by a Newsnet reporter
The Labour party faces having to release all correspondence between Labour Ministers and figures within Rupert Murdoch’s media empire.
The news comes after it emerged that the SNP are to use Freedom of Information legislation to ensure that correspondence is released if the former Holyrood administrations, and current and former Westminster governments, refuse to voluntarily disclose it.
Last week First Minister Alex Salmond published details of all meetings between ministers and senior media figures covering the party’s entire period in office, and the correspondence between the First Minister and representatives of News Corporation.
In contrast the UK Government has published only dates of meetings from the May 2010 election and the Labour party has published only those of the current shadow cabinet following Ed Miliband’s election.
Neither the UK Government nor the Labour party have published correspondence with News Corporation covering their time in office
The SNP, angered by a string of allegations from Labour party figures, are insisting Labour meet the same standards of transparency over their relationship with the media and with News Corporation.
Freedom of Information requests have been lodged for both the Scottish and UK Governments seeking a list of all meetings of ministers with media proprietors, executives and editors, and seeking all letters between Prime Ministers and former First Ministers with News Corporation and New International and their newspaper titles, for the entire periods of office since 1997.
SNP MP Stewart Hosie said:
“The SNP is leading the way in transparency over meetings with the media. The SNP Government has published the most transparent list of meetings between ministers and the media and is the only Government to publish our correspondence with News Corporation. All of it shows that everything was perfectly proper and reasonable, and about promoting Scotland.
“The SNP Government’s records cover the party’s entire time in Government and the First Minister’s correspondence with News Corporation. It is only reasonable to ask that the same information is available for the Labour and Conservative Governments in office whilst the hacking scandals, Operation Motorman and media buy outs have been underway, and for previous Scottish administrations.
“Documents released under old freedom of information requests tell us that Jack McConnell met with News Corporation representatives at least 14 times, but we do not know what about or why.
“Former First Minister Henry McLeish’s willingness to see any correspondence from his time as First Minister published is welcome, and I hope that David Cameron, former Prime Ministers and former First Ministers will follow his lead and support this material being published.
“We know that a third of the Tory/Lib Dem government’s media meetings have been with News Corporation, and nearly 30 per cent of Ed Miliband’s – compared to just a fifth for Alex Salmond – but we have no idea about those of Gordon Brown or Tony Blair. Nor do we have any idea what is in their correspondence.”
Former First Minister Henry McLeish has already said he would be happy to have his letters published. Labour MSP Kezia Dugdale, speaking on BBC Radio Scotland’s Brian’s Big Debate programme on Friday said she was confident Labour would publish the leader’s correspondence soon.
Ms Dugdale said: “Yes … what we did is that we published the details of all meetings between Labour and News Corp executives; what we’ve got today is the SNP saying they published all letters.
“Now I’m sure the Labour party will today release what letters have gone back and forth.”
However, as yet, there are no indications the Labour party has any plans to release details of correspondence between senior Labour figures and News Corp over the last four years.
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