Chris Williamson MP: Change is coming for Britain's press barons

Posted On: 
22nd February 2018

Like it or not, change is on the way for the press barons, warns Labour MP Chris Williamson

Labour would introduce 'robust and independent' press regulation, Chris Williamson says
Credit: 
PA

Jeremy Corbyn has never supplied information to the Czechoslovakian Secret Services, although The Sun said he did.

There was no file held on Corbyn by the Stasi, but the Daily Mail claimed to know its contents. In fact, it seems Corbyn never met the Czech spy Jan Sarkocy (a man who claims to have masterminded
LiveAid
and who was dubbed by the Czech PM as “untrustworthy”), yet the front pages of every right-wing newspaper in this country have dished out smears based on this lie all week.

Is it any wonder then that Jeremy Corbyn would speak out about this, as he did on Tuesday? If well-meaning liberals are so incensed about fake news, why aren’t they concerned that the Prime Minister fed these unfounded smears? Last month she set out to tackle fake news, but now she’s promoting it.

When even Andrew Neil, not known to be a friend of the Labour party, has the Tory Brexit minister on the ropes you know the lies are falling to pieces. Yet the propaganda factory moves on.

The latest line of attack, very much in the vein of the first, is that “Comrade Corbyn’s” broadside against the smears was a sign that Labour will rein in our free press.

But the more the establishment doles out these dreary fantasies, the quicker the rest of us learn to challenge them. There are two very simple meanings behind Corbyn’s warning to the press that “change is
coming”.

First, the Leveson Inquiry remains unfinished business. The Conservative government abandoned the victims of the phone hacking scandal after promising justice, then failed to follow through. The second part of the Inquiry was designed to investigate "the extent of unlawful or improper conduct” within Rupert Murdoch’s UK newspapers.

But what is a Tory government’s incentive to limit the “freedom” of Murdoch to attack and smear the opposition? In fact they have been stoking up these absurd accusations. It seems clear that it will take the next Labour government to fully implement Leveson 1 and embark on Leveson 2.

Second, the change that Corbyn is speaking of goes right to the rotten core of the propaganda factory. The Sun and the Times are both owned by Murdoch, a multibillionaire who has reportedly reduced his tax bill through totally legal tax loopholes.

The Telegraph and the Spectator are owned by the Barclay brothers, whose mock castle residence in the Channel Islands are but one item on their large tax avoiding property portfolio. The Daily Mail and the Metro are owned by Jonathan Harmsworth, AKA Viscount Rothermere, who resides in an opulent home in Wiltshire but channels his income via Bermuda.

Remember these are the same press barons who love to demonise social security claimants for Britain’s economic woes.

Cue the cries of “traitor!” for any politician who wants to see a nation with the capacity to collect its taxes. And cue the cries of “dictator!” for any politician who wants to limit the influence that the rich and
powerful have on public debate.

Because how free is our media when a handful of proprietors control 71 per cent of the national newspaper market?

Now the prospect for some in the commentariat might be scary, but calling for robust and independent media regulation, while pointing out the power that rich men have over information, sounds like common sense to me.

In any case, thanks to social media, the circulation of the right-wing press is already falling as low as the gutter in which its editors minds reside. So like it or not, change is definitely on its way.

Chris Williamson is a Labour MP for Derby North