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Labour says 'never again' over Rupert Murdoch power

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Rupert Murdoch in front of a News Corporation logo

© PA Images

Labour shadow culture secretary Ivan Lewis has told Rupert Murdoch that "never again" will he be able to assert political power in Britain in pursuit of his "commercial interests or ideological beliefs".

Speaking at the Labour Party conference, Lewis proposed a new "system of independent regulation" for journalists after the phone hacking scandal, including "proper like-for-like redress which means mistakes and falsehoods on the front page receive apologies and retraction on the front page".

Lewis accepted that the history of Labour's relationship with Murdoch and his News International UK newspaper group has been "a complex and tortuous one".

However, he said that politicians must be able to "stand up for the public interest without fear or favour" of the press in the future.

He paid tribute to the efforts of MPs Tom Watson, Chris Bryant and John Prescott in helping to expose the phone hacking scandal at the News of the World.

The controversy has not only led to the closure of the 168-year-old Sunday paper and the withdrawal of Murdoch's bid to take full control of Sky, but it has also put the spotlight on the billionaire's close relationship with politicians in the past.

In his speech, Lewis accepted that Murdoch's media properties are hugely popular, but said that "never again" must he be able to wield such influence over UK politics.

"A message for Mr Murdoch. Your newspapers and Sky TV are popular with millions of British people. Some people in our movement might find that uncomfortable but it's true," he said.

"However - and yes Conference, we should have said this a long time ago - Mr Murdoch, never again think you can assert political power in the pursuit of your commercial interests or ideological beliefs. This is Britain, Mr Murdoch. The integrity of our media and our politics is not for sale."

Lewis also called on David Cameron and his chancellor George Osborne to "come clean" over the decision to appoint former News of the World editor Andy Coulson as the Conservative Party's communications chief.

He said that "despite numerous warnings" the Prime Minister took Coulson "to the heart of our democracy at No 10 Downing Street", a move which has been criticised following Coulson's recent arrest in the police phone hacking investigation.

To improve ethics in the newspaper industry, Lewis suggested a system in which journalists can be struck off a register if they are found to be guilty of malpractice such as phone hacking.

Elsewhere in the speech, he outlined the further steps in Labour's creative industry network, the initiative designed to encourage companies to offer internships and apprenticeships.

"I am delighted to announce today that the Advertising Association, UK Music, Virgin Media and the Sharp Project have agreed to become the first signatories to our pledge," he said.

> Labour wants law change to block future Rupert Murdoch Sky takeover bid

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