Miliband v Murdoch: Can Ed win this “battle to the death”?

Who will win the batte between Ed Miliband and Rupert Murdoch - which has been described as a fight between “Ed and Goliath” and a “battle to the death”?

Just as David Cameron was MIA yesterday, opting out of a confrontation with Ed Miliband in the Commons, so the Labour leader again took the lead, pressing the prime minister in his absence on the Coulson questions, and witnessing a further delay in the News Corp/BSkyB takeover decision from the culture secretary Jeremy Hunt, whom he swept aside in the chamber yesterday.

The big question being asked at the moment, however, is not how Miliband fares when taking on the prime minister or Mr Hunt, but the batte between Mr Miliband and Mr Murdoch, which has been described variously as a fight between “Ed and Goliath” and a “battle to the death”.

Writing in this morning’s Telegraph, Mary Riddell says Ed’s “moment has come”, “in which the stripling warrior takes on the Philistine giant”, hoping to “move in for the kill” – his “People’s Princess” moment – at the same time comparing Mr Cameron to Ikarus, flying “too close to the Sun and the Murdoch empire”.

Specifically on Miliband and Murdoch, Riddell writes:

Miliband is said to have “zero links” with the Murdochs, beyond once, as energy secretary, meeting James Murdoch for breakfast, at the latter’s request. “That’s as chummy as it gets,” says a friend. Apart from declining to berate Rupert Murdoch over the quails’ eggs at a recent NI summer party, Miliband, unlike Cameron, is a cleanskin.

Hence his stand against a century of complicity that began when press barons and editors helped Lloyd George into No 10… Give or take a sausage roll and a glass of prosecco, he owes nothing to Murdoch.

And on the battle between Ed and News International, she adds:

Though Labour’s leader was never going to get the Murdoch imprimatur, now the proprietor’s men are coming after him. In addition, Lord Ashcroft (to whom Cameron also got too close) says he has evidence that Tom Baldwin, Miliband’s communications head, was involved in “blagging” his bank details.

Miliband denies that charge. He had better be right.

Picking up on the point that, even now, Murdoch is far from finished, Rob Marchant writes on Labour Uncut:

So, you think News International is suddenly going to roll over and die after a few bad days in the press? Er, no. Even if the Armageddon scenario for Murdoch – a meltdown of his empire – is a possibility, it is by no means a guaranteed one at this point. Murdoch is not, metaphorically, dead. He is wounded. We should not forget that… If Murdoch lives to tell the tale, be in no doubt that he will take his revenge.

And so to Labour’s plan of action. Should Miliband act differently out of fear of reprisal? No. That would be a shirking of an historic duty as leader of the only party really placed to do anything. He has risen to the challenge. Murdoch has exercised too much power over our media for too long.

Even sensible Tory democrats would admit that a monster has been created. Just look at how the Murdoch press has hounded that most endangered of species; the pro-European Tory.

While on Labour List, Mark Ferguson urges Ed Miliband to do just that, not to stop now, but to keep on the front foot:

Miliband’s actions on phone hacking, the News of the World and BSkyB may soon be forgotten by an attention-deficit prone public – but they won’t be forgotten by Murdoch or his media empire. It may take some time for them to recover their former strength, but they will be more than willing to wait in the long grass and bide their time, delivering ice cold revenge to the increasingly confident Labour leader.

That’s a terrifying proposition for someone who has already been battered by a hostile media in the early months of his leadership… Ed must keep going. This is now a battle to the death between News International and Ed Miliband – and only one of them will still be standing when the dust settles.

Indeed – Miliband must keep going, take the battle to Cameron one last time this session at PMQs tomorrow, and ride the momentum into conference season in the autumn; as the saying goes, Who Dares Wins.

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