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Alistair Thompson: Cowardly Clegg - and his attempt to distract attention from his own links to the Murdochs

Alistair Thompson was Conservative candidate for West Bromwich East at the general election. He also runs Media Intelligence Partners with business partner Nick Wood, the former press secretary to Conservative leaders William Hague and Iain Duncan Smith.

Screen shot 2012-05-29 at 11.57.49Today sees Nick Clegg step up his attacks on his Coalition partners, the Conservative Party.

The Deputy Prime Minister, who this week alone has dismissed calls for a free vote on gay marriage, at least for his own party and ruled out emergency border controls when the Euro collapses, will go on the offensive over the links between the ‘other’ two parties and the Murdoch media empire.

In a speech to a group of political reformers, Mr Clegg will seek to curry favour by saying the links between senior politicians and News International is an example of the country’s ‘broken establishment’ and  that he is convinced that this played a part in the financial crisis.
The speech would be acceptable, even understandable, were it not so ludicrously hypocritical of Mr Clegg to attack both Labour and the Conservatives for a disease that affects virtually the whole political establishment, regardless of party, class, beliefs or any other variant you care to mention.

For every one politician who shuns publicity, there are at least 100 who crave it, who want to see their name in lights, associated with popular campaigns, boosting their profile and chances of promotion.

It just so happens that today in our country News International is one of the most successful and powerful media groups, with a stable of papers that reaches out to millions of people every day.

But it is not just in the abstract that Mr Clegg shows himself to be devoid of good sense, but also the detail, because his speech is widely believed in Westminster to be an attempt to heap yet more pressure on the embattled Culture Secretary, Jeremy Hunt.
Were the Lib Dems not in Coalition with the Conservatives, then this is a perfectly acceptable thing to do. Indeed if Mr Clegg’s party was still in opposition then it would be his duty to make life as difficult as possible for Cameron and Co. But he is not. Mr Clegg is the Deputy PM and sits round the same cabinet table as Jeremy Hunt.
Given that JMr Hunt only took on the quasi-judicial role after Vince Cable (who was then overseeing the Sky bid) declared war on the Murdochs, a far worst declaration than any made by Mr Hunt. Perhaps we should revisit the decision not to sack the Business Secretay?
Then, and perhaps most importantly, there are the close links between Mr Clegg and News International. The company’s chief lobbyist, Fred Michel, who appeared before the Leveson inquiry last week, is also tennis partner to Mr Clegg. It is simply impossible to believe that neither have ever alluded to News International, the Government, or the BSkyB bid in each other's company.

Then there are the links between Mr Clegg’s Special Adviser Lena Pietsch, who reportedly exchanged text messages with the lobbyist and invited him to Downing Street.
Again it is inconceivable that these contacts did not involve discussions on matters that were important to News International.
And in another ill-judged decision, Mr Clegg has chosen to make the speech at the Electoral Reform Society. Once upon a time this group had a reputation for independence, but more recently has become closely identified with the Lib Dem establishment. After all it was the organisation which substantially funded the disastrous Yes to AV campaign and whose campaign director is the one-time PR girl for disgraced former energy secretary Chris Huhne. Ms Trimingham more recently courted controversy by touting for lobbying business, highlighting her excellent links with Lib Dem ministers and whose attempt to introduce a privacy law via the courts failed, resulting in one of the most damning verdicts I have read.
I wonder if Mr Clegg sees this almost incestuous relationship between members of the political establishment who help to fund an important Lib Dem campaign and his own party in similar terms to the close relationship between politicians and media moguls?
I doubt it, but I digress.
The simple truth is that there has been an extremely close relationship between the media and politicians over the least the last 50 years and many would argue stretching back to Lord Beaverbrook, the Liberal Unionist.
This leads to a question: is it inexperience or simply a lack of common sense that has encouraged Mr Clegg to chose to go on the offensive over the links between Conservative and Labour politicians and the Murdochs? Only time will tell, but this cowardly attack will ultimately rebound on the DPM who is not without blame. After all, people who live in a glass houses should not throw stones.


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