The Leveson Inquiry reveals Michael Gove's and Rupert Murdoch's plans for an Academy and a Free School

Allan Beavis's picture
Jeremy Hunt’s position looks increasingly untenable and his reputation tarnished but the collusion between his department (well, not HIS collusion, apparently - just his SPAD, Adam Smith’s, now sacrificed to save the skin of the master) and the Murdoch empire over the securing of the BSkyB deal has been laid horrifyingly bare in the Leveson Inquiry. Will he in turn be sacrificed to save the skin of his master, David Cameron, and how long can Cameron pose as a man ignorant of what his Culture Minister may have been plotting with lobbyists in the Murdoch camp? As long as Murdoch himself claimed to be unaware of the practice of phone hacking in his News of the World, perhaps?

Blair and Brown may well have cosied up to Murdoch but neither were so incompetent or as arrogant as to fly so close to the Sun and get burned in the white hot heat of having Andy Coulson on the News International pay roll whilst working inside 10 Downing Street when the phone hacking scandal blew up. Neither did they ride Rebekah Brooks’ ex-police horse.

I wonder if Labour’s Education Secretary spent quite so much time having private meetings and dinners with News International executives as Gove did with Murdoch and Joel Klein since he became Education Secretary in May 2010? The closeness between Murdoch and Gove is now suddenly laid bare in the print press. Gove is a former Murdoch employee. Before he entered politics, he worked as a leader writer and assistant editor at The Times, where his wife Sarah Vine is still employed as a writer, and was known for writing enthusiastic pieces about the boss, describing him on one occasion as "the greatest godfather of mischief in print" who possesses "18th-century pamphleteering vigour".

Rumours and suspicions that Murdoch was ready to take advantage of Gove’s privatisation of state schools were dismissed by supporters as scaremongering, and “lacking evidence”. The Local Schools Network was one of the first to host a number of posts about the murky links between Murdoch, Klein and Gove.

How Rupert Murdoch is drawing Michael Gove into the News International phone hacking scandal

Is Michael Gove in the Murdoch sewer?

What Did Michael Gove talk about with Rupert Murdoch and News Corp Executives at their Numerous Meetings?

Who Wants to go to the Murdoch Academy?

Well, you heard it here first and it seems we weren’t being paranoid after all. Rupert Murdoch’s witness statement to the Leveson Inquiry revealed that Michael Gove met numerous times with News Corporation and News International executives over establishing a free school after plans to establish an academy in East London failed. News International offered £2m in sponsorship to create an academy school but the plans fell through because the Department for Education could not afford to pay for a new building, according to email exchanges published by the Leveson inquiry and reported here in The Guardian.

The plans for Gove to welcome the Murdoch Empire into our state schools were derailed once the phone hacking and BSkyB scandals uncovered damaging evidence that Murdoch and his executives were unfit to run companies and that their monopoly on the media threatened the concept of democracy itself. This didn’t stop Gove, though, from attacking the Leveson Inquiry as an attack on press freedom, in much the same way as he attacked critics of his and Joel Klein’s school “reforms” as Trots or enemies of promise or whatever the phrase was.

Every day more revelations uncover the barely-disguised and self serving cronyism between the Prime Minister and his ministers and Murdoch and his mandarins. It’s no wonder that the public are losing even more faith in politicians – MPs expenses were a walk in the park compared to this level of collusion and corruption.

Six months ago, who would have predicted that Jeremy Hunt might not end up presiding over the fanfare of the London Olympic Games? With Murdoch’s tentacles all over Michael Gove, who can predict what abyss he may face in the months to come?
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Ricky-Tarr's picture
Fri, 27/04/2012 - 08:45

Short version:

1. Rupert Murdoch offered to put up £2m for a new school if DfE would put up >£20m for a new build.

Michael Gove said no, he couldn't afford it.

2. A News International staffer asked whether this could be done by the free school route.

A DfE official said - you have to apply like anyone else, but there's unlikely to be funding for a new build.

.......err... that's it.

Nothing sinister.

Entirely properly handled.

Allan Beavis's picture
Fri, 27/04/2012 - 23:20

You miss the point, or seek to throw people off a pretty rancid scent. No one is claiming Murdoch's actions were "sinister". It's the lack of transparency, toadying to Murdoch, collusion and Gove's willingnes to allow a discredited mogul at the head of a disgraced organisation which was days away from being handed a total monopoly on the media in this country access into the education market. Its the reason he got his hands, via Klein, on Wireless Generation in America, but the deal was rejected in New York when the public did not want Murdoch, Klein and News Corps pariahs from accessing confidential information on students in the wake of the phone hacking scandal, particularly the cruel and revolting violation of Milly Dowler's phone.

Some Tory ministers have managed to keep their distance from Murdoch and their noses clean. Gove joins Cameron, Osborne, Hunt and Liam Fox by wallowing in the Murdoch stench. It is this stench of corruption and total lack of moral fibre or compassion when faced with making another fast buck which threatened to impose its influence in the form of a £2m "philanthropic" donation to a Gove school.

Even shorter version:

Anyone revolted by a man whose empire was so crooked that it saw fit to hack into the phone of a dead schoolgirl would not nominate him as the best man to have shares in a state funded school with a duty of care to children.

Supercially Hunt's handling of the BSkyB bid looked "proper". It took an expose from a proper investigative journalist in the Guardian to uncover the criminal wrongdoings in the Murdoch press. Only then was the government, caught in flagrante, minded to wonder aloud to a no longer gullible public whether News Corp was fit to own BSkyB. Recent emails show that it was days away from being a done deal.

Entirely improperly and dishonestly handled.

Janet Downs's picture
Fri, 27/04/2012 - 12:45

Interesting article in FT raises concerns about a "back-channel" between News Corp and Jeremy Hunt's office.

The controversy re Hunt's links with Murdoch also raise questions about the relationship between Gove and Murdoch. Meetings between Gove and News Corp/News International personnel between April 2011 - June 2011 have already been made public.

Gove has publicly praised Murdoch (a "great man" and a "force of nature":

while Murdoch tweets that Gove is "an admirable character":!/rupertmurdoch/status/172793621655994368

Gove even used some of Murdoch's words about the "Victorian" nature of today's classrooms (although Gove at least changed "blackboards" into "whiteboards".)

So where is this mutual admiration and back-slapping leading? It's about more than one sponsored academy. Perhaps it's more to do with Mr Gove's new-found evangelical enthusiasm for the digital classroom - something about which he had previously been lukewarm - and his former employer moving into educational technology.

Rebecca Hanson's picture
Fri, 27/04/2012 - 20:46

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