Categories
National politics

Independent? Unbiased? Not really

Yesterday the Independent made much of this headline and the idea was picked up by the BBC and others. I wonder who thought up the original line? The number comes from taking every News International entry on this list of the Prime Minister’s meetings with proprietors, editors and senior media executives published by Number 10 and adding them up.

There are 74 entries of which some 26 are related to News International. My first observation would be that 36% of the list is News International which pretty much exactly matches its share of the national newspaper market.

Of the 26 News International meetings 10 were one-on-one meetings with the editors of national newspapers:

  • Dominic Mohan, Sun 3 times
  • James Harding, Times 4 times
  • Colin Myler, NOTW 1 time
  • John Witherow, Sunday Times 2 times

These sessions are entirely normal and entirely proportionate. If calling newspaper editors Murdoch chiefs is a tad poetic then the next set of “meetings” make the Independent and the BBC look mendacious:

  • The Sun Police Bravery Awards – twice
  • The Sun Military Awards – once
  • News of the World Children’s Champions – once

There is nothing wrong with the PM deciding to support these causes. Maybe if the Guardian or Observer honoured the police and military the PM would turn up to their dos too.

So we have reduced the Independent’s list from 26 to 12. You get into more questionable areas when you consider that Cameron attended the News International Summer party twice and a News International reception. Three “meetings”. Like Cameron had deep and meaningfuls with anyone at these. In the same period he attended another 8 parties variously related to the news media:

  • FT mid-summer party
  • Spectator summer party
  • hosted two reception for broadcasters and the Lobby at Number 10
  • another one for regional broadcasters and the lobby
  • a party for National Magazines’ 100th birthday party
  • another for the Journalists’ charity
  • hosted a reception for British Society of Magazine Editors
  • hosted a reception for the Regional Lobby

In context 3 out 11 media related parties with News Corp does not seem unreasonable. Perhaps Cameron should party less? Maybe that makes him normal?

The meetings that the public might question are now looking a little thin – down to eight.

Two appearances at the Times CEO Summit. Again deep and meaningfuls? Isn’t this pretty normal along with appearances at CBI conferences or similar? This takes us down to six. The six meetings that Cameron might have avoided or reduced resolve to:

  • One one-to-one with Rupert Murdoch
  • Two one-to-one with Rebakah Brooks
  • One meeting with Brooks and Sun Editor at the Conservative Party Conference
  • One social with Rebekah Brooks and James Murdoch
  • One social with Rebekah Brooks

Maybe Cameron will come to regret these six meetings. Am I alone in thinking that this is not a big deal?

7 replies on “Independent? Unbiased? Not really”

If you’re a politician, you always want to keep on good terms with people in the Media because the publicity they can and will give to what you think or what you do is very valuable. It helps to keep your name in people’s minds and link it to what you are doing.

In order to help achieve this you network with people in the Media all the time, just as you network with a whole variety of other people. That’s the price you pay if you don’t want to be ignored. There is nothing sinister (as the headline might suggest) or even newsworthy about this list. It’s perfectly normal and predictable.

I think Cameron will come to regret these meetings. And no you aren’t the only one who thinks this is no big deal. Councillor Costello no doubt agrees with you.

I ran my own PR agency for 21 years so I know quite a lot about successful relationships with the press. This extensive list of contact is neither ‘normal’ nor ‘predictable’.

I never had any of my clients on kissing relationships with journalists. I’ve seen two clips now of Cameron getting physically close to Mrs Brooks.

To be fair to Cameron neither Blair nor Brown behaved any better with News Corp than Cameron did as far as I can glean. There has to be a complete sea change in how the national press and senior politicians (and senior Police Officers) ‘interact’. I’m cynical enough to think though that there will be a continued ballihoo about all this for months but that 1/2 years on things will slide back into business as usual.

Phil,

Is it business as usual now that Coulson has gone? If so then it was a serious error of judgment for Cameron to have employed him. Why employ someone with form if you don’t have to when your avowed intentions are to be squeaky clean?

I don’t think using statistics which you are prone to do helps in this case. Cameron got too close. Good thing in a way because future politicians should now think twice about getting too cosy.

As a Councillor I think it would be far more interesting if you focused on what cosiness there may be among other Councillors and also any cosiness which may exist among long serving senior Council Officers.

Over to you Sherlock.

Phil, the Independent may not be unbiased but do you really think you are?

As a member of the public with no affiliations to any particular party I wish politicians in general would spend more time working on improving the country and less time worrying about their public profile. Petty squabbling and point scoring seem to be thought more important than the hard work of getting on with the job.

But Phil doesn’t claim to be unbiased. We all know which party he belongs to. Likewise we all know when we read the Telegraph or Guardian we’re going to get a certain point of view, they don’t claim to be impartial and bang on and on about how they are.
As for getting on with the job, you’re aiming at the wrong target if you accuse Phil of not doing so.

Fair point Gill that Phil doesn’t claim to be unbiased.

The rest of my comments were about politicians in general, of all parties, as I said. So much time in politics seems to spent pointing out how rubbish the opposing side are, using media consultants, worrying about personal image etc that I wonder when politicians find time to work on their actual jobs.

Emily,

I know that much of politics seems a bit negative sometimes. The adversarial nature of it turns a lot of people off.

When I was in power locally in a small way as a portfolio holder in the previous Conservative administration I know that I was keen to do a good job. One of the motivations was I didn’t want to have my shortcomings pointed out by the opposition. Now I am in opposition I think that it is my job to keep those in power on their toes.

In business you have the profit motive to keep you sharp. In government you have the opposition. As Churchill said: “It has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried.”

Comments are closed.