Friday, 24 February 2012

Glasman’s far right views are best kept to himself

Prize tit, Maurice Glasman, has pulled back from plans to write a lucrative column for Rupert Murdoch's new Sunday Sun newspaper after talking to Ed Miliband. Miliband's very public stand against Murdoch and his media empire early on in the phone-hacking scandal has been one of his stronger suits in defending his record as Labour leader during months of sniping. Last summer Miliband called for Murdoch's News International, which also owns the Times, Sunday Times and a stake in BSkyB, to be broken up because the owner had "too much power over British public life".

This week, the new paper's executives have been ringing Labour MPs, including Miliband's office, asking for messages of support ahead of its launch this weekend, but MPs were urged by the party leadership not to be seen endorsing an attempt by Murdoch to re-impose his control of the Sunday newspaper mass market. Some Labour members have also been campaigning publicly for supporters to not co-operate with the new newspaper - announced this week as a replacement for the News of the World, which Murdoch closed last year when the extent of the phone hacking began to emerge.

On Thursday, the party issued a statement saying: "We will work and engage with all media organisations. But the Labour party does not endorse any newspaper and we don't endorse the Sunday Sun." Glasman, believed to be in talks with NI about being paid around £1,000 a week for his opinions, strained already soured relations with the party when he wrote an article for New Statesman magazine in January saying Labour appeared to have "no strategy, no narrative and little energy".

News on Wednesday of Glasman's involvement with the new paper was ridiculed by former Labour deputy leader John Prescott, who joked: "I'd be surprised if Maurice Glasman is a columnist for the Sun on Sunday. He's far too rightwing." Labour MP Tom Watson was more direct, tweeting that Glasman "should hang his head in shame". With what now looks like great prescience, Labour blogger Dan Hodges responded on Twitter: "Maurice Glasman has the black spot of Watson upon him. He will be dead by the dawn."

Glasman's decision to withdraw from his column did not emerge until the evening, but the Sunday Sun's nearly-scoop barely lasted a 24-hour news cycle.

The Guardian (with amendments)