article 50 deal. You’ll take some pain today – but no matter, the general election is not for years. And if the tests are well crafted they will be easy to defend.

Then wait for the negotiations to conclude. If in 2019, Boris Johnson returns bearing cake for all, if the tests are achieved, Labour will, and rightly, support the government’s Brexit deal. There will be no second referendum. And MPs in Leave voting constituencies will bear no Brexit penalty at the polls.

But if he returns with thin gruel? If the economy has tanked, if inflation is rising and living standards have slumped, and the deficit has ballooned – what then? The only winners will be door manufacturers. Across the country they will be hard at work replacing those kicked down at constituency offices by voters demanding a fix. Labour will be joined in rejecting the deal from all across the floor: Labour will have shown the way.

Because the party reads the electorate today as wanting Brexit, it concludes it must deliver it. But, even for those who think a politician’s job is to channel the electorate, this thinking discloses an error in logic. The task is not to read the political dynamic of today. It is to position itself for the dynamic when it matters - at the next general election

And by setting some economic tests for a good Brexit, Labour can buy an option on that for free.

An earlier version of this argument appeared on Jolyon Maugham's blog Waiting For Tax.

Jolyon Maugham is a barrister who advised Ed Miliband on tax policy. He blogs at Waiting for Tax, and writes for the NS on tax and legal issues.