“I would like to say a lot, but we are constrained by time at the tail end of our discussion. Suffice it to say that I believe that the power of News International and many other media organisations, as many hon. Members have said, has distorted the way in which politicians and others in public life go about their daily business, but what is wrong is the fact that the ownership of our media is out of kilter. It should not just be an issue about BSkyB and whether News International increases its influence in it; it should be about whether News International is a fit and proper company and should be allowed to continue to hold sway over such a large part of our national media.
In what is left of my time allocation, I wish to speak about the influence of the Mayor of London on the Metropolitan police. I think it was wrong for him to say that the phone hacking issue was “codswallop”—that it was a plot
“cooked up by the Labour party”,
that it was
“a song and dance about nothing”,
and that he was not going to become involved in the issue, only as far back as September 2010. The Metropolitan police were under pressure from people outside the House and some hon. Members, as we all know, to reopen the investigation and look into the phone hacking scandal. It was bound to influence the views of those police that the Mayor of London, who is supposedly given influence over issues relating to policing matters on behalf of people in London, had already made public statements to say that he did not think such an inquiry worth while—that he thought it was a load of rubbish. It was bound to influence their thinking about whether to reopen that inquiry.
I sincerely hope that the Leveson inquiry will look into that fact, because it will be an important factor in whether we decide to go forward with elected police commissioners throughout the country, because when the Government advocate elected police commissioners, they always use the Mayor of London as an example. Well, actually, the Mayor of London is accountable to the Metropolitan Police Authority for what he does with the police. The Members of the MPA have a great deal of influence in London, and it is a democratically based body, with other co-opted members to make it broadly representative of London. We are diluting the influence of the MPA and converting it into a panel. We are not giving it any teeth whatever to enable it to have oversight, and we are placing all the influence and power in the hands of a directly elected Mayor or his appointed deputy Mayor.
The problem that we have faced is the over-burgeoning power of the media and their ability to twist and manipulate individuals, particularly politicians at times. I would stand here and criticise the former leader of my party for going halfway around the world to pay court to Rupert Murdoch—I made that criticism openly at the time and I do so now—but that is because those individuals’ power has been too great. We have seen the tentacles go deep into the Metropolitan police and into our political life. We have officers who are now probably facing prison because they were corrupted by journalists throwing money around; we have politicians who have been too close and embarrassed themselves with their relationships with the media. It is extremely corrupting.
The Mayor of London said that this matter was “codswallop” only days after the article appeared in The New York Times which resulted in the reopening of the Metropolitan police inquiry. So we have to look at how the Mayor has been influenced by the media and the way he has used the media.”