Did Murdoch cause Brown to cancel planned election?


Given that the tax-dodging media baron was staying at Chequers this weekend, I think we have a right to ask if Murdoch signalled to Brown that if he didn’t call a referendum on the EU, there would be no support forthcoming from the Sun. It might just be a coincidence that Brown has postponed the election for at least fifteen months, and reiterated his position on the EU consti-treaty.

I don’t particularly mind that Murdoch is pushing for a referendum – it would be a great leap for democratic participation and is a popular demand. Naturally, his reasons for opposing the EU are not because it is undemocratic – rather, Murdoch fears his press and TV empire would fall foul of anti-monopoly action if Britain was part of a European superstate.

Anything other than an overwhelming victory for Labour a general election would led to a referendum on the consti-treaty going ahead – and perhaps Brown would have been forced to do a U-turn on his “no referendum” line in order to get shot of Europe as an election issue.

Since Brown put paid to rumours of a general election on Saturday, the Tories have slammed Brown for bottling it, though no one believes they were really up for an election either. The Liberals have taken the opportunity to push for fixed-terms (a key demand of the Chartists, of which, more later) and though I doubt that anything will come of it, no one could argue that it is right that the PM can decide when to call an election. Brown has used this power to successfully silence dissent and crush democracy in the Labour Party – it only back-fired when the Tories united at their conference around a (soon to be stolen) platform of tax-cuts, prompting the PM’s trip to Iraq.

Today, Gordon Brown faced a press conference of journalists (to deny he was swayed by polls) and then the House of Commons, where he announced troop withdrawals (again!) and was forced to defend the continuation of (what is seen as) his predecessor’s war in Iraq.

Meanwhile, thousands of people turned up to demand the total withdrawal of UK forces from the Middle East. An “illegal” march to Westminster went ahead because, despite police threats to use an arcane anti-Chartist law from 1839 which protects MPs returning to parliament, people turned up in larger-than-expected numbers. Given the celebrities taking part, and the government’s support for the monks demonstrating in Myanmar who faced brutal repression, it was inevitable that the police would give in.

So, thankfully tear gas and rubber bullets did not greet peaceful protesters in London. But then again, since the march passed off peacefully, it hasn’t been as widely reported as events in Rangoon…

Perhaps you are thinking that it was a waste of time protesting to bring our young men and women home. Isn’t it enough that the government is slowly pulling out of Iraq? No, the opposite in fact – the pressure must be kept up as the pro-war Tories and anti-war(ish) Liberals are supporting Brown in his “overwatch in Iraq, surge in Afghanistan” policy, and word is that the PM would be sympathetic to US plans for a war with Iran if conditional on Iran firing the first shot. He’s not ruling anything out, though.

Oh, by the way, Brown was asked if he shared his mate Alan Greenspan’s view on the motive of the war in Iraq. Obviously, he said no, he thinks the former Fed Chairman is wrong. He will be hoping Greenspan is wrong about the UK economy, too…

Tonight, Panorama reported on the UK’s sub-prime crisis. So much for the end of boom and bust:

The market for high interest sub-prime mortgages has been booming and it now accounts for about 8% of the total UK mortgage market.

But a survey of more than 7,000 court hearings over the past three months – carried out jointly by BBC programmes Panorama and Five Live Report – has found that lenders who specialise in these mortgages or offer them as part of their business disproportionately make up over 70% of all repossession cases.