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05 - 11 May , 2012
Gilani's Conviction – British Media's

Jeremy Hunt
While Pakistan agonised over and discussed ad infinitum the Supreme Court's decision holding Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani guilty of contempt of court charges, the news barely merited a mention in the British media. On the day following the Pakistan Supreme Court's decision, only one major newspaper carried the item in its web edition while for The Guardian the only news from Pakistan deserving prominent mention was the deportation of the family of Osama bin Laden from Pakistan to Saudi Arabia.
These editorial preferences are indicative of two things. Firstly, anything involving Pakistan that does not impact directly or indirectly on the war on terror interests nobody here; and secondly, Britain is so heavily mired in its own crises, both political and economic, that at the moment, Pakistan is a country just too far away.
Deep as the economic crisis is with it now being officially confirmed that the country is in a double dip recession with the second consecutive quarter of negative GDP growth, it is the political crisis that leads the field by many lengths. This is a revival of the likelihood of the government's links with Murdoch and company who ran The News of the World, whose employees were illegally hacking into people's phones. To highlight how very different is the concept of devolved responsibility in a genuine democracy, compared to whatever goes by that name in countries in which democracy exists only in name, the issue here is not even remotely whether anyone in government was aware of the phone hacking activities of some employees of The News of the World, much less approved of it. The question here is that when Rupert Murdoch's company News International which also ran The News of the World bid for ownership of BSkyB broadcasting, just how much the government favoured the bid and how even Rupert Murdochhanded was the government procedure in this regard.
The person who handled the bid was the Tory Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt. It now transpires that between Mr Hunt's office and Mr Murdoch's there was an unhealthily close relationship in the course of which Mr Hunt's adviser Adam Smith was in regular touch with officials of News Corp. There is no insinuation whatsoever that even if the government leant towards Murdoch that this was due to any improper financial give and take; and that at worst, this allegedly may have been an instance of a favour being granted to a big media company in exchange for friendly coverage. In the context of Pakistan, that perhaps would not even qualify as wrongdoing in anybody's book. Here things are rather different. The surfacing of the emails sent by Mr Smith has already led to his departure from the corridors of the department of Culture; Mr Hunt will now be revealing all his emails on the subject to the Leveson inquiry which is looking into the matter. And the pressure on Mr Hunt increased after his most senior civil servant appeared to undermine the Culture Secretary's version of events surrounding the secret briefing of News Corp during its attempted £8 billion takeover of BSkyB.
Jonathan Stephens, the Permanent Secretary at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, refused ten times to confirm that he "agreed" to let Mr Hunt's special adviser, Adam Smith, speak to Rupert Murdoch's executives about the deal – as Mr Hunt had claimed in Parliament as he battled to keep his job. The revelation adds to Labour Party suspicions that Mr Hunt may have overruled his Permanent Secretary to insist on a role for Mr Smith.
A few days ago, the Department of Culture, Media and Sport issued a statement saying Mr Stephens was "aware" of the arrangement and was "content" with it – but the statement did not explicitly say he had agreed to it or authorised it.
It has also dramatically emerged that Downing Street had gone to extraordinary efforts behind the scenes to prevent an independent inquiry into whether Mr Hunt broke ministerial codes of conduct. The Cabinet Secretary made a private telephone call to Lord Justice Leveson within hours of the scandal breaking to lobby for Mr Hunt's case to be heard as part of the inquiry, allowing Mr Hunt to avoid facing an investigation into whether he has broken the ministerial code of conduct.
George OsborneThe matter is being taken extremely seriously because of the grave possibility that the trail of allegedly preferential treatment for an organisation that was involved in a pretty heinous illegal activity (phone hacking) may lead to the door of No.10 Downing Street.
The liaison between the Tories and the now discredited organisation run by Rupert Murdoch would make uncomfortable reading even for Mr Cameron's Mum; for others, it is positively embarrassing or infuriating, depend on which side of the political spectrum one happens to be. Declared contacts between leading government figures and News International executives suggests a rather cosy picture with Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne meeting executives or editors no fewer than thirteen times in a little more than a year while Education Secretary Michael Gove, who Murdoch said during his testimony that he did not know well, having met him seven times during the same period. After forming the government, the first media figure that David Cameron and Jeremy Hunt met was Rupert Murdoch. As leader of the opposition, Cameron is said to have met Rupert Murdoch no less than fifteen times, and his son twelve times. And as the Chancellor's role comes into question, surely the role of the Prime Minister cannot be far behind.
All this comes on the heels of figures revealed by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) showing that Britain has sunk into its first double-dip recession since the 1970s, the political effect of which is to raise serious questions on the Chancellor's economic policy, particularly his less than popular austerity drive. The ONS's figures showed that GDP unexpectedly shrank 0.2 per cent between January and March 2012, following a 0.3 per cent contraction in the last quarter of 2011, thus fulfilling the technical definition of a recession as two or more consecutive quarters of economic decline. The figures themselves make no difference to the common man who, even without them, knows exactly how deep a hole he is in. But politically it is a grievous blow for the Chancellor as expert after expert comes up to say that his almost sole focus on cutting costs while not doing enough to increase jobs and investment is a flawed approach. The Chancellor, like Prime Minister Gilani, has however decided to stick to his guns and has said that there will be no change in economic policy for any change would land the country into an even deeper economic hole.
At the moment, one would need to have an imagination much greater than that of Lewis Carroll, the writer of Alice in Wonderland, to visualise what that deeper economic hole may look like.

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