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Macmillan Speech to the Institute for Government
Permission given by Nathan and Steve
Ladies and Gentlemen thank you for coming and thank you for inviting me to speak before you today.
It is a tremendous honour to be here at the Institute for Government, for many years I have been a member of your think tank and I have learned a great deal from the terrific work that you put out on a daily basis. Throughout the Coalition’s time in office I for one have been most grateful for the work you have done on efficiency in the halls of power as well as your work on devolution and the cost effective functioning of our public services. Truly you raise the bar of excellence in terms of what we should expect from our nation’s think tanks.
Ladies and Gentlemen trust in our politics is broken, decades of successive scandals across the political spectrum has seen the public’s faith in politicians diminish year on year to the point where Scottish Independence is being spoken about as if it may actually happen and populist outsiders such as UKIP are being spoken about as if they may actually win seats in the House of Commons. For years politicians and the media have spoken at length about the need to restore faith and yet we do very little. Cash for honours did not answer the fundamental constitutional questions it asked and the expenses scandal did not result in a wholesale change in the culture of Westminster, indeed the leaks that plagued my own party’s recent leadership election are only the most recent example of the festering, self-serving nature of British politics - a nature that I have made it my mission to change. Faith in politics and in the press is at an all time low most excellently identified through the phone hacking scandal, the Leveson inquiry, and the BBC’s handling of the aforementioned ‘Cambel leak’, this rot needs serious action and it needs it yesterday.
The phone hacking scandals is one of the greatest disgraces in our nation’s modern history and the reaction of outright disgust was thoroughly deserved, but since that initial reaction we have run the risk as a nation of allowing complacency to slip back into our collective consciousnesses. The reason that News of the World thought that they would be able to get away with this no questions asked was because of the shared bonds that many at the top of the organisation shared with our top politicians. We have reached a point now where all of our national media is owned and run by a handful of people and that is not good enough. Imagine a market where all the big players are owned by a handful of people, there is little competition which means that standards naturally fall. As a Conservative I believe that competition is the best remedy for almost all market failures, that includes the issues currently besetting our media. We must drive our media market away from a position where some moguls are so powerful, with such great influence across print and broadcast outlets, that the politicians are afraid to go after them. How can it be acceptable for the likes of Rupert Murdoch to walk into the halls of power for a quick chat with a serving Prime Minister? The media are here to hold us to account not become our bestest friends in the whole wide World. We must have the conviction as politicians of all persuasions to stand up to the media moguls and say that enough is enough, we must break the media monopoly empires and bring about real competition in our journalism.
If breaking up the old friends network that is media-politician relations is step one to restoring the public’s faith in politics and the media then step 2 is the full implementation of the Leveson Inquiry’s findings and recommendations. Lord Justice Leveson undertook a root and branch review of journalistic ethics and press standards and when he published his report the Conservative Party, to our shame, butchered its implementation where we should have finished the job once and for all. If we are to finally ensure the full separation of politics from journalism we must ensure that legislation is put down to that effect, how can anyone have any faith in us when representatives from Number 10 are allegedly making threats to newspapers to ensure that cabinet expenses remain under wraps? We must establish the legislation in full, we must put IPSO on a full statutory footing, and we must ensure that the press remains free.
Finally, but most importantly, we move onto the latest political scandal that has graced the Conservative Party, the Cambel Leak. For those of you who aren’t fully aware of what has gone on here’s a quick recap: A member of Mary Cambel’s campaign team leaked either a confidential campaign document or a falsified policy proposal to the BBC who ran it, what followed was a rather unedifying shouting match between the new Foreign Secretary, Harold Saxon, and BBC journalist Nick Robinson on Twitter where Mr Saxon suggested that the leak can’t have come from the Cambel campaign as it was fraudulent whilst Mr Robinson reaffirmed that the leak came from senior figures within the aforementioned campaign. Whatever happened here this episode shows us the very worst in political maneuvering and potentially even outright falsification. Obviously since then the Cambel campaign has been victorious, but question marks remain. If it is true that the Conservative Party has sprung a leak then that leak must be plugged immediately for the good of the party and the likes of Mr Saxon should apologise for lying when they said that the document was a forgery, likewise if it is true that the document was a forgery then we must be forced to conclude that somewhere lines of communication broke down and a perfectly innocent BBC journalist was suckered in in an attempt to undermine trust in politicians and the media for a personal political gain of some kind. Frankly it is pretty clear that the latter scenario is utterly abhorrent and would show that somebody operating within the Conservative Party is so utterly lacking in moral fibre that they would stoop so low to see their chosen candidate elected. Whatever happened I reject the notion that the BBC were in anyway complicit in this deception, or that they reported anything other than what they believe to be the truth as some have taken to Twitter to suggest. We must work as a political class to stamp out these trust-damaging leaks where there is no public benefit, especially where they are falsified to trap journalists and smear political rivals. We must hold ourselves to higher standards as Conservatives, but also as Members of Parliaments and representatives of the people. We must investigate this particular instance and use full disciplinary measures against any individual found to be involved in any way shape or form, no matter who they are or what position they hold in the party or in Her Majesty’s Government.
Ladies and Gentlemen our politics is broken for many reasons but our interactions with the press are surely high up there on the list. We have media moguls frequently visiting our leading figures in undisclosed meetings, we have a severe lack of competition in our national media, we have an under-implemented Leveson review, and to top it all off we have politicians trying to discredit some of the only truly politically independent journalists at the BBC with lies or falsified policy leaks. Frankly it all needs to stop, it needs complete and utter root and branch reform of the system and it needs investigations, including severe punishments if necessary, to send a clear message to MPs that dirty political tricks have no place in the halls of power and have no place in modern British society. If politics does not clean up its act then the public will simply clean us out of office, it is that simple, it doesn’t matter who you are, be you a Parliamentary aide, a humble backbencher, or the Prime Minister herself, nobody is above the basic standards we expect of our elected officials.
Conservative MP for North East Bedfordshire
Leader of the Opposition
Prime Minister (2014)
Parliamentary Experience: Unknown (14)
Media Experience: Capable (45)
Policy Experience: Unknown (13)
Live image of Rupert Murdoch's reaction:
It's a good speech, but a very unusual one for a Conservative to be making. It goes down relatively well with your audience, and to some extent with the left wing press (although they are nervous about Leveson), especially the defence of the BBC and the calls for press plurality. The Sun other right wing press... well you've already seen that.
+1 Policy XP