Why isn’t our press more diverse?: Samir Shah

Chief executive, Juniper Communications and former head of current affairs at the BBC

When I joined the BBC back in 1987 to run its current affairs department, every Wednesday morning top TV executives would meet in a windowless basement room in Television Centre. On the face of it, it was to review the week's output. In reality, it was where ambitious heads of department staked their claim to be the next controller of BBC1 or BBC2. By the time I had figured this out, it was too late.

It matters: what you see and hear depends on their decisions; and it's a step on the way to the commanding heights of executive power - the main boards of our broadcasters. Despite manifest progress elsewhere, this is where the dominance of a particular social and cultural group persists. Why is this? Not racism, but a failure to understand the rules of the game. If you haven't imbibed them with your mother's milk, or from your school housemaster or Oxford tutor, you need to learn them fast.

However, to follow the diktat "Si fueris Romae, Romano vivito more" is not so easy (and if you need that translating, you really do need to learn the rules). Does playing the game mean abandoning your roots and culture? Is being a deracinated success worth it? Possibly: if you win, you may be able to rewrite the rules.

This article first appeared in the 16 January 2012 issue of the New Statesman, The battle for Britain

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Geoffrey Howe dies, aged 88

Howe was Margaret Thatcher's longest serving Cabinet minister – and the man credited with precipitating her downfall.

The former Conservative chancellor Lord Howe, a key figure in the Thatcher government, has died of a suspected heart attack, his family has said. He was 88.

Geoffrey Howe was the longest-serving member of Margaret Thatcher's Cabinet, playing a key role in both her government and her downfall. Born in Port Talbot in 1926, he began his career as a lawyer, and was first elected to parliament in 1964, but lost his seat just 18 months later.

Returning as MP for Reigate in the Conservative election victory of 1970, he served in the government of Edward Heath, first as Solicitor General for England & Wales, then as a Minister of State for Trade. When Margaret Thatcher became opposition leader in 1975, she named Howe as her shadow chancellor.

He retained this brief when the party returned to government in 1979. In the controversial budget of 1981, he outlined a radical monetarist programme, abandoning then-mainstream economic thinking by attempting to rapidly tackle the deficit at a time of recession and unemployment. Following the 1983 election, he was appointed as foreign secretary, in which post he negotiated the return of Hong Kong to China.

In 1989, Thatcher demoted Howe to the position of leader of the house and deputy prime minister. And on 1 November 1990, following disagreements over Britain's relationship with Europe, he resigned from the Cabinet altogether. 

Twelve days later, in a powerful speech explaining his resignation, he attacked the prime minister's attitude to Brussels, and called on his former colleagues to "consider their own response to the tragic conflict of loyalties with which I have myself wrestled for perhaps too long".

Labour Chancellor Denis Healey once described an attack from Howe as "like being savaged by a dead sheep" - but his resignation speech is widely credited for triggering the process that led to Thatcher's downfall. Nine days later, her premiership was over.

Howe retired from the Commons in 1992, and was made a life peer as Baron Howe of Aberavon. He later said that his resignation speech "was not intended as a challenge, it was intended as a way of summarising the importance of Europe". 

Nonetheless, he added: "I am sure that, without [Thatcher's] resignation, we would not have won the 1992 election... If there had been a Labour government from 1992 onwards, New Labour would never have been born."

Jonn Elledge is the editor of the New Statesman's sister site CityMetric. He is on Twitter, far too much, as @JonnElledge.