Who's who on the Select Committee

Ten MPs will get the opportunity to grill the Murdochs and Rebekah Brooks later today. But who are t

Rupert Murdoch, Rebekah Brooks and James Murdoch will all face the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee from 2.30pm today. The trio are set to answer questions relating to the phone hacking that occurred at News International throughout the 2000s. Sitting opposite them will be ten MPs. Who are they?

John Whittingdale

Tory MP John Whittingdale heads up the Commons select committee in charge of handling the phone-hacking scandal. The chairman of the Culture, Media and Sport committee has stated that that in seeking to uncover the truth, he hopes that the committee will avoid behaving like a "lynch mob". Whittingdale is reported to be an old acquaintance of Les Hinton, recently resigned as CEO of Dow Jones and former News International chairman.

Tom Watson

The Labour MP has been a consistent thorn in the side of News International since re-joining the backbenches in 2009. Watson led what was at times a one-man crusade to keep the issue of phone-hacking alive in parliament. He is possibly the most forthright member of the Committee when it comes to the media in the UK. In 2010, Watson hit out at "the media barons", who he felt had undue influence in parliament. "They are untouchable. They laugh at the law. They sneer at Parliament. They have the power to hurt us, and they do, with gusto and precision, with joy and criminality." Suffice to say, Watson will enjoy his moment against the Murdochs.

Louise Mensch

The chick-lit author and Conservative MP for Corby was elected in 2010. Like John Whittingdale, although broadly loyal to the government, Mensch has willingly asked Jeremy Hunt awkward questions on phone-hacking.

Alan Keen

The relatively non-descript backbencher is a long-standing member of the committee. Alan Keen got into hot water over his expenses in 2009 and was made to repay £1,500. Many MPs felt hard done by the way the expenses scandal was reported; Keen will no doubt enjoy eviscerating the Murdochs over their scandal.

Dr Therese Coffey

Conservative MP for Suffolk Coastal, Dr Thérèse Coffey states on her official parliamentary website that the phone-hacking scandal is a matter of "huge importance" and that the Murdochs will face "some robust questioning". On her personal website, Coffey mentions very little of the scandal, simply commenting that "a week is a long time in politics".

Damian Collins

Damian Collins, MP for Folkestone and Hythe, writes plainly on his website that phone-hacking and the use of the information gathered for personal gain "is not only morally wrong but also illegal". While seemingly more accepting of the idea that hacking might be done to celebrities, he states that it is "disgusting" that such an act was carried out on victims of murder and terrorism.

Philip Davies

Referring to the inquiry into press standards, libel and privacy held two years ago, when News International came before the Commons Select Committee, Tory MP for Shipley Philip Davies has drawn a clear link with that case and the current "catastrophic" events taking place: "We put in our report then that it was 'inconceivable' that Clive Goodman was the only one involved but what we didnt' appreciate was the severity of what was allegedly going on."

Paul Farrelly

MP for Newcastle-under-Lyme Paul Farrelly gave a statement at the start of 2011 when the news came out that Paul Gascoigne was to sue the News of the World over phone-hacking allegations. Farrelly criticised the Met, arguing that changes in the way hacking is now dealt with makes it harder for suspected victims to have their case examined: "we found great fault with the police investigation and to that we can add the conduct of the Crown Prosecution Service, which simply rubber stamps the Met's totally inadequate handling of the affair".

Jim Sheridan

The Scot has been Labour MP for Paisley since 2001. Like Keen, Sheridan was derided in the Telegraph over his expenses. Sheridan summed up how he will approach how he will approach the committee in a radio interview this morning: "I like to know what kind of relationship [Murdoch has] had with senior politicians, what influence does he think he has had ... What it won't be today, as some of the leading commentators were suggesting that it will be, [is] some sort of witch-hunt of the MPs against the press. That is certainly not what it's about, we will be asking in a polite way, robust questions."

Adrian Sanders

Aside from Tom Watson, Adrian Sanders has been the most out-spoken committee member in recent days. On Brooks arrest, the MP for Torbay said: "It's convenient. In whose interest was it for this arrest to take place before Tuesday? Because if it does impede what we can ask, that's not going to go down well with my fellow committee members."

For instant analysis of the hearing, keep an eye on the Staggers and follow Samira Shackle and Duncan Robinson on Twitter.

Nigel Farage and Paul Nuttall. Photo: Getty
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Nigel Farage and Douglas Carswell don’t need to stand again as MPs – they’ve already won

I just loathe these people. I want to see them humiliated. 

We’re a week in to the campaign, and it’s clear that the 2017 election is going to be hell on toast. The polls show the Tories beating Labour in Scotland (for the first time in a generation) and Wales (for the first time in a century). The bookies put the chances of a Labour majority at around 20/1, odds that are striking mainly because they contain just one zero.

