Who is Tom Mockridge?

Unlike Rebekah Brooks, News International's new chief executive has so far avoided the spotlight.

Tom Mockridge, who is replacing Rebekah Brooks as chief executive of News International with immediate effect, is the man in the spotlight today.

So who exactly is the former head of Sky Italia? A quick look through his career path so far shows that he has held a variety of executive roles in News Corporation, stretching back two decades.

Mockridge started out as a financial journalist in his native New Zealand, before moving to Australia. After several years in newspapers, he became an adviser to the former Australian prime minister, Paul Keating, while Keating was Treasurer in the 1980s.

In January 1991, Mockridge joined Murdoch's Australian holding company for newspapers. He was assistant CEO at the company for five years, before becoming head of Foxtel, News Corp's Australian pay-TV service. He later held various roles at Star Group, Murdoch's Asian group.

Following a stint back in New Zealand, heading up the country's largest newspaper group, Independent Newspapers, part owned by News Corp, Mockridge moved to Italy in 2002 to be head of Sky Italia. Since 2009, he has been a non-executive director of BSkyB.

But beyond his curriculum vitae, what do we know about the man himself?

An executive who avoids the spotlight and unlike his predecessor, avoids controversy, it is difficult to find many interviews with him. However, this 2004 profile outlines his role in Italy, claiming that Murdoch "hand-picked" Mockridge to take on President Silvio Berlusconi:

If you were Rupert Murdoch and you wanted to put your best man opposite Berlusconi for a big fight, you might choose the exact opposite of the Italian PM. That probably describes Tom Mockridge, the chief executive of Sky Italia and the man charged by Murdoch with imposing the highly successful UK pay-TV model on the Italian landscape.

While Silvio is never out of the headlines, Tom is almost never in them. He rarely gives interviews and when he does it's only if he thinks they will help him attract more subscribers, according to a colleague based in News Corp's New York offices.

The profile paints a picture of a man with forensic focus, saying that he is likely to be"reading every page of a 60-page legal document to ensure that his company's strategies are on track." It also states that he is politically aware -- crucial if he is to step into the breach for this crisis:

"Tom is very politically interested," said former colleague and current COO of Fox International Channels David Haslingden. "He understands the various political agendas. Wherever he goes -- whether it's New Zealand, Hong Kong or Italy - he has a good understanding of what's going on politically and that's very helpful."

The Guardian's Rome correspondent John Hooper adds to this impression:

A model of discretion, he is seldom noticed in public and rarely gives interviews. I have spoken to him only once, and there are plenty of correspondents in Rome and Milan who could not even say that.

In conclusion, Mockridge is almost the exact opposite to Brooks, who in recent weeks has been at the very centre of the media storm around News International. We can safely assume that we will be seeing a lot more of this quiet man in the weeks to come.

Samira Shackle is a freelance journalist, who tweets @samirashackle. She was formerly a staff writer for the New Statesman.

How Jim Murphy's mistake cost Labour - and helped make Ruth Davidson

Scottish Labour's former leader's great mistake was to run away from Labour's Scottish referendum, not on it.

The strange revival of Conservative Scotland? Another poll from north of the border, this time from the Times and YouGov, shows the Tories experiencing a revival in Scotland, up to 28 per cent of the vote, enough to net seven extra seats from the SNP.

Adding to the Nationalists’ misery, according to the same poll, they would lose East Dunbartonshire to the Liberal Democrats, reducing their strength in the Commons to a still-formidable 47 seats.

It could be worse than the polls suggest, however. In the elections to the Scottish Parliament last year, parties which backed a No vote in the referendum did better in the first-past-the-post seats than the polls would have suggested – thanks to tactical voting by No voters, who backed whichever party had the best chance of beating the SNP.

The strategic insight of Ruth Davidson, the Conservative leader in Scotland, was to to recast her party as the loudest defender of the Union between Scotland and the rest of the United Kingdom. She has absorbed large chunks of that vote from the Liberal Democrats and Labour, but, paradoxically, at the Holyrood elections at least, the “Unionist coalition” she assembled helped those parties even though it cost the vote share.

The big thing to watch is not just where the parties of the Union make gains, but where they successfully form strong second-places against whoever the strongest pro-Union party is.

Davidson’s popularity and eye for a good photo opportunity – which came first is an interesting question – mean that the natural benefactor in most places will likely be the Tories.

But it could have been very different. The first politician to hit successfully upon the “last defender of the Union” routine was Ian Murray, the last Labour MP in Scotland, who squeezed both the  Liberal Democrat and Conservative vote in his seat of Edinburgh South.

His then-leader in Scotland, Jim Murphy, had a different idea. He fought the election in 2015 to the SNP’s left, with the slogan of “Whether you’re Yes, or No, the Tories have got to go”.  There were a couple of problems with that approach, as one  former staffer put it: “Firstly, the SNP weren’t going to put the Tories in, and everyone knew it. Secondly, no-one but us wanted to move on [from the referendum]”.

Then again under different leadership, this time under Kezia Dugdale, Scottish Labour once again fought a campaign explicitly to the left of the SNP, promising to increase taxation to blunt cuts devolved from Westminster, and an agnostic position on the referendum. Dugdale said she’d be open to voting to leave the United Kingdom if Britain left the European Union. Senior Scottish Labour figures flirted with the idea that the party might be neutral in a forthcoming election. Once again, the party tried to move on – but no-one else wanted to move on.

How different things might be if instead of running away from their referendum campaign, Jim Murphy had run towards it in 2015. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to British politics.

0800 7318496