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June 17, 2013

Harriet Harman: Labour didn’t address media plurality in 1997 for fear of losing election

By William Turvill

Labour deputy leader Harriet Harman has said the party did not tackle issues over media ownership and plurality in 1997 for fear of losing the general election.

Harman, the shadow culture secretary, said senior Labour figures had discussed the idea in the run up to the election but other issues outweighed its importance.

The revelation comes after she called for a cap of 15 per cent on media ownership in the UK to prevent proprietors feeling they are “above the law”.

Speaking at the British Journalism Review’s Charles Wheeler award event, she said: “I remember the times in the run up to the ‘97 election when there were those discussions about whether or not [to legislate against media monopoly].

“Bearing in mind we’d been so long in opposition, since 1979, and so many problems, as we saw, had happened in this country since as a result of us being out of power…

“There were so many things we wanted to do on the health service, schools and child care and employment that actually, taking on the issue of media monopoly, was just going to stop us getting into government and was just not a package we felt we could take on really.”

More than 16 years on, after 13 years in power, Harman is now highlighting media plurality as a key Labour issue.

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She added: “The decision was made, which Tony Blair referred to in his ‘feral beasts’ speech, and that was a very disappointing decision to have to make but… we’re in different times now.”

Speaking at the University of Westminster event, Harman also disappointed Page Three protesters by ruling out any legislation against The Sun’s use of topless models.

Asked by a Hacked Off member and Page Three campaigner what she made of Green Party MP Caroline Lucas’s call for legislation against Page Three, Harman said it is merely something to protest.

“I certainly think that the aspirations for women should be a bit higher than standing in your knickers with no top on on Page Three of The Sun,” she said.

Describing it as “rude and ludicrous”, Harman added: “But I don’t think it should be banned… I think we should protest about it and say, ‘no more Page Three’, but I don’t think we should pass a law against it. I think it should be banned by The Sun itself.”

The award was presented to former The World Tonight presenter Robin Lustig.

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