Support 100 years of independent journalism.

  1. Politics
  2. Media
12 June 2012updated 13 Jun 2012 7:25am

Political sketch: A moral high ground at Leveson?

Ed Miliband puts the boot in.

By Peter McHugh

When a politician inadvertently stumbles across the high moral ground you can be sure of two things, he’ll be on his own and he’ll set up camp immediately.

It is now set in Labour folklore that it’s leader Ed Miliband finally came of age when he took the lead in calling time on 40 years of Murdoch mania.

And he was more than happy to mark the occasion by popping into the Leveson Inquiry to take his share of the credit for setting it up.

After Gordon’s grumpy performance yesterday it was a whole new fresh-faced Labour leader who took the stand to promise better times ahead for the electorate.

There were some similarities as he, like the man before him, displayed little knowledge of the naughtiness that went before. He was on rocky ground only once, when asked about the boys on Gordon’s Treasury team of which he’d been a member.

Sign up for The New Statesman’s newsletters Tick the boxes of the newsletters you would like to receive. Quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics from the New Statesman's politics team. The best of the New Statesman, delivered to your inbox every weekday morning. The New Statesman’s global affairs newsletter, every Monday and Friday. A handy, three-minute glance at the week ahead in companies, markets, regulation and investment, landing in your inbox every Monday morning. Our weekly culture newsletter – from books and art to pop culture and memes – sent every Friday. A weekly round-up of some of the best articles featured in the most recent issue of the New Statesman, sent each Saturday. A weekly dig into the New Statesman’s archive of over 100 years of stellar and influential journalism, sent each Wednesday. Sign up to receive information regarding NS events, subscription offers & product updates.
I consent to New Statesman Media Group collecting my details provided via this form in accordance with the Privacy Policy

Yes, he was aware of the machinations of McBride and Whelan now safely in the wilderness but was not aware of any bad behaviour by one Ed Balls, now fully onside as Shadow Chancellor.

With that awkwardness quickly out of the way, it was the turn of interrogator Jay to produce the normal thumbscrews.

But having dispensed with the usual instruments of torture during a tour through the memory of another former Prime Minister John Major in the morning, it was an equally new and benevolent Jay who conducted the questioning.

(In the best traditions of people who know people who know people, Mr Jay paused to reveal that he heads up the Chambers where Mrs Miliband works as a barrister)

Happy to be out of the firing line, Ed confirmed he had chatted with members of the Murdoch evil empire at least 15 times in his first nine months of office and happily attended their summer party.

But all that changed after the Milly Dowler phone hacking revelations when he called for Rebekah Brooks to resign and an inquiry to be held.

It was “like crossing a Rubicon”, said Ed, apparently believing there’s more than one watery point of no return. He knew this would be seen as an “act of war” by News International but that not speaking out earlier had been a “failure of the establishment.”

After cracking a couple of jokes with Jay and the Judge over the inquiry itself, which he said David Cameron had “graciously” involved him in, he then stuck it to the PM by promising the Labour Party would back any changes proposed by Leveson.

Dave, many of whose party share the Michael Gove “Rupert is magic” view of Murdoch, gets his chance to squirm on Thursday.

Earlier ex-Premier John Majorwhose eight years in power are usually forgotten, squeezed as they were between Thatcherism and Blairism – popped out of retirement to put the lie to one of the few stories many remember about his reign.

Sun Editor Kelvin McKenzie had never sad he was going to “pour a bucket of shit” on him when the then PM decided to ring him on Black Wednesday.

Mr McKenzie has dined out for years on the tale and it was been often used to demonstrate the power of the Murdoch press over successive Governments.

But it was not true, said Mr Major, who had unfortunately waited 20 years to issue the denial. As his story unfolded it was clear that this particular bucket might have missed, but plenty of others didn’t.

The former PM confessed to being “too sensitive” about the press – a sentiment so strongly denied by Gordon during his angry indifference on Monday.

As he joined Gordon heading back into history, both must have marvelled as Ed M called on Rupert to be forced to give up the Sun or The Times, never mind BSkyB.

“As is clear from this account I have not had a close relationship with News International since being Labour leader”, said Ed.

Over to you Dave.