September 18, 2005

How long can Blair stay on as PM?

From the UK's Independent on Sunday.

Britain has long been a democracy characterised by one man one vote. Unfortunately the man is Rupert Murdoch. As part of America's democratic tradition, Presidential and Vice-Presidential hopefuls have televised debates where they tell the public what they're going to do if elected. They struck me as a bit silly. I remember Gore and Bush's first debate. The analysts on Gore's side were well pleased because he appeared intelligent and Bush, according to the feedback, seemed a bit stupid. Then, prior to the second debate, the feedback had been refined. Gore appeared to be a bit too clever and Bush seemed kind of sweet in his stupidness. Well here in the UK we don't have the televised debate. Our Prime Ministerial hopefuls go over to New York and tell Rupert Murdoch what they will do for him should they be elected. The one who is perceived as offering the most favours to Murdoch gets the support of Sky TV, the Sun and the Times newspapers and their sister Sundays: the News of the World and the Sunday Times.

Well now in a grotesque piece of grovelling sycophancy, Blair has told Rupert Murdoch of his dismay over the BBC World Service's coverage of Hurricane Katrina. The front page of the Independent is headed Blair tells Murdoch: 'gloating' BBC is 'full of hatred for America'.
In an extraordinary disclosure that will acutely embarrass Mr Blair, the world's most powerful media mogul revealed details of a private conversation that took place in New York on Thursday.[Which just goes to show how disrespectful Murdoch is to Blair.]

Addressing a conference of influential media figures in the United States, Mr Murdoch said the Prime Minister had told him he had been shocked at the way the BBC had handled the disaster.

"Tony Blair... told me yesterday that he was in Delhi last week and he turned on the BBC World Service to see what was happening in New Orleans, and he said it was just full of hate at America and gloating about our troubles," the chairman and chief executive of News Corporation said.
The BBC is a publicly owned corporation that many people love to hate. It has a remit to be balanced and challenging and to provide a voice to interests that, because of the dictates of media proprietors and commerce, might not otherwise have a voice. It mostly, indeed clearly, leans to the Government's position on all issues and lets dissent slip through the net only occasionally. Since the Lord Hutton affair (it was an affair in its own right) in the wake of the David Kelly suicide, where Lord Hutton against all evidence to the contrary, blamed the BBC for David Kelly's suicide, the BBC has been as pro-Government as it could possibly be whilst maintaining any semblence of credibility as a serious and impartial public service broadcaster. If you doubt that, just watch Jeremy Paxman's reaction to George Galloway's election win and the BBC's outrageous response to over a hundred complaints.

Well now look where their appeasement's got them. According to the Independent's report the BBC has issued a "withering response" to Blair's remarks which, frankly surprises me, and the Tories have stepped in to defend an organisation they used to routinely bash if they thought that they were insufficiently right-wing.

In the same edition of the Indie there's an article that has Blair threatening to stay in power if his Chancellor, Gordon Brown, doesn't back him over "reform" of public services, which is taken to mean flogging off bits of the National Health Service but which could well mean selling or giving the BBC to Murdoch. Isn't it about time the question of who rules Britain was taken out of Blair's and Murdoch's hands?

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