The Tories come to Murdoch's defence

Tory MPs vote against main criticism of Murdoch in select committee report.

"Rupert Murdoch is not a fit person to exercise the stewardship of a major international company." That's the sternly-worded conclusion of the media select committee report into phone-hacking. It's a judgement that will do Murdoch no favours in the US, News Corp's main market, where his company is facing new lawsuits over hacking and a possible prosecution under the powerful US foreign corrupt practices act. "British MPs say Murdoch is unfit to run his own company," is a better headline than the Dirty Digger's many enemies could ever have hoped for.

Here's that damning paragraph in full (from p.70):

On the basis of the facts and evidence before the Committee, we conclude that, if at all relevant times Rupert Murdoch did not take steps to become fully informed about phone-hacking, he turned a blind eye and exhibited wilful blindness to what was going on in his companies and publications. This culture, we consider, permeated from the top throughout the organisation and speaks volumes about the lack of effective corporate governance at News Corporation and News International. We conclude, therefore, that Rupert Murdoch is not a fit person to exercise the stewardship of a major international company (emphasis mine).

Of note is the fact that the committee split along party lines on whether to insert the paragraph into the report. Indeed, as a result, they divided on whether to endorse the final report. Labour MPs Tom Watson, Paul Farrelly, Steve Rotheram, Jim Sherdian and Gerry Sutcliffe, and Liberal Democrat MP Adrian Sanders all voted in favour of it, while Conservative MPs Therese Coffey, Damian Collins, Philip Davies and Louise Mensch voted against (see below). The committee's Conservative chair John Whittingdale has indicated that he would likely have voted with the Tories if required to cast the deciding vote.

The Committee divided.

Ayes, 6
Paul Farrelly (Labour)
Steve Rotheram (Labour)
Mr Adrian Sanders (Liberal Democrat)
Jim Sheridan (Labour)
Mr Gerry Sutcliffe (Labour)
Mr Tom Watson (Labour)

Noes, 4
Dr Thérèse Coffey (Conservative)
Damian Collins (Conservative)
Philip Davies (Conservative)
Louise Mensch (Conservative)

The Tories would probably argue that it's not the place of politicians to say who should or shouldn't run one of the world's most successful media companies but it will do little to dispel the public suspicion that they are in hock to the Murdoch empire. 

However, it's worth remembering that the committee unanimously agreed that former News of the World editor Colin Myler (who now edits the New York Daily News), former News International legal manager Tom Crone and former News International chief executive Les Hinton misled parliament with their testimony in the summer. The Commons motion on the report will focus on this charge, rather than the criticism of Murdoch, presumably allowing the Tories to vote with Labour and the Lib Dems.

Labour is using this as an opportunity to refocus attention on Ofcom's current review of whether News Corporation is "fit and proper" to hold a broadcasting licence. If found to be an unfit and improper owner, Murdoch could lose his existing 39 per cent stake in BSkyB.

Reflections of Rupert Murdoch and Wendi Deng as they leave the High Court, London on April 26, 2012 Photograph: Getty Images.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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To heal Britain’s cracks, it’s time for us northern graduates in London to return home

Isn’t it time for people like me, who’ve had privileges and experiences not open to everyone, to start heading back to our local communities, rather than reinforcing London’s suffocating dominance?

I’m from Warrington. The least cultured town in the UK. My town.

I moved to London almost exactly five years ago. Not because I particularly wanted to. Not because I wanted to depart the raucous northern town that I still call home. Because it was my only choice, really. I’d done my stint in the call centres and had some fun. But that couldn’t, surely, be my lot?

After university, I’d already started feeling a little weird and out of place back in Wazza. There were fewer and fewer people who didn’t look at me like I’d just fallen off a futuristic space flight that’d given me a different accent and lofty ideals.

Of course, that’s because most people like me had already skipped town without looking back and were all in the capital trying to strike beyond the ordinary.

The young, the cities, the metropolitan elite are still reeling after last week’s vote and wondering how people, half of our people, have got it so horribly wrong. We’re different, divided, done for.  

