JDB Returns to the Airwaves with Talk Radio Europe

I will be returning to the airwaves this evening in my capacity as the Chief North American Correspondent for Talk Radio Europe.

Having returned recently from the United States I will be analysing President Obama’s options with regard to the debt ceiling and any impact that the standoff with Republicans may have on the president’s bid for re-election next year.

I will also be addressing the growing international ramifications of the ongoing saga centred on the Murdoch empire as it threatens to consume key members of British society and comes ever closer to David Cameron’s doorstep. What will happen if the crisis crosses the Atlantic?

Tune in to hear me discuss these vital issues with Richie Allen on The Tonight Show at 19.30 UK time, 14:30 EST.

Talk Radio Europe is available on-line at http://www.talkradioeurope.com/assets/mediaplayer.php

Rupert Murdoch and the Politics of Revenge

Over the past several weeks, the media has gleefully engaged in its favourite game of reporting on itself and the comings and goings at News International, presided over by everyone’s favourite new bad guy, Rupert Murdoch. For a generation, Murdoch has presided over an ever-increasing stable of media outlets, to a point whereby he appears to own every single level of output; newspapers, magazines, publishing houses, film studios, television networks.

As I have mentioned more than once in class, Murdoch has the ability to make a star over night through his many companies. He can print an article, turn it into a book, review it in his newspapers, have it discussed on his TV shows, turn it into a movie at Twentieth Century Fox, have it reviewed across his platforms, sold on demand on his TV platforms etc…

It has been clear for many years, however, that Murdoch didn’t just own things, but people as well. Most worryingly, he appeared to own politicians. Not in the old-fashioned way of course, no one is suggesting bribery. But there was a sense of fear, of dread, of not wanting to have him supporting your opponent. Rightfully or not, the Murdoch press gleefully claimed credit for the 1992 Conservative Party victory, claiming “It was the Sun What Won It!” having previously advised its readers that following a potential victory for Neil Kinnock, the last person to leave the country should turn the light off. The
party that carried the Murdoch press had an uncanny habit of winning general elections in the UK.
Tony Blair realised this and flew half way around the world to court his support.
What is fascinating is the degree to which those politicians who had previously knelt at the Court of King Rupert are now fleeing in droves, lining up to
attack the journalistic practices of the man who had been feared for so long.

The Prime Minster has adopted a balanced view on this, recognising and conceding that both parties had been too cosy for too long with the Murdoch press and it was revealing that a semblance of cross party unity on the issue was rocked only by the typically adversarial and hypocritical tone struck by Gordon Brown’s overblown address to Parliament, which did much to remind us why he is no longer a resident in Downing Street. His flawed and self-pitying attempts to reach the moral high ground have actually done much to assist Murdoch and his Labour Party colleagues appear to have recognised this.

In all of this is the politics of revenge. For decades Murdoch has been able to control the debate, manipulate politicians and the tone of political debate. Now parliamentarians are scenting blood and are rounding on the Dark Lord. It is likely that they are being premature, for if Murdoch has proved anything over the years, it is his ability to survive. The News of the World may have gone, but does anyone not think that it will be back in its new guise, The Sun on Sunday, at some point in the new year? For their own sakes, they had better be right about their assessment of Murdoch’s inability to survive this storm for if they are wrong, then the season of revenge may yet have another turn to take.

President O’Bama Returns Home

So now we know the truth. After all of the shenanigans regarding birth certificates, it emerges that Barack Hussein Patrick O’Bama is really an Irishman. Apparently, one of over 20 presidents who make claim to Irish ancestry. Few have as strong claim to such roots as John F. Kennedy, who famously returned to the Emerald Isle in the last summer of his all too brief life, but America’s newest Irish-American made a brave (and nicely light hearted) pitch in front of a crowd of thousands in central Dublin last night.

The president’s speech was a remarkable tour de force, coming on the heels of an equally spirited address by Taoiseach Kenny. In an emotive and wide ranging address, O’Bama weaved personal and national narrative together in a highly effective manner that really made one realise why he is the President of the United States. At times it has been easy to forget the power that his rhetoric carried in the 2008 campaign, but it was certainly on show in Dublin last night.

If there is a downside to this it is perhaps that the people of England will no be privy to a similar occasion. The president’s schedule in England is formality personified: staying at Buckingham Palace, meetings with the Prime Minister and addressing both Houses of Parliament. It is a shame that no such public occasion appears to have been factored into the president’s schedule. Could it be anything to do with the absence of a discernible English-American voting block in the States?

JDB and Sky News

As some of you may have seen, I was on Sky News this morning, discussing President Obama’s trip to Europe. The conversation concentrated on his initial stop-over in Eire, where he will apparently revel in his Irish ancestry. I must admit that one doesn’t really look at Obama and immediately think of the Emerald Isle, but I guess that he is just the latest in a long line of president’s claiming Irish ancestry to bolster their domestic standing with the Irish community in the United States.

I seem to remember when Obama used to be from Kenya and Hawaii? Apparently that was soooo yesterday! I know he campaigned on a platform of ‘Change’ but I didn’t think that changing his ancestry was what he had in mind.

In London from Tuesday, Obama will hold meetings at Downing Street with the PM David Cameron to discuss Afghanistan and UK/US foreign policy. Doubtless to say questions of the Special Relationship will come up, along with issues pertaining to the demise of Osama bin Laden.

