News in brief

You scratch my back

The News International (NI) phone hacking scandal has exposed the symbiotic relationship between the Murdoch empire and the political establishment.

Since David Cameron became prime minister 15 months ago cabinet ministers have had private meetings with Murdoch executives more than 60 times. The figure rises to at least 107 if social events are included.

Labour shadow ministers, including Ed Balls, also met NI bigwigs on numerous occasions when rubbing shoulders with the ‘Chipping Norton’ set.

Chancellor George Osborne, currently trying to put a positive spin on the latest gloomy economy stats, has had 16 separate meetings since May 2010 with News International editors and executives.

Culture secretary Jeremy Hunt, after being given the government brief to oversee the Murdochs’ attempted takeover of BSkyB, had two meetings with James Murdoch in which they discussed the takeover!

But the minister who sees Rupert Murdoch the most often is Michael Gove – education minister and a former News International employee.

Apart from fast-tracking academies, usually against the wishes of teachers, parents and students, Gove has seen Murdoch senior on six occasions since the last general election. Reportedly, over these ‘breakfast, lunch and dinner meetings’, Gove asked Rupert Murdoch if he would be interested in sponsoring one or two academies.

Junk mail

Readers may be used to receiving utility bills and council tax demands through the letterbox but most people would be choking on their cornflakes if they received a demand for £1,500 each year for the next five years to pay for the government’s austerity measures. Yet according to the International Monetary Fund that is effectively what every household in Britain will have to stump up through tax increases and cuts in benefits – a staggering £35 billion in total.

Mind the gap

Health inequalities in Britain will widen due to the way government ministers have allocated resources within the NHS. According to a recent Commons health select committee report, prosperous areas will get more money than poorer ones.

For example, Manchester will see spending slashed by £41.7 million (a 4% fall) and Liverpool is being hit by a reduction of £33.3 million (-3.5%). County Durham will lose £26.1 million (-2.6%) and Tower Hamlets in East London will have £18.7 million (-4.1%) disappear from its budget. Meanwhile in the stockbroker belt of Surrey health spending will increase by £61.4 million (a 4.2% rise). Oxfordshire, which includes David Cameron’s affluent Witney constituency, will get £22.1 million more (+2.6%).

Last year the British Medical Journal reported that the health inequality gap is greater today than it was in the 1920s and 1930s.

These inequalities are on top of the £20-£30 billion of ‘efficiency savings’ ie government cuts, currently being carried out by NHS health managers.