Finally, Nick clegg has come of age

The “nodding donkey” seems to have gone to the knackers’ yard.

He knows where he stands, it seems.

He has, apparently, had an influence in ensuring that the government has promptly reacted to Murdochgate.

Has Nick Clegg, finally, par chance, grown a pair?

I only ask.Clegg Speech 33
Creative Commons License photo credit: Liberal Democrats

Jon Stewart on the News of the World scandal

…Definitely worth a listen. The climax is articulated by The Daily Show’s Senior British Correspondent, John Oliver:

That’s right, the guy who got car head from a LA road prostitute is now the moral compass of my nation.


PMQs: The tectonic plates shift

Cross-posted from Liberal Democrat Voice

Oh, what a joy to be Leader of the Opposition at times like these!

Prime Minister’s Questions today was certainly one of the most important this year. David Cameron has been in a sort of partial purdah for the last few days, no doubt preparing his answers. What we got was quite a substantial exposition of the response to what I’ll call, for the purposes of brevity, “Murdochgate”.

The exchange between Cameron and Miliband started with a large degree of agreement. Indeed, it was almost as if the PM had pulled the rug from under the Leader of the opposition by belatedly agreeing to everything he has been demanding:

Rebekah Brooks to go? Yes – her resignation should have been accepted, said Cameron.

Link to the BSkyB bid? Yes, said Cameron. It is “not possible” to separate the scandal from the BSkyB bid. That’s new from the government. “Disgraceful” was the description Cameron posited about the scandal.

Call on Murdoch to drop the bid? Yes, said Cameron.

Amend laws if necessary? Yes, said Cameron.

Then Miliband moved in for the red meat. First, there was a waspish aside referring to the Leader of the House leading the debate on Murdochgate this afternoon. Poor Georgie Young. Second, we got to Andy Coulson, and the information about his employment of Jonathan Rees which was passed, by the Guardian, to David Cameron’s chief of staff. ‘What happened to that information?’, asked Miliband.

We then got to a statement from Cameron which probably went through about twelve drafts:

He hired a tabloid editor. Coulson gave him assurances that he was not involved in criminality. He also gave those assurances to the police, a court of law and a select committee. Then we got to the substantial bit: Cameron said that if Coulson had lied to him (Cameron) then he also lied under oath to a court, to the police and to the Commons, so he would be subject to a criminal prosecution if that is the case. Serious stuff. But he added a reminder of the principle of “innocent until proven guilty”.

Cameron said that the Guardian information was not passed onto him. But he said it was not “some secret stash of information” and had already been published. The Guardian’s editor has already been tweeting furious responses to Cameron’s explanation. Cameron was also later reminded by Miliband that the Deputy Prime Minister and Paddy Ashdown had warned him not to employ Coulson at Number Ten. I think we will be hearing more of this.

Miliband then flunked his response. He asked “What information he proposes to take towards his Chief of Staff?” Oh dear. He let Cameron off the hook a bit there. Wrong word.

Cameron replied, basically, with four words: “Tom Baldwin” and “Damien McBride”. “The public wants us to rise above this”, he said. No it doesn’t. You want us to rise above this, Mr Cameron.

We then got one of Ed Miliband’s top ten catchphrases: “He just doesn’t get it”. He finished strongly saying that Cameron should publish a full account of what he did and what he knew in the process of the hiring of Andy Coulson at Number Ten. He said that Cameron should apologise for his “catastrophic error of judgment in hiring Andy Coulson”. Quite powerful that.

Cameron ended by saying the old line about Labour having had ten years to sort out this mess. But it was rather pathetic. Cameron prepared all this very well and make a good fist of a bad hand (if that’s possible). But basically he is paying dearly for his stupidity in hiring Andy Coulson some years ago.

Duncan Hames (LibDem) asked a very powerful first question listing the elements of Murdochgate and asking if this is a “fit and proper person”. Cameron agreed with Hames’ thrust.

The Speaker got quite strong after the Cameron/Miliband spat. He told the “Children’s Minister” to “calm down or get out”. Strong stuff. The Children’s Minister is Tim Loughton. After a bit more shouting, the Speaker actually named the man. It appears that Mr Loughton was smiling. The Speaker said “This is not funny. Only in your mind, Mr Loughton, is it funny”. Naming a member is the Speaker’s equivalent of firing a nuclear weapon. I can’t remember a minister being named by the speaker before. Can you? This happened on the same day as an Opposition motion is to go through “on the nod” – the first time in living memory, I’m told.

We are witnessing the shifting of the tectonic plates of the UK’s democracy. Today in the Commons is in many ways historic.

Too much “BREAKING NEWS” already!

Hubba, hubba. My brain is about to explode. I can hardly take in all this breaking news!

I doubt whether we have heard the last of News Corporation’s bid for a bigger share in BSkyB. They apparently can launch another bid in six months time. But we shouldn’t under-estimate the magnitude of import of the decision to abandon the bid. Murdoch could have sold off News International to save the bid. News International is of less importance to him, given the mega-bucks involved in BSkyB. So this is a very, very painful decision for him to take (even if he intends to rebid in six months time).

But before any further bid, News International need to clean out their Augean Stables. The whole raft of disclosures over the past week and, before that over the last few years, indicates, very clearly, a total systemic breakdown/debasement (delete where applicable) in the management control of News International.

So I’d be surprised if either James Murdoch and/or Rebekah Brooks are in their jobs in six months time. They shouldn’t oughtta be, that’s for sure.

News Corporation is obviously too big. Either the management structure needs to be somehow strengthened, or the company needs to be broken up. Rupert Murdoch is a broken reed and needs to reshape his company. He cannot rely on his family holding it together forever – “clogs to clogs in three generations”, as they say.

Some impressions from the last few days:

-Today’s issue of The Sun marked a low point in the history of British journalism. They are taking on Gordon and Sarah Brown in public regarding their sick son. It really is a disgusting spectacle.

-This has been an historic week. I am not quite sure what form the future will take, but the balance of the media, Parliament, free speech and privacy is in the melting pot and will never be the same.

-Apart from Rupert Murdoch being taken down about 59 pegs, the one superb piece of news to come out of this week is the imminent demise or reshaping of the Press Complaints Commission. I have dealt with them, albeit on a minuscule level. They are bloody useless. And my regular reader will know that I am sparing with profanities. But in this case it is justified. We must have an independent Press Regulator and it is to be applauded that, out of the chaos of this week, that possibility has, at last, emerged.