Obama will be staying as a guest of Her Majesty the Queen and will also address both houses of Parliament. A press briefing is expected at the FCO. The president will be accompanied by Secretary of State Clinton who is expected to hold meetings with her opposite number, William Hague.

Suffice to say, getting around central London may be a little tricky with the heightened security this week!

I will be returning to the airwaves through the week as the president spends his State Visit here in London, so watch this space for more news.

JDB and LBC Radio

I will be returning to the airwaves once more this evening, to discuss the future defence position of the United Kingdom in light of Defence Secretary Dr. Liam Fox’s speech today. Where will David Cameron’s government take the nation and position the country in 20 years?

Tune in to hear me in conversation with Iain Dale at 20.35 on LBC Radio97.3FM or listen online at http://ukrp.musicradio.com/lbc973/live

JDB and London LBC 97.3 Radio Saturday Night

Following my contribution to the Drive Time show on Friday evening, I have been invited back to London’s LBC 97.3 radio station to offer comment and analysis on the developing situation in Libya. Tune in tonight to the Nick Abbot show at 10.20 to hear my thoughts.

LBC can be accessed at http://mediaweb.musicradio.com/player/default.asp?s=82&e=0

JDB on Al Jazeera

I will be interviewed on Al Jazeera this afternoon on the upcoming debate on the proposed ‘on-fly zone’ at the United Nations and on splits between the US and European nations. Listen to me describe the efforts to debate the bolting of the horse long after it has returned to its stable on the news channel of the moment, Al Jazeera English.

Twisting in the Wind: The Shameful Treatment of the LSE

Over the past week or so it cannot have escaped the attention of a proportion of the population that the London School of Economics has been rather mired in a scandal, seemingly of its own making. The allegations surround the university’s ties with the Libyan authorities in general and their education of Colonel Gaddafi’s son Saif, specifically.

Needless to say, this has all made for easy headlines, noisy protests and the furrowing of brows among much of the left-leaning intelligentsia in the UK. The affair has now led to the honourable resignation of the university’s director, Sir Howard Davies. Yet this furore is overshadowing the great work done by the university in general and the sterling work of the LSE IDEAS department in particular, which has hosted Professor Niall Ferguson this year, to great acclaim.

As a practicing academic in the current economic and educational climate it is hard to know where to start with the accusations that have been levelled at the LSE and its management.

For years of course, the Libyan regime was a pariah on the international scene, blamed for the downing of Pan-Am flight 103 over Lockerbie and for over atrocities during the 1980s and early 1990s. It is no coincidence that the bad guys in Back to the Future were Libyan terrorists; in an age of Gorbachev’s reforms, ‘Mad Dog’ Gaddafi made a perfect foil for President Reagan.

Yet in the twenty-first century, quiet diplomatic efforts, led in part by the British government, appeared to make great strides, leading to the meeting between Gaddafi and Tony Blair and the Libyan leader’s rejection of a WMD programme. In line with these developments, and at the behest of the British government, the LSE advised the Libyan government with regard to its finances. At the same time, a number of British companies, including BP, sought to maximise the new potential that exited in dealing with this former adversary. For that was the situation as it stood until the past few weeks; of Libya as a reformed state, with whom the west could suddenly do business.

Little wonder therefore that organisations and universities were happy to trade and advise Libya since they were actively encouraged to so do by their own government! Advise Libya on financial matters? Why not! Educate potential Libyan leaders of tomorrow? No problem. And why should it be? After all, this was a country that was embraced on the UN Human Rights Council and was not seen as being worthy of inclusion in the now notorious Axis of Evil.

That the British government has allowed the LSE to twist in the wind like this is shameful, as is the all too obvious silence by former members of the Labour government. With former Foreign Secretary David Milliband due to address the LSE in the coming weeks, it will be interesting to see what he has to say on the subject, unless, of course, he cancels in favour of his efforts to seek a career in television.

During the Second World War the United States’ government encouraged its citizens to join organisations that celebrated US ties with the USSR and its esteemed leader ‘Uncle Joe’ Stalin. Within a few short years this same government would accuse such citizens of being Communists as the McCarthy era purges began. The LSE is in such a position today.

The other allegations centre on the LSE’s decision to educate Gaddafi’s son, Saif. Educating an individual whose wealth and power may have questionable origins had better not be outlawed, else there will suddenly be both a mass exodus of students and with them a great deal of money from many British universities, right at the moment that they cannot afford to lose either. With less and less public money being allocated to the university sector, more and more institutions will be required to look elsewhere for their funding. If businesses and philanthropists come forward to provide assistance, great, but if not, then the bank accounts of the not so great and the not so good will look increasingly attractive and necessary if these academic institutions are to survive in the increasingly competitive marketplace of global education.

The LSE will no doubt be hoping that Sir Howard’s departure will draw a line under the issue and that the focus will now shift elsewhere. But no one working in academia or seeking a career in the university system should be under any illusions that this situation is in any way unique or that it will not happen again. Indeed, it is the proverbial tip of the iceberg and more likely to be the way of things in the future than any mere embarrassing solitary incident.

JDB and London’s LBC Radio

I will be interviewed by the always engaging James Whale on his Evening Show on London’s LBC Radio this evening at 5pm. I will be discussing the international response to the events in Libya and the role played by Obama and Cameron.

Tune in to see how it goes!