By the time this issue of Total Politics arrives with you, there may have been time to draw breath. The firestorm ignited by allegations that Milly Dowler’s voicemail was hacked moved at an incredible speed. It looked remarkably like the British establishment had been rocked, never to be the same again. And the scandal marked a challenge for this month’s cover star, Jeremy Hunt. Back in 2009, from the quieter recesses of the shadow cabinet, Hunt told me: “In some ways in politics, your strength of character, strength of mind and strength of resolve are far more important than whether you’ve got a good turn of phrase in the media, whether you have a good mind for policy, or whatever the different qualities are that people look for in politicians.” Those virtues have been tested to the limit with his recent handling of News Corporation’s proposed takeover of BSkyB. As you will read in our interview on p38, Hunt initially didn’t believe phone hacking and the BSkyB deal needed to be considered the same issue. He hoped to keep separate the criminal hacking act from the ‘media plurality’ issue of BSkyB’s market share. That position had to change rapidly. Hunt’s career so far has been marked by smooth calmness. His Commons appearance to announce the referral of the now-abandoned deal to the
Competition Commission certainly was not his finest hour, but he kept the same tone throughout and resisted losing his temper. Even when sent out with a ‘broken bat’, he showed some of the qualities that those who rate him have spotted. Of course, Hunt has the Olympics to oversee. Amid the recent difficulties, he can hope that a successful London 2012 will add substance to the smooth profile he has so far developed. He might be in charge of the ‘ministry of fun’, but the coalition needs a good Olympics to add lustre to its performance record. The pressure’s not off yet, but Hunt’s position at culture, media and sport could be an excellent springboard for his future career.
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I f y o u w o ul dli k e y o u r l e t t e r p r i n t e d,
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T o t al P oliticsreservestheri g h t t o e ditl e t t e r s.
BACK TO SCHOOL Before Andy Burnham talks about education policy (TP, July), he should get his facts straight.
He totally misunderstands the E-Bac, dismisses the Browne Report on student funding as a coalition conspiracy and dodges the question about university drop out.
There is no single model for free schools. Schools becoming academies retain their admission obligations and the only money now being ‘showered’ on academies is the money previously spent by their local authority on their administration.
Instead of all this ill-informed criticism, why doesn’t he tell us what a Labour government would do to tackle underachievement?
Andy’s rhetoric tries to sound New Labour, but his instinct, as for example when he is dismissive of the excellence of the Russell Group, is the outdated, angry politics of Old Labour. Baroness Perry of Southwark Vice-chair, All Party Parliamentary Group for Education
COMMUTING WITH HS2? I understand that Birmingham Council is irritated by the ‘NO’ banners erected and paid for by my colleague Nikki Sinclaire MEP and placed next to the council banners proclaiming ‘YES, TO HS2’ at ratepayers’ expense.
Quicker trains will mean no time to prepare for meetings via the laptop or mobile phone and all that valuable work time on the train will be lost.
No doubt desks on Euston Station will be the answer? Speed kills, but speed also costs in terms of energy and is not ‘green’. Thanks to HS2 (likely cost £35bn plus) Birmingham
Airport will become a major London Airport more than rivalling Gatwick. Good for airport expansion plans but bad for local noise levels and bad for the West Midlands, which will be sidelined in favour of London.
Does the council realise that HS2 means Birmingham will become a London commuter town? The impact will mean wage rates may well rise but fragile local industry cannot aﬀord higher wage rates to match employees’ higher mortgages and they will close. Good job the council gets rates on empty property to pay for banners!
Ban YES banners and ban HS2 I say, saving £35bn, saving local industry, saving the Staﬀordshire and Warwickshire countryside and saving the cost of banners. Mike Nattrass MEP UKIP MEP for the West Midlands
THE REAL ALTERNATIVE FOR THE LEFT IS GROWTH Amber Ellio ’s article on the Labour le (TP, July) misses its central focus – to replace the broken model of neo-liberal capitalism based on out-of-control markets, deregulation of finance, privatisation, and ballooning inequality.
The le ’s alternative is centred on a jobs and growth strategy as a more eﬃcient and more just form of deficit reduction than the current massive cuts policy leading to stagnation.
It sees a role for the state as neither command-and-control nor mere facilitator, but a genuine partner where private markets have failed – in housing, pensions, health, education, energy, transport and banking.
It wants to restore the balance between the City and manufacturing to restore Britain’s hollowed-out industry and provide a foundation for sustainable growth.
By democratising a power structure stagnated around the City, mega-corporations and Murdoch, the le wants to restore accountability and enhance social mobility.
In addition, the le should drive the green agenda to counter climate change and the energy crunch and generate future jobs. Michael Meacher MP for Oldham West and Royton
TECHNOLOGY AT WORK IN THE MOTHER OF ALL PARLIAMENTS Many people complain that they see few MPs in the chamber. That ignores the fact that many MPs are working in their oﬃces while watching the debates on the internal television.
If an MP can deal with some basic communications while in the chamber then you will find more MPs a end debates.
If, however, a strict line is maintained and you can only stay in the chamber if you don’t do any communication with the outside world then we are much more likely to find fewer MPs a ending debates or commi ee hearings.
My own view is that there is nothing to be lost by having silent electronic devices being used in the chamber (and commi ees).
There are quite a few potential gains from having technology in the chamber in terms of be er informed debates (with MPs being able to factcheck) and possibly even greater a endance at debates. John Hemming MP Member, Commons rocedure Committee
WE NEED TO BE OPEN ABOUT ABORTION What proportion of the UK’s population each week contribute to a conception that later is terminated deliberately? How many of us will then be part of the statistics?
The arithmetic is simple. Allowing for visitors who come for a safe legal abortion and for a few people who may be involved more than once in any year, the 190-200,000 abortions a year may represent up to 3,500 a week. It takes two to tango.
Nearly 7,000 of us, British residents, are involved each week, last week, this week, next week. Perhaps over 40 per cent in an active or occasional sex life?
Remember that the only thing we could not inherit from our parents is celibacy.
It would be odd for there to be persistent pressure to make a termination more complicated or delayed.
Be er to approach the undoubted miseries of abortion by using the approach that dramatically cut the road deaths associated with over the limit drink driving.
Let us start by talking openly. And I don’t mean of ‘No’ or of family planning nor of birth control but of which embarrassment is to be preferred: talking together about conception choice before having it oﬀ or a erwards facing up to an unplanned conception.
I bet that that could, with appropriate discussion in the popular media and backing across the board, cut the number of abortions to fewer than 40,000 within 12 months. Sir Peter Bottomley MP Member, All-party parliamentary group on sexual and Reproductive Health in the UK
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