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Friday 11 September 2015

Sun Burnham Sting Unravels

Voting in the Labour leadership contest ended yesterday. So there would be little point in anyone, especially the one paper that fewest party members trust, trying to influence matters. But that thought would be to misunderstand the vindictive mentality of Rupe’s downmarket troops at the Super Soaraway Currant Bun, whose spite at Leigh MP Andy Burnham remains unabated, because of his stance on the Hillsborough disaster.
And so it came to pass that today’s Sun front page screams “Sun Investigation … LABOUR CASH FOR ACCESS SCANDAL … Bung me £5k to meet Burnham”. Stephen Moyes’ alleged exclusive was so highly prized by the Murdoch faithful that it was immediately relegated to the piss-poor Sun Nation website. This may not be unconnected with the inconvenient fact that the story is now unravelling.

Someone acting on his own initiative - not part of Burnham’s campaign - took a £5k “donation” and then agreed to introduce the donor to the MP. The donor met Burnham, a cheque was handed to a staffer, but the cheque was not cashed as due diligence threw up a number of discrepancies. Moreover, the Sun’s reporter had, it seems, been rumbled. Worse, nothing illegal or improper about the Burnham campaign has been revealed.

What the Sun is also not telling is that their reporter was not invited to the Burnham event, and so he effectively gatecrashed it. On top of all that, he took along a “wife” and “child”, the latter being less than a year old. He was not introduced under the assumed name he’d previously given - the Sun does not, as with other details, explain why - and the man who arranged the meeting has been disowned by Burnham’s campaign.
The Leigh MP reflected “Fully expected to have to contend with a lot of things in this contest but a tabloid sting involving a 9-month-old baby was not one of them”. So, given that voting in the leadership contest had already ended, and the flimsiness of the story has been so swiftly exposed, the question has to be asked: what was the point of it all? And, as Jon Stewart might have said, two things here.

One, Burnham has championed the cause of the Hillsborough victims. It is due at least partly to his efforts that the Hillsborough Independent Panel was set up, concluding that no blame could be attributed to Liverpool fans for what happened at the fateful F A Cup semi-final in 1989. This merely compounded the revulsion that many on Merseyside have for the Sun, which apologised for its coverage, but then re-hired Kelvin McFilth.

And two, Burnham has declined to give the Sun any kind of privileged access. There will be no exclusive interviews, no cosy chats. That cannot be tolerated by the Murdoch press, and especially not in the wake of another re-hiring, that of the twinkle-toed yet domestically combative Rebekah Brooks. They want to make sure they can bend politicians of all stripes to their will. This hit on Burnham is just another calling card.

There will be a complaint to IPSO. Not that any good will come of that, of course.

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