Wednesday, 27 July 2011

The state within a state

News that Rupert Murdoch and his minions had regular confidential meetings with top UK Government ministers right up the Prime Minister lays bare the state within a state that exists under both Tory and Labour regimes.
These revelations show that the Chancellor, George Osborne, had 16 separate meetings since May 2010 with News International editors and executives, including two with the Murdochs within just a month of taking office. He also invited Elisabeth Murdoch as a guest to his 40th birthday party last month.

The Independent goes on to say:
"The Culture Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, dined with Rupert Murdoch within days of the Government coming to power and, after being given quasi-judicial oversight for the Murdochs' £8bn attempted takeover of BSkyB, had two meetings with James Murdoch in which they discussed the takeover. Mr Hunt said last night that these were legitimate as part of the bid process.

"But the minister who sees Rupert Murdoch the most frequently is the Education Secretary, Michael Gove, a former News International employee. Mr Gove has seen the mogul for breakfast, lunch or dinner on six occasions since last May. Overall, Mr Gove has had 12 meetings with Murdoch executives since becoming a minister."

This kind of unprecedented access wasn't to discuss the price of fish. Murdoch's empire was wooing the UK Government at the time to try to take full control of BSkyB.

"The list, released by government departments yesterday evening, reinforces the impression of an unhealthily close relationship between the top echelons of News International and senior members of the Coalition Cabinet, which first became apparent when Mr Cameron released his list of contacts with news organisations a week ago. He revealed then that he had met News International executives on 26 occasions since entering Downing Street.

"Senior executives and editors from News International have held private meetings with Cabinet ministers more than 60 times since last May."

During the same period Ed Miliband has also met with Murdoch's representatives on 16 occasions.

So what is it to be - either the Murdoch empire had a stranglehold on the political elite (to what extent was that due to information gleaned from phone hacking?) or the political elite was totally in thrall to the all-powerful media mogul and the huge impact his news organisations have on UK public opinion. I suspect it's a combination of both.

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