Monday, April 30, 2012

Layer 534 . . . Hunt, Cameron, Murdoch, BSkyB, and Urgent Questions for the Prime Minister

So the latest polls indicate that support for the Conservatives has fallen back to 29% - which is pretty much their 'core' vote. This simply confirms that come hell or come high water somewhere between a quarter and a third of our population will continue to support the Nasty Party - either because those supporters are wealthy enough to directly benefit from Tory policies, OR because they are stupid enough to believe Tory propaganda and the crap published by Tory supporters who act as Conservative cheerleaders in our mass media.

Anyone with half a brain now understands that there really isn't any such thing as 'compassionate' Conservatism. Meet the new boss - same as the old boss. Clearly Cameron wasn't just trying to placate (and finesse) the extreme right wing of his party when he said that his mission was to finish whatever it was that Thatcher started. He really means it. He really is bent on privatising or at least marketising (which is almost as bad) our public services, on cutting them back as far as possible, on boosting the entry of private enterprise into our public services, and on selling off anything he can get away with selling off. Just like the old boss.

I tried to give him the benefit of the doubt, I really did. But look at his recent behaviour. A stupid and nasty budget. One of his own backbenchers* calling him and Osborne a couple of posh boys who understand nothing about real people and their lives. A lack of apparent concern that the national economy is back in reverse gear, and back in recession. And now the revelations as to what he and his Culture Secretary have been up to vis a vis Rupert Murdoch and his News Corp empire.

As a matter of fact, even Tory commentators have been expressing their disquiet. Here's Simon Heffer ( a dyed in the wool Thatcherite) writing for the Mail today -
There is enormous public disquiet about issues that the Coalition refuses to address, presumably because it does not find them to be so important. For example, the disastrous state of the economy, and the arrival of the double-dip recession that some of us had long feared inevitable.
Here is a problem that voters would love the Government to address. It is one that is keeping well over three million of them out of work (rather than the official figure of 2.7 million, which has been massaged in various ways). 
The recession is handicapping manufacturers and service providers, and deterring entrepreneurs. Outside central London, it is driving down property prices. It is depressing tax revenues. The threat of unemployment is also causing millions more to fear for their own financial security. It is, in short, a calamity.
The reaction of David Cameron and George Osborne to Wednesday’s announcement that Britain had fallen into a double-dip recession was to bury their heads in the sand. Perhaps backbench Tory MP Nadine Dorries — a proper tribune of the people — had a point when she berated ‘posh boys’ in power for not understanding how the other 99 per cent live.
However, I fear the reason for the failure of Messrs Cameron and Osborne to get a proper grip is not because they are posh, but because neither can bear to lose face by admitting his serious errors.
Read more:
Of course extreme right-wingers such as Heffer will always seek to blame the leadership when Tory support falls below 30% (rather than blame or question Tory ideology as such), but obviously he makes some very good points - those points that are blatantly obvious to anyone who has eyes to see and a little bit of their brain in working order. He goes on:
If that wasn’t enough to make people feel politics was no longer relevant to them, along came the exposure of Jeremy Hunt’s activities as Culture Secretary in the proposed takeover of BSkyB by the Murdoch empire.
Recent history shows that nothing revolts the public more than proof their elected representatives are behaving improperly. Mr Hunt has, of course, denied any wrongdoing. However, the notion that no wrong was done was exploded on Wednesday, when Mr Hunt’s special adviser resigned, admitting he was ‘too close’ to the Murdoch empire. 
What inspired him to get too close? Could it have been that he thought Mr Hunt wanted it? And if Mr Hunt wanted it, why did he? Could it have been because he thought Mr Cameron wanted it?
So, from the point of view of the public, we have a Government not only adamantly in denial about the gravest problems facing the British people, but also up to its neck in cronyism, impropriety and downright sleaze.

So - our extreme right-wingers such as Heffer can see all of this, our extreme left-wingers can see it, and so can the vast majority of us in the middle. This government is in deep excrement.

As for Cameron refusing to investigate what Hunt and his pals were up to, it's pretty obvious that he's terrified of anyone examining too closely Hunt's text messages and emails because some of them will have been copied to Cameron to keep him in touch with what he was doing, and therefore making him an active participant in the conspiracy to hand complete control of BSkyB to Murdoch.

It seems to me Cameron will continue to stall on this issue until Thursday's local elections are out of the way - at the very least. This week of all weeks he can't afford to have any more shit hit the fan, which it will do if either Hunt resigns or if he has to sack Hunt.

This lunchtime the unelected Baroness Warsi was again on Radio 4 news to tell us that the people of this country don't care about the Hunt affair. How come this person is usually the one the Tories put forward to do their bullshitting and dissembling? Is it because she speaks with a slight Northern accent, and is less likely to say something downright idiotic than Cameron's actual MPs? How come she spouts such patronising rubbish - telling us what we do and don't care about?** Of course she's spoken with 'ordinary' people who don't care about the Hunt affair, and who probably aren't even aware of it - but we can all go out and find a few dipsticks to say what we might want to hear. This doesn't mean they're in the majority, or are even 'representative'. The Baroness ought to be aware that more than 70% of us are now fully aware of what the Tories are doing (and not doing) and we don't like what we see and hear.