One thing I’ve clung onto while I’ve been in London is the fact that I’m from Warrington and proud. It might not be a cultured town, but it’s my town.

But I wasn’t proud of the outcome of the EU referendum that saw my town vote 54.3 per cent to 45.7 per cent to leave.

To be fair, even in my new “home” borough of Hackney, east London, the place with the third-largest Remain vote, one in five people voted for Brexit.

Yes, in one of London’s hottest and most international neighbourhoods, there are quite a lot of people who don’t feel like they’re being taken along to the discotheque.

Perversely, it was the poorest places in the UK that voted in largest numbers to leave the EU – that’s the same EU that provides big chunks of funding to try to save those local economies from ruin.

In many ways, of course, I understand the feelings of those people back in the place I still sometimes think of as home.

Compared to many suffering places in the UK, Warrington is a “boom town” and was one of the only places that grew during the last recession.

It’s a hub for telecoms and logistics companies, because, ironically, its good transport links make it an easy place to leave.

But there are many people who aren’t “living the dream” and, like anywhere else, they aren’t immune from the newspaper headlines that penetrate our brains with stories of strivers and scroungers.

Warrington is one of the whitest places in the UK, and I’m sure, to many locals, that means those immigrants are only a few towns away. There’s already a Polski sklep or two. And a few foreign taxi drivers. Those enterprising bastards.

We have never seriously addressed the economic imbalance in our economy. The gaping north-south divide. The post-industrial problem that politicians in Westminster have handily ignored, allowing the gap to be filled by those who find it quick and easy to blame immigrants.

When schemes like HS2, which is plotted to smash right through the place I grew up, are pushed against all of the evidence, instead of a much-needed, intercity Leeds to Liverpool investment to replace the two-carriage hourly service, it’s like positively sticking two fingers up to the north.

But I am also a big problem. People like me, who get educated and quickly head off to London when things aren’t going our way. We invested in ourselves, sometimes at state expense, and never really thought about putting that back into the places where we grew up.

There weren’t the right opportunities back home and that still stands. But, rather than doing something about that, people like me lazily joined the gravy train for London and now we’re surprised we feel more kinship with a 20-something from Norway than we do with someone who we used to knock on for when we should have been at school.

That’s not to suggest that our experiences in the capital – or mine at least – haven’t made us a thousand, million times better. 

I’ve met people who’ve lived lives I would never have known and I’m a profoundly better person for having the chance to meet people who aren’t just like me. But to take that view back home is increasingly like translating a message to someone from an entirely different world.

“You know, it’s only because you live in a country like this that a woman like you is allowed to even say things like that,” assured one of my dad’s friends down at the British Legion after we’d had a beer, and an argument or two.

Too right, pal. We live in what we all like to think is an open and tolerant and progressive society. And you’re now saying I shouldn’t use that right to call you out for your ignorance?

We’re both Warringtonians, English, British and European but I can increasingly find more agreement with a woman from Senegal who’s working in tech than I can with you.

It’s absolutely no secret that London has drained brains from the rest of the country, and even the rest of the world, to power its knowledge economy.

It’s a special place, but we have to see that there are many people clamouring for jobs they are far too qualified for, with no hope of saving for a home of their own, at the expense of the places they call home.

It’s been suggested in the past that London becomes its own city-state, now Londoners are petitioning to leave the UK.

But isn’t it time for people like me, who’ve had privileges and experiences not open to everyone, to start heading back to our local communities, rather than reinforcing London’s suffocating dominance?

We can expect local governments to do more with less, but when will we accept we need people power back in places like Warrington if we want to change the story to one of hope?

If this sounds like a patronising plan to parachute the north London intelligentsia into northern communities to ensure they don’t make the same mistake twice... Get fucked, as they say in Warrington.

It was Warrington that raised me. It’s time I gave something back.

Kirsty Styles is editor of the New Statesman's B2B tech site, NS Tech.