The only element of suspense in this election is whether Theresa May will win a big enough majority to keep Labour out of power for a decade, or one big enough to keep it out for an entire generation. In sum: if you’re on the left, this election will be awful.

But there was one bright spot, a deep well of Schadenfreude that I thought might get us through: the campaign would provide plentiful opportunities to watch the people who got us into this mess be humiliatingly rejected by the electorate yet again.

After all, Ukip’s polling numbers have halved since last summer and the party has fallen back into fourth place, behind the pro-European Lib Dems. Nigel Farage has failed to become an MP seven times. It thus seemed inevitable both that Farage would stand, and that he would lose. Again.

If the vexingly popular Farage has never made it to parliament, the odds that his replacement as Ukip leader, Paul Nuttall (the Walter Mitty of Bootle), would manage it seemed minimal. Ukip may have won last year’s referendum; that did not mean its leaders wouldn’t still lose elections, preferably in the most embarrassing way possible.

The true highlight of the election, though, promised to be Clacton. The Essex seaside town is the only constituency ever to have returned a Ukip candidate at a general election, opting to let the Tory defector Douglas Carswell stay on in 2015. But Carswell’s libertarian belief that Brexit was definitely not about immigration always seemed an odd fit with Ukip, and he left the party in March. In the upcoming election, he seemed certain to face a challenge from the party’s immigration-obsessed donor Arron Banks.

The Clacton election, in other words, was expected to serve as a pleasing metaphor for Ukip’s descent back into irrelevance. The libertarians and nativists would rip chunks out of each other for a few weeks while the rest of us sniggered, before both inevitably lost the seat to a safe pair of Tory hands. This election will be awful, but Clacton was going to be brilliant.

But no: 2017 deprives us of even that pleasure. Carswell has neatly sidestepped the possibility of highlighting his complete lack of personal support by standing down, with the result that he can tell himself he is quitting undefeated.

Carswell has always stood apart from Ukip but on this matter, at least, the party has rushed to follow his lead. Arron Banks spent a few days claiming that he would be running in Clacton. Then he visited the town and promptly changed his mind. At a press conference on 24 April, Paul Nuttall was asked whether he planned to stand for a seat in Westminster. Rather than answering, he locked himself in a room, presumably in the hope that the journalists outside would go away. Really.

As for Farage, he seems finally to have shaken his addiction to losing elections and decided not to stand at all. “It would be a very easy win,” he wrote in the Daily Tele­graph, “and for me a personal vindication to get into the House of Commons after all these years of standing in elections.” He was like an American teenager assuring his mates that his definitely real Canadian girlfriend goes to another school.

Why does all of this bother me? I don’t want these people anywhere near Westminster, and if they insisted on standing for a seat there would be at least the chance that, in these febrile times, one of them might actually win. So why am I annoyed that they aren’t even bothering?

Partly I’m infuriated by the cowardice on show. They have wrecked my country, completely and irrevocably, and then they’ve just legged it. It’s like a version of Knock Down Ginger, except instead of ringing the doorbell they’ve set fire to the house.

Partly, too, my frustration comes from my suspicion that it doesn’t matter whether Ukip fields a single candidate in this election. Theresa May’s Tories have already assimilated the key tenets of Farageism. That Nigel Farage no longer feels the need to claw his way into parliament merely highlights that he no longer needs to.

Then there’s the fury generated by my lingering sense that these men have managed to accrue a great deal of power without the slightest hint of accountability. In the south London seat of Vauxhall, one of the most pro-Remain constituencies in one of the most pro-Remain cities in the UK, the Labour Leave campaigner Kate Hoey is expected to face a strong challenge from the Liberal Democrats. Even Labour members are talking about voting tactically to get their hated MP out.

It remains to be seen whether that campaign succeeds but there is at least an opportunity for angry, pro-European lefties to register their discontent with Hoey. By contrast, Farage and his henchmen have managed to rewrite British politics to a degree that no one has achieved in decades, yet there is no way for those who don’t approve to make clear that they don’t like it.

Mostly, though, my frustration is simpler than that. I just loathe these people. I want to see them humiliated. I want to see them stumble from gaffe to gaffe for six weeks before coming fourth – but now we will be deprived of that. Faced with losing, the biggest names in Ukip have decided that they no longer want to play. And so they get to win again. They always bloody win. 

Jonn Elledge edits the New Statesman's sister site CityMetric, and writes for the NS about subjects including politics, history and Daniel Hannan. You can find him on Twitter or Facebook.

This article first appeared in the 27 April 2017 issue of the New Statesman, Cool Britannia 20 Years On

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