Jonathan Fryer

Writer, Lecturer, Broadcaster and Liberal Democrat Politician

Posts Tagged ‘Rupert Murdoch’

Why John Bercow Is a Hero

Posted by jonathanfryer on Tuesday, 19th December, 2017

449177D3-C066-4CA9-943B-07239321330CThe Speaker of Britain’s House of Commons, John Bercow, has come in for a lot of flack over the years, mainly from his fellow Conservatives. But he has proved himself to be a hero in the way that he maintains debating standards in the chamber and is unafraid to stand up to bullies. We saw that brilliantly this week when he defended MPs who have received death threats and other abuse because of their opposition to Brexit. Speaker Bercow not only stressed that these MPs were doing their duty by speaking up for what they believe in but also took a swipe at newspapers such as the Sun, the Daily Mail and the Daily Express and even the Daily Telegraph for publishing headlines and articles that have accused critics of Brexit of being traitors and “Enemies of the People”. It’s worth pointing out that few Conservative politicians dare take on the right-wing rags head-on out of fear of becoming targets themselves. Theresa May is just the latest in a line of British Prime Ministers who have kowtowed to Rupert Murdoch and Paul Dacre. But refusing to stand up to bullies — and that is what these men are — only encourages them. Though he knows he will be the subject of yet more unflattering stories and epithets, John Bercow has not been afraid to do so and deserves praise for it. It’s just a pity that most of the Conservative Cabinet are more spineless.

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Hacking Away at the Truth

Posted by jonathanfryer on Friday, 2nd March, 2012

As Alan Rusbridger, Editor of the Guardian, declared in Oxford this evening, 2011 was an extraordinary year for his newspaper. It published huge extracts from the Wikileaks files, exposing elements of US Foreign Policy that astonished even longstanding hard-bitten hacks like myself. And later the true extent of illicit practices carried out by journalists from the News of the World and other parts of the Murdoch media empire became clear. That story is still rumbling on, as Lord Leveson chairs an Inquiry that has been hearing great quantities of testimony from witnesses about the level of corruption in the relationship between some of the media and the Police, as well as the widespread nature of phone-hacking. Delivering the 2012 Philip Geddes lecture — named after a young graduate from my alma mater St Edmund Hall, who became a journalist and was blown up by an IRA bomb in Harrods — Alan Rusbridger said that maybe as many as 5,800 people had had their phones hacked. Some of the more famous ones have, of course, extracted large sums in damages from News International. But it was probably the revelation that someone had even hacked the mobile phone of teenage murder victim Milly Dowler that really brought the opprobrium of the general public down on the heads of some of Murdoch’s senior employees. It was brave of the Guardian to persist in its inquiries, at a time when no other media were touching the story and Rusbridger himself was visited by both Met Commissioner John Stephenson and Yates of the Yard, who told him there was no substance to allegations and advised him to back off. As Rusbridger self-deprecatingly admitted, he does not look like a heroic figure, in the Ben Bradlee mould; one friend accurately, if unflatteringly, described him as resembling Harry Potter’s lonely uncle. But now the fruits of the Guardian’s hard work — and in particular of several indefatigable investigative journalists — have paid off. There are bound to be yet more scandalous revelations, and the Prime Minister David Cameron must be kicking himself for having chosen some unfortunate friends. But one positive thing that may come out of all this, Rusbridger argued, would be the creation of a press regulatory body with teeth. The Press Complaints Commission (PCC) has proved to be totally ineffectual. A new body could be called something like the Press and Media Standards Commission, Rusbridger suggested. And one of the first things it should review is what that fickle phrase ‘in the public interest’ means.

Link: www.geddesprize.co.uk

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Peter Brookes: The Best of Times

Posted by jonathanfryer on Sunday, 21st August, 2011

There are many good reasons not to read the Times, Rupert Murdoch being the most obvious. But one of that newspaper’s best features for some years now has been the output of political cartoonist Peter Brookes. Like all the best of his breed, he is topical, irreverent and puts the boot in where it’s needed. Unlike some cartoonists, however, he draws charicatures that are clearly identifiable, no matter how far-fetched the distortion. I think particularly of his Nature Notes, which have, for example, featured Harriet Harman as a praying mantis, Nicolas Sarkozy as a cockerel on stilts and Hazel Blears as a snail. No-one of any political party or natonality is free from his humorous barbs. Fortunately, every so often his very best cartoons appear in beautifully reproduced full-colour collections such as the one I have been savouring this afternoon: The Best of Times… (JR Books, London, 2009; £15.99). Peter Brookes holds no-one sacred, be it the Pope, the Queen or Barack Obama. Moreover, his willingness to get right to the bone prompts outright guffaws, such as his drawing of a very smug Bill Clinton declaring: ‘Fellow Democrats, trust me! Would I ever leave a sour taste in you mouth?!’ Because the volume covers the final years of the last Labour government, both Tony Blair (over Iraq) and Gordon Brown (portrayed naked on a sofa, in a pastiche of Lucian Freud’s ‘Benefit Supervisor Sleeping’) get it in the neck. I particularly love the image of a manic Cherie Blair, with terrifying grin, typing her autobiography on an old-fashioned cash register. And there is an unfogettable image of John Prescott impaled by a croquet hoop on a croquet lawn while Peter Mandelson aims a ball straight between his legs. As Liberal Democrats were not yet in government, they don’t fgure very much in this collection, apart from poor old Ming Campbell drawn alongside a Thora Hird-style stair-lift and Nick Clegg as a bird called the Great Shag. But I am sure there will be lots for LibDems to groan and giggle over by the time the next collection of Peter Brookes’s work comes out.

