News International and Me

February 6, 2013 2:56 pm

I’ll never forget the call from the Metropolitan Police on the Monday of Labour Party conference, September 2011, as part of Operation Weeting, when I was informed that I’d been a victim of hacking and later that a substantial amount of personal details had been sought and some appeared in the notebook from the notorious ‘snooper’ to the press, Glen Mulcaire.

It felt like a risk taking on the press in court. As reported in today’s press, I am seeking selection in Bristol South where I live and am relieved to have very recently settled my case with News Group Newspapers and expect an apology in court this Friday. It’s great to put this behind me.

Taking on a man like Rupert Murdoch and the powerful empire that is his News International and News Group Newspapers (NGN) was not something I did lightly, understandably fearful of repercussions, or retaliation of some sort, but my legal settlement includes an agreement that prohibits all the newspapers within this group using illegal means to spy on my life.

We need MPs to be strong enough to stand up to people like Murdoch. Remember it was the mettle of Labour’s Leader Ed Miliband and the likes of Tom Watson and Paul Farrelly MP, formerly of The Observer, to have the guts and forensic skills to challenge the might of Murdoch in the first place.

Murdoch liked to think ‘It’s The Sun Wot Won it’, a reference to the demonising of Labour and Neil Kinnock on the eve of the 1992 general election, but in reality he used wealth, viciousness and fear to get his own way.

Parliament seemed to turn a blind eye to these vile practices from a small minority of the press and it certainly was a case of: what Murdoch said went. Those days are over. Largely, thanks to Labour’s leadership and political braveness to take it all on.

I vividly remember the summer of 2011, being glued to the live broadcasts of both Rupert and James Murdoch, after being summoned to the Commons Select Committee to explore illegal practices of their newspapers. In fact, I started writing a zeitgeist novel, after the folding of the News of the World newspaper at that time, focussing on a female journalist losing her job and becoming embroiled in the hacking scandal. Little did I know, I was already involved myself, it has been very sinister and deeply unsettling.

So why me? The timescale appears to start after working on the general election campaign of 2001, as campaign manager’s assistant in a key marginal seat; Labour’s General Secretary Iain McNicol was organiser in chief and where we held Wimbledon for Labour in a second landslide victory.

Soon after this I was taken on as a researcher and parliamentary aide by Graham Stringer MP, then government minister and whip. In 2002 winning election as a London Councillor, I went on in my first year to win election to the Cabinet and on Labour’s National Parliamentary Panel. Hardly grounds for a tabloid story let alone a household name like John Prescott, Hugh Grant or Sienna Miller.

It’s certainly been a sobering experience taking on a power monolith like NGN, but I’m glad I stood up to the ‘Dirty Digger’ and played my part in challenging the Prime Minister, when campaign group Hacked Off organised a private meeting with myself and David Cameron last November in Westminster, the week before Leveson reported.

I sat humbled in the presence of the likes of Kate McCann and Milly Dowler’s father and took the opportunity to pin down the PM, grilling him over precisely what he was going to do to tackle the pernicious practices of the gutter press in this country. Sitting eye ball to eye ball opposite from the PM back then, it was obvious he had no intention of giving any Parliamentary time to the issue, to give the Press and Complaints Commission (PCC) real teeth.

Despite saying under oath at Leveson that the most important test of the inquiry was whether the victims of press intrusion, who the PM had described as being ‘thrown to the dogs’, are satisfied with the outcome, saying he’d support all recommendations in the Leveson Report unless they were ‘bonkers.’

Having taken no action, it’s another broken promise from Cameron.

  • michaelcollins10

    Very worrying for anyone who has been involved in politics, even at a peripheral level.

    Didn’t know the Bristol South selection had happened. Did I somehow miss it?

  • Steve Saddleworth

    Interesting article – but I’m a bit confused by this….I thought the Bristol South selection hadn’t started yet. How can you have been nominated to be the candidate already?

  • Jeremy_Preece

    I, like many others feel very strongly. First of all I can’t imagine what it must be like to find yourself opposite the likes of Murdoch. His power seems to be supreme and he holds so much sway not only in the UK, but hte USA and other countries.
    He seems to have something on many politicians on both sides of the house. He seems to be owed favours, particulalry by Cameron. He has so many friends. Michael Gove used to work for him and used question time to “warn” the PM not to do anything about Levison.
    We sat through weeks of the Levison enquiry hoping to hear that at last this odious man had been brought to book, and that maybe in his old age, he may turn out not to be above the law after all.
    However, no matter what his crimes, no matter how disgusting and underhand his methods, and no matter angry the public are when his deeds are out in the open, it all made no difference.
    All that happened was that Murdoch closed his News of the World and opened the Sun on Sunday. Nothing has changed, nothing is going to change, and the clear message goes out that Murdoch really is above the law.
    So I am sure that in the run up to the next election, Ed M will get a full drubbing as will Labour for not playing by the rules, the rules that is that govern modern politics, which is that you need Murdoch on board if you want to win the election, unlesss you are really miles ahead.
    Cameron lied about implementing Levison.
    Now what?

    • Dave Postles

      Lord Puttnam’s amendment carried in a cross-party manner by the HoL yesterday. It forces some of the issue.

  • Coakley

    Will you be donating the money to a Bristol charity that aids victims of crime who are less fortunate than yourself? It would be a great gesture, especially as you have only recently moved to the area to seek election.

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  • Amber_Star

    The author says she intends to stand for the Bristol South selection, not that she has already.

    • michaelcollins10

      Article has been amended. It said that she had been nominated as the candidate at last Labour conference.

  • kb32904

    She hasn’t yet. She said ” I am seeking selection in Bristol South” not that she has been selected.

  • kb32904

    It’s none of our business what she does with the money.

  • jaime taurosangastre candelas

    You bought a mobile phone and did not change the default voicemail pass-number?

    It is the equivalent of leaving your house door wide open when you leave your house.

    • Amber_Star

      Oh good grief, you are not still peddling this ‘blame the victim’ nonsense. News International are supposed to be a law abiding corporation not a bunch of opportunistic burglars! Had it been a kid who’d randomly hacked her phone, you might have a fair point. But it wasn’t, so you don’t.

  • Jeremy_Preece

    Amanda has managed to hold it together and directly face Murdoch’s empire. Whatever money she may have got from this terrifying ordeal she is more that entitled to.

  • Daniel Speight

    We must be so careful not to rewrite history. In talking about bravery in taking on the Murdochs, Tom Watson and Chris Bryant certainly deserve some credit, even though they may have been forced into a corner by the threats of Rebekah Brooks. Even Amanda Ramsay in this post shows how fearful she was of a future, not even existing, political career in being the target of this, as Tom Watson called it, mafia-like family.

    Where we should be extra careful is when placing Ed Miliband in the same bracket. It was far easier for Ed to be brave after the Milly Dowler story broke. We have to remember that just a short while before Tom Baldwin was telling the shadow cabinet not to link the phone hacking with the BSkyB takeover.

    Let Ed get real brave and bring up the subject of media ownership with something like the policy Tony Blair reneged on so many years ago.

  • Paul J

    I can’t help suspecting that NI somehow got hold of the Labour party campaign grid in 2010.

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