James Murdoch to step down as executive chair of News International

The younger Murdoch resigns from his position to "focus on international TV".

James Murdoch has announced that he will step down as executive chairman of News International, the trouble British wing of his father Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation empire.

In a statement issued by News Corp, the younger Murdoch said that he is stepping down so that he can focus on international TV work. Here's the full statement:

I deeply appreciate the dedication of my many talented colleagues at News International who work tirelessly to inform the public and am confident about the tremendous momentum we have achieved under the leadership of my father and Tom Mockridge. With the successful launch of The Sun on Sunday and new business practices in place across all titles, News International is now in a strong position to build on its successes in the future. As Deputy Chief Operating Officer, I look forward to expanding my commitment to News Corporation's international television businesses and other key initiatives across the Company.

His father, Rupert Murdoch, said:

We are all grateful for James' leadership at News International and across Europe and Asia, where he has made lasting contributions to the group's strategy in paid digital content and its efforts to improve and enhance governance programs. He has demonstrated leadership and continues to create great value at Star TV, Sky Deutschland, Sky Italia, and BSkyB. Now that he has moved to New York, James will continue to assume a variety of essential corporate leadership mandates, with particular focus on important pay-TV businesses and broader international operations.

It is, perhaps, hardly a surprise. James Murdoch has been under increasing scrutiny and pressure over his role at News International, the British division of News Corp which encompasses the Sun and the now defunct News of the World. Last year, he and his father were grilled by MPs including Tom Watson about phone-hacking and how much they knew.

As he said in his statement, Murdoch will now become deputy chief operating officer at News Corp in New York, a role which he must hope will be altogether less troublesome.

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

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Who will win in Manchester Gorton?

Will Labour lose in Manchester Gorton?

The death of Gerald Kaufman will trigger a by-election in his Manchester Gorton seat, which has been Labour-held since 1935.

Coming so soon after the disappointing results in Copeland – where the seat was lost to the Tories – and Stoke – where the party lost vote share – some overly excitable commentators are talking up the possibility of an upset in the Manchester seat.

But Gorton is very different to Stoke-on-Trent and to Copeland. The Labour lead is 56 points, compared to 16.5 points in Stoke-on-Trent and 6.5 points in Copeland. (As I’ve written before and will doubtless write again, it’s much more instructive to talk about vote share rather than vote numbers in British elections. Most of the country tends to vote in the same way even if they vote at different volumes.)

That 47 per cent of the seat's residents come from a non-white background and that the Labour party holds every council seat in the constituency only adds to the party's strong position here. 

But that doesn’t mean that there is no interest to be had in the contest at all. That the seat voted heavily to remain in the European Union – around 65 per cent according to Chris Hanretty’s estimates – will provide a glimmer of hope to the Liberal Democrats that they can finish a strong second, as they did consistently from 1992 to 2010, before slumping to fifth in 2015.

How they do in second place will inform how jittery Labour MPs with smaller majorities and a history of Liberal Democrat activity are about Labour’s embrace of Brexit.

They also have a narrow chance of becoming competitive should Labour’s selection turn acrimonious. The seat has been in special measures since 2004, which means the selection will be run by the party’s national executive committee, though several local candidates are tipped to run, with Afzal Khan,  a local MEP, and Julie Reid, a local councillor, both expected to run for the vacant seats.

It’s highly unlikely but if the selection occurs in a way that irritates the local party or provokes serious local in-fighting, you can just about see how the Liberal Democrats give everyone a surprise. But it’s about as likely as the United States men landing on Mars any time soon – plausible, but far-fetched. 

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