UK phone-hacking: Miliband gains upper hand
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Last Updated: Sunday, July 31, 2011, 17:23
London: The leadership of both Conservative and Labour parties have been tarnished by their 'too cosy' relationship with Rupert Murdoch, but one winner from the imbroglio is clearly Ed Miliband, who has come into his own from a shaky start as the leader of the Labour party.

Published details of meetings with Murdoch and his aides by both parties since the 2010 elections shows how close the relationship was, until the phone-hacking row blew up and forced them to withdraw from the Murdoch embrace at least in public.

Until recently, Miliband, who took over as the Labour leader after the party lost the 2010 election, was seen as a political lightweight who was easily vanquished in the Prime Minister's Question Time. But not anymore.

It is too early to say that Miliband's newly-gained political inches will translate into his party victory in the 2015 elections, but he has clearly reached a stage where his new leadership of the party is now taken more seriously.

Quick to seize the initiative and exploit the advantage of being in the opposition, Miliband turned the screws on Prime Minister David Cameron who was already in the dock for his proximity to Murdoch, whose titles openly supported the Conservative party before the elections.

Miliband is now credited with forcing the Cameron government to move against Murdoch on the controversial BSkyB takeover bid.

As the phone-hacking row spiralled into a major issue, Miliband proposed a House of Commons motion asking Murdoch to drop the bid, a motion that Cameron was forced to support.

Besides, while Cameron was away on a truncated visit to Africa, Miliband demanded a special session of the House of Commons, which was also accepted by the government, and saw Cameron being repeatedly grilled throughout the day-long debate.

Inside and outside parliament, Miliband succeeded in piling the pressure on Cameron even though the Labour party has been as much in bed with the Murdochs as the Conservative.

In the process, Miliband has managed to build a public perception that Cameron and his party were more at fault for being 'too cosy' with Murdochs than he and the Labour party.

The timing of the phone-hacking row also helped Miliband, whose leadership enjoyed shaky support within the party.

But by being on the ball on Cameron's being slow off the mark in moving against Murdoch, Miliband put the Premier on the defensive, including on the controversy over hiring Andy Coulson as his head of communications.

Miliband was quick to admit that his party was also too close to Murdoch during the 13 years it was in power, and has indicated that there will be a clean break with the Murdochs in future.

He also allowed his party MPs, Tom Watson and Chris Bryant, free rein to raise the phone-hacking issue inside and outside parliament.

Meanwhile, in another salvo against Cameron, the Labour party today said he and his party must "come clean" over their dealings with the Murdoch family.

The party has sent letters to Cabinet ministers, containing more than 50 questions it claims have still not been addressed by the coalition.

The party wants to know what discussions key ministers had with the Murdochs about their attempt to take full control of BSkyB.

Cameron has been asked to reveal "the dates, nature and content of the discussions" he had with James or Rupert Murdoch as well as ex-News International chief executive Rebekah Brooks about the deal.

Shadow culture secretary Ivan Lewis said: "The signs are that David Cameron still does not get it. A tangled web of their own making will not go away until they and their cabinet colleagues give full and frank answers to legitimate questions".


First Published: Sunday, July 31, 2011, 17:23

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