Archive for May, 2012

TomWatson not very clever and publishes lies by Martin Salter


I recently saw the pictured tweet from Conservative MP, Louise Mensch and it got me thinking. Is it really so formidable Mr Watson? I think Mr Watson is not the most bright and quite lazy so I don’t think I agree. So what evidence do I have for this?

The first thing that got me thinking that was the quizzing of Rupert Murdoch and his son before the Culture Media and Sport Select Committee when at the end of his questioning he compared James Murdoch to a mafia boss. (See here) This outburst got all the media coverage, distracted from the evidence given to the Committee and allowed the Murdochs to earn some sympathy, undermining all the work that had been done regarding the phone hacking. Not very clever.

Then he backed the decision to include the phrase that Rupert Murdoch was not fit to run News International into the report of the select committee on phone hacking. This was then voted on across party lines, resulting in what had been a largely cross-party agreement on the report into a party political one. I think it is always better to get all party agreement where possible. It again was the item that got the publicity distracting from the other conclusions of the report. Not very smart.

Thirdly, in his witness statement as part of his evidence to the Leveson Inquiry Mr Watson included something from a former MP, Martin Salter. Mr Salter  responded to a letter from the then editor of the News of the World about their “Sarah’s Law”campaign by writing back to them saying he would not support the campaign. I wondered at the time what he was hoping to achieve by doing what could only wind them up. It did and the newspaper published a poor photo of him and some unpleasant things about him and a journalist spent some time trying to get him. MPs should be able to write to editors saying they do not support their campaign without getting harassment but then to use the words of a former chair of Reading Labour Party and now Australia resident, Mike Price, if you do not want your photo and things written about you in the paper don’t do what caused them to do it. Anyway that is not relevant particularly to this piece about Mr Watson. The point is that as part of his evidence Mr Salter told lies about events which led up to a story in the Mail on Sunday. This is not relevant to the argument Mr Salter and Mr Watson were making about News of The World. So why did Mr Watson allow this lie into his evidence? I believe it is now going to become the most important part about his evidence, again distracting from the phone hacking.

On the political relevance of Newton’s Third Law of Motion and fighting the last war


This morning I was contemplating the evidence of Alastair Campbell to yesterday’s Leveson Inquiry when I was struck about the relevance of Newton’s Third Law of Motion. For those whose scientific study did not extend to these important rules of physics or in case you have forgotten it the law states:

For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.

The written evidence submitted to the Inquiry by Alastair Campbell sets out here what happened in more detail but in brief; in the 1980’s Labour got slaughtered by a largely right-wing press. We didn’t help ourselves by having open rows and letting the latest piece of loony nonsense set the agenda. After 1992 when  a close election was lost, and one part of the print media was able to claim they had won the election for the Tories, lessons were learnt and a more professional approach was taken to dealing with the media, particularly after the election of Tony Blair as leader of the Labour Party. This involved the genesis of spin-doctors.

The perception was that the print media was important, for their own impact and for that they have on the rest of the media from the point of setting the news agenda, in terms of mediating between people involved in politics and the public. It determined what a lot of people thought was going on. As a result the politicians became a lot more disciplined in the way they dealt with the media. To go back to Newton. Having got slaughtered in the past Labour learnt to manage the way they were perceived as a reaction. Journalists did not like it because as a result of it became harder for them to get stories which were different from the one politicians wanted. The Newtonian reaction by politicians in the 1990’s happened as a result of the actions of the media in the 1980’s. The media became very interested in the attempt to manage them, some even got obsessed about it to the lengths of writing a number of books about it. I read a couple of these books and the only thing that seemed to come out of them to me was how unhappy the journalists were at now having to do more work to find the more interesting stories. They don’t like Alastair because he was effective at the job he did. As someone who was a politician I am pleased to see that as I think it evened things up. So that’s Newton dealt with.

What I found interesting in the evidence from Alastair Campbell yesterday was that he said it is no longer necessary for a politician to worry so much about managing the media. It takes up too much of their time. The reason he gave was that the development of blogs and social media means that it is even more difficult for the print and broadcast media to mediate between politicians and the public. It is much easier for politicians to have a direct relationship with people. I have also seen how it is now easier to get mistakes in articles, especially online articles, corrected through the use of twitter. So I think he was right in what he said. It is quite common to talk about people ‘fighting the last war’ and politicians spending all their time trying to manage the media is an example of that.

The change is now


People might have noticed that there was an election taking place in France for the post of President yesterday. On my way to one of the city’s Irish pubs in order to watch a football match yesterday I passed a school which was being used as a polling station with people going in to vote. All very familiar.

What is not familiar and is, therefore, different is that the municipality provide space for the different parties to post-up posters of their candidate. The ones seen here are just outside the polling station pictured earlier. When there were ten candidates in the first round there were ten of these hoardings outside this school and at different locations all over Strasbourg.

Opposite the posters and the polling station someone had put forward their own view on the vote, Left = Right + vaseline:

Why do men hate women? In praise of Louise Mensch.


This week the House of Commons Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport published a report on phone hacking. One of the noteworthy things about the report was that the majority voted to include in the report that Rupert Murdoch was not a fit and proper person to lead News Corp.

There was very strong media interest in the report, especially the verdict on Rupert Murdoch, and a number of media outlets featured MPs who had supported and opposed the verdict. One who opposed the verdict was Conservative MP, Louise Mensch. As a result of this she received fierce misogynist tweets in the most vile language. Someone else I do not agree with, the columnist on the Independent Laurie Penny, has now written about the misogynist emails she receives as a result of publishing opinion pieces.

For eight years I worked for a female Labour MP who similarly received misogynist hate emails when she did something, said something or was in the media, in parenthesis there were a small group of men in her party who thought she should not do or say anything unless they told her to. Polite emails saying how dare she express an opinion (Not how dare she express the opinion she did) right through to pornographic emails about what would be done to her, quite often featuring guns.

I could never understand what so threatened these men that when a woman expresses an opinion they have to respond in such a violently hate-filled way. OK, disagree and say so. Argue the merits of the case and say why you think someone is wrong. I am ashamed to say that some of my gender have real problems being in a society featuring women, particularly when women then get into a position of authority. That is their problem, get over it. I do not claim perfection in this for myself but I do try to deal with everyone as I would like to be treated. I hope the attention given to this, as well as the awful behaviour over the Ched Evans rape conviction, will lead a few other men to stop and reflect a bit more about their behaviour and whether what they’re doing is how they would like to be treated.

One thing I found working in the House of Commons was the way friendships could be formed across parties. This should not really be so surprising as representatives of whatever party have their whips, their local party and their constituents to deal with. They are colleagues in the same line of work, with the same working conditions, stresses and pressures. So it has not been surprising to me that there has been support from across the political spectrum from other women MPs for Louise Mensch and her raising this issue. I too am glad she has raised this rock and shined a light on these insects.

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