Link: www.jrbooks.com

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London Liberal Democrat Conference

Posted by jonathanfryer on Saturday, 9th April, 2011

The regional conference that took place in the East Wintergarden in Canary Wharf today was confirmation that London Liberal Democrats have made a big step change — now a party in government, more professional, still signing up new members and bullish in the run-up to the Fairer Votes referendum in May. There was a stellar line-up of speakers, including the Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg, who strssed that the 5 May vote is a once-in-a-lifetime chance to change our anachronistic electoral system and that the result in London (where there are no simultaneous local elections, unlike in most of the rest of the UK) could make the difference. The Business Secretary, Vince Cable, admitted it isn’t always easy being in government, but for all the difficulties, it was far less frustrating than being in the permanent comfort zone of opposition. Vince had for so long been the lone voice warning the trouble Britain under Labour was sailing into with its over-spending and over-light regulation of the banks. I suspect he is rather rubbing his hands in glee at Rupert Murdoch’s News International’s woes at the moment, though he was careful not to say so overtly. Lynne Featherstone, Equalities Minister at the Home Office, was able to reel off a whole list of Liberal Democrat ‘wins’ within her area of responsibility, including equal marriage and civil partnership rights. And Simon Hughes, Deputy Leader of the party, struck out a clear LibDem line on a number of issues, from nuclear energy to targetted assistance for pupils and students from poorer backgrounds. All in all, a great morale-booster for the approximately 200 delegates present.

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10 Years of the Euro

Posted by jonathanfryer on Sunday, 11th January, 2009

1-euro     The European Movement held a day conference on 10 Years of the Euro at University College London yesterday, though any sense of celebration was overshadowed by a deep feeling of frustration that Britain has failed to ‘opt in’ to the single currency, and that the mood of such a large proportion of the British public remains Euro-sceptic. The media were mainly blamed for that, though there was a ray of hope on that front offered by one of the keynote speakers, Graham Bishop, when he pointed out that increasingly people get their news and views from the Internet, rather than from newspapers, so the Rupert Murdochs of this world are losing influence.

However, national governments are as much to blame as the media for giving a distorted view of what the EU is all about. As the former Conservative MEP Ben Patterson said — in a paper ‘The Euro: Success or Failure’, tabled at the conference — ‘All EU governments are tempted to blame “Europe” for difficulties of their own making. Electorates generally have little idea how EU decisions are taken, and are only too willing to believe that there is  vast, unelected Eurocracy in Brussels, imposing absurd regulations out of the blue.’ In other words, if in a pickle, blame Brussels.

The second keynote speaker, another former Conservative MEP (and now active Liberal Democrat) John Stevens asserted that that the Eurozone is not going to collapse, nor will any country leave it. On the contrary, it has just acquired its 16th. member, Slovakia, and others are in transition. The Danish Prime Minister, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, told me a few months ago that he was going to do what he could to persuade the Danish public to join the euro, and similar moves are afoot in Sweden. Which just leaves Britain as the last bastion of euro-scepticism. But as John Stevens said yesterday, ‘If Britain were to join the euro, the euro would be made.’  The EU is proving that it is possible to have an international currency, which can be a model for other parts of the world and help ensure that European political values have clout in changing global geopolitics.

Link: www.euromove.org.uk

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Elementary, My Dear Watson

Posted by jonathanfryer on Friday, 5th September, 2008

 Osama bin Laden has probably done more for European Union than anyone since Jacques Delors, according to the Leader of the Liberal (ALDE) Group in the European Parliament, Graham Watson. Speaking only slightly tongue-in-cheek at the Kensington and Chelsea Liberal Democrats’ ‘Food for Thought’ this evening, Graham said that post-9/11, European politicians had realised the need for greater cooperation on all sorts of matters relating to security. It was largely thanks to him that there is now a European Arrest Warrant (typically opposed by the Conservatives, as an unacceptable ‘attack’ on British sovereignty).

Graham said that there were three main reasons why the European Union matters now, as individual member states cannot handle mega-problems on their own. He cited global population growth and accelerated migration; climate change; and internationally organised crime. These are just some of the concerns we should be raising in the run-up to next June’s European elections.

He also posed a rhetorical question about why the Britsh media gives such little coverage to European issues (let alone the European Parliament itself). Certainly the attitudes of Eurosceptic media barons such as Rupert Murdoch are one important element. But I believe another important reason is that no political party in Britain has yet had the guts to fight a European campaign on positive European issues. If even the Liberal Democrats don’t do it, why should the media care? Elementary, my dear Watson!

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