* "On March 6, 2012, Nadine Dorries MP attacked the leadership of the Coalition over their taxation policies. Referring to the proposed cuts in child benefit, she told the Financial Times "The problem is that policy is being run by two public schoolboys who don't know what it's like to go to the supermarket and have to put things back on the shelves because they can't afford it for their children's lunchboxes. What's worse, they don't care, either". She again criticised Cameron, and also George Osborne, in similar terms on 23 April, calling them "two arrogant posh boys who don't know the price of milk - who show no remorse, no contrition and no passion to want to understand the lives of others"." - Wikipedia

** These are the actual words of Warsi today:
"If you go out and speak to ordinary people, this is not what they are obsessing about. When people look in Westminster Village and see us obsessing about these kinds of issues, and see us playing party politics, using systems and processes to score points against each other in this way, they say 'a plague on all their houses'. What people care about is their schools, their future, and that is what they want us to be talking about."

Speaker Bercow has agreed to summon Cameron to the Commons this afternoon to answer "urgent questions". He's due to appear live on the Parliament Channel sometime after 3.00pm. The following is taken from the Guardian's 'politics live' blog today:
1.23pm: Ed Miliband should get hold of a read-out from the Number 10 lobby briefing before he asks his UQ on Jeremy Hunt. The exchanges illustrated some of the questions which David Cameron could find it hard to answer. Here are more details.
Will Cameron definitely order an inquiry into allegations that Jeremy Hunt broke the ministerial code? Cameron has said that he wants Hunt to be allowed to give evidence to the Leveson inquiry and his spokesman repeated this line this morning. "We should let the process run its course, let the inquiry establish the facts," the spokesman said. But Leveson has said that it is not his job to investigate breaches of the ministerial code, and the prime minister's spokesman was unwilling to say categorically that Cameron would refer this matter to his independent adviser on ministerial interests, Sir Alex Allan, if Leveson did not address it. All he would say was: "The prime minister has been very clear that he would not duck his responsibilities on the ministerial code." That's a hint that Cameron will order an investigation in due course, but not a confirmation. Cameron may have to firm that up this afternoon.
Why does Cameron think Hunt has not breached the ministerial code when people like Lord Butler think he did? Asked about the remarks from Butler the spokesman just said that Cameron "has said that he has seen no evidence that the code has been broken".
Has Cameron asked Hunt directly what he knew about what his special adviser, Adam Smith, was saying to News Corporation about the BSkyB takeover? Asked about this, the spokesman said that this would be covered by the evidence given to Leveson. He also said that Leveson has given a ruling asking people not to disclose their evidence before it is heard by the inquiry.
Why did Hunt tell MPs that he had published all details of his department's exchanges with News Corporation when he hadn't? In March last year Hunt told MPs: "We are publishing all the documents relating to all the meetings – all the consultation documents, all the submissions we received, all the exchanges between my department and News Corporation." But he did not release details of the exchanges between his special adviser and the News Corporation lobbyist, Fred Michel. This information only emerged in a 163-page dossier released by the Leveson inquiry last week. Asked about this, the prime minister's spokesman said that Hunt addressed this point in his statement last week. When journalists said that Hunt did not actually answer this question last week, the spokesman replied: "I have nothing further to add to what the secretary of state said."
Why did Hunt tell the Commons that he always accepted the advice of independent regulators when he did not follow Ofcom's advice and refer the BSkyB bid to the Competition Commission? Asked about this, the spokesman insisted that Hunt said he was minded to refer the bid to the Competition Commission. (David Leigh went into this in more detail in a Guardian article last week.)
Will Cameron reveal all his text messages and emails with Rebekah Brooks? Do the text messages still exist? And, if they are disclosed, will they be redacted? All the spokesman would say on this was that Cameron would provide the Leveson inquiry with "whatever he is asked to provide".
What contact have government officials had with Lord Justice Leveson about his inquiry? Last week it was revealed that Sir Jeremy Heywood, the cabinet secretary, spoke to Leveson about the Hunt affair. Today the prime minister's spokesman said: "I am sure that there have been contacts between senior officials and the Leveson team." Some journalists found this potentially suspicious, particularly when the spokesman declined to elaborate what those contacts were, but the spokesman said contacts of this kind were to be expected given the fact that several ministers are giving evidence to Leveson. The spokesman also insisted that the inquiry was "entirely independent".

1.19pm: Here's what Ed Miliband said this morning about the Jeremy Hunt affair. He was he was asking an urgent question about it because it "goes to the character of the government".

"People need to know, particularly in these times, that they have a Government that stands up for them, not the rich and powerful. People need to know that there is the utmost probity and integrity in the way that government is run. I am afraid the events of the last week suggest that something other than that has been going on.
It is a pattern with this prime minister, particularly around News International. He resists the calls for change. He resists the calls to do the right thing. Exactly as he did in phone hacking last summer, exactly as he did with Rebekah Brooks, exactly as he did with Andy Coulson. He is doing the same now when everyone can see that the obvious thing for him to do is make this referral to Alex Allan. That is what he should get on and do rather than seeking to use Jeremy Hunt as a firewall."

Here's a piece on Harriet Harman's concerns:,2012-04-25

Here's the Independent's view:

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