Public Confidence in the Media and Police

Part of Business without Debate – in the House of Commons at 6:27 pm on 20th July 2011.

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Photo of Richard Fuller Richard Fuller Conservative, Bedford 6:27 pm, 20th July 2011

Many hon. Members have referred to the strength of the media, but we should recognise that the corollary of that is the weakness of politicians. Many people want to see an end to the cosy relationship between the media and our most senior politicians. They want to know that the Prime Minister is his own man, or her own woman. We recognise that that cosy relationship has grown up over the past 20 years, but most particularly under the premierships of Mr Blair and Mr Brown. The present Prime Minister has now called time on those arrangements, and he is absolutely correct to do so.

That cosy relationship is not in the British tradition. In fact, it is more of a European tradition. Let me give two quotes to illustrate that assertion. Napoleon said:

“Four hostile newspapers are more to be feared than a thousand bayonets.”

The Duke of Wellington said, “Publish and be damned”. What the public want to see from their Prime Ministers is more of that Duke of Wellington spirit, and I am pleased to see that our Prime Minister gets that. The truth is that it was not The Sun “wot won it”; it was the political arguments that won the case in 1992. It was a conceit on the British public to put the press in such a powerful position.

I am very grateful that the Prime Minister is now setting the direction of greater accountability. The Leader of the Opposition, who is back in his place, mentioned that one of the important issues was for people in positions of power to protect those who are not. He is a powerful man—the leader of the Labour party—so will he use his position as party leader to call for his two predecessors to contribute fully to the inquiry on the media? Will he ask and persuade them to release all the records of their meetings when they were in office as Prime Minister, so that we can get a full and transparent disclosure of this overly cosy relationship?

What the people want is to move away from a culture of deniability to one of accountability in our institutions. It is not sufficient to say that we do or do not have the right governance procedures in place. The public can see that there is a difference between knowing something is wrong, and allowing a culture in which bad things take place without their knowledge; they know they are different, but they know they are both wrong. They know that if we create a culture whereby we put pressure on people to provide results and do not ask them how they got to those results, that is wrong, and we need to change that. The executives in all our institutions in the media need to understand that.

If we can get those two things right, by ending this cosy relationship, as the Prime Minister rightly said today, and by creating a structure in which responsibility and accountability are to the fore, we will have had a good day in Parliament.


Mike Johnson
Posted on 22 Jul 2011 7:23 am (Report this annotation)

Now this, Mr Flello is an impassioned speech