British government

Bain Attwood, a professor in Australian studies from Harvard University, gives a lecture on New Zealand’s indigenous history on Friday. Attwood discusses his findings about the Maori people’s relationship with the British government.
Photo Credit: Charlotte Carpenter | Daily Texan Staff

In its early days, New Zealand was plagued by conflict between its indigenous people and the ruling British government, according to Bain Attwood, a visiting professor of history at Harvard University.

Attwood said his findings on the Māori, the indigenous people of New Zealand, and their relationship with the British government represent the “perennial question in the British imperial historiography.” He said the issues between these two groups stem from their disparate levels of access to the legal system.

“The British sovereignty withheld legal discourse as a resource drawn upon to get leverage over the indigenous peoples,” Attwood said. 

Up until the 20th century, Māori people were rarely recognized as legal owners of much of the New Zealand landscape — an injustice Attwood puts at the center of his research. 

Attwood said many historians question whether British leaders’ vernacular helped trick the Māori tribes into signing an unfair treaty. Though some question the Māori’s understanding of the treaty, and of the concept of sovereignty as a whole, Attwood said answers are indefinite because there is little historical proof to support a given interpretation of what happened. Attwood also said the British downplayed the Māori’s strong military power. 

The Māori people have flourished as time has passed, according to Attwood. In 1769, only about 100,000 Māori people filled New Zealand territory. With the weakening of British power, the Māori people have grown to account for 15 percent of today’s New Zealand population. 

A protester dressed up as Rupert Murdoch poses for photographs as he demonstrate outside the Leveson inquiry at the High Court in London on Tuesday.

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

LONDON — News Corp. executive James Murdoch’s behind-the-scenes lobbying campaign spilled out into the public domain Tuesday, casting a harsh light on the British government’s Olympics czar.

Murdoch was speaking before the media ethics inquiry set up in the wake of the country’s phone hacking scandal, which has shaken the U.K.’s establishment with revelations of journalistic misdeeds, police corruption, and corporate malpractice.

Some of Murdoch’s testimony revisited his own role in the scandal, but far more explosive were revelations about how senior British ministers went out of their way to smooth the path for one of his biggest-ever business deals.

Particularly damning was correspondence showing how Olympics czar Jeremy Hunt secretly backed Murdoch’s multibillion dollar bid for full control of satellite broadcaster British Sky Broadcasting Group PLC. As the minister charged with deciding whether to refer the takeover deal to Britain’s competition authority, Hunt was meant to have been neutral.

“I am approaching the decision with total impartiality and following strict due process,” Hunt told lawmakers in January 2011. But a cache of text messages and emails published by Leveson’s inquiry Tuesday suggested that Hunt was fighting on Murdoch’s side the whole time.

“He said we would get there at the end, and he shared our objectives,” was how an email from News Corp. lobbyist Frederic Michel described Hunt’s attitude.

Other emails appeared to capture Hunt’s office providing Murdoch with sensitive intelligence on his political opponents and offering advice on how best to present his bid. At one point Adam Smith, Hunt’s special adviser, sends a text message to Michel boasting that “I [have] been causing a lot of chaos and moaning from people here on your behalf.”

One message even quoted Hunt’s statement a day before it was due to be delivered to the House of Commons — a breach of parliamentary protocol which Michel described as “absolutely illegal.”

Later Tuesday, Hunt issued a statement saying that some of the evidence “reported meetings and conversations that simply didn’t happen.” He said he has asked to move forward his appearance at the Leveson inquiry so he can present his side of the story.

“I am very confident that when I present my evidence the public will see that I conducted this process with scrupulous fairness,” Hunt said.

During Tuesday’s hearing, inquiry lawyer Robert Jay repeatedly needled Murdoch on the propriety of these back-channel communications.

“Do you think it’s appropriate, Mr. Murdoch, that here you are getting confidential information as to what’s going on at a high level of government?” Jay asked.

Murdoch hesitated before giving an awkward laugh.

“What I was concerned with here was the substance of what was being communicated, not the channel by which it was communicated,” he said.

Murdoch was eventually forced to drop the proposed deal following the eruption of Britain’s phone hacking scandal in July, but the emails could be still be damaging.

As secretary for culture, Olympics, media and sport, Hunt is the most senior government official dedicated to the 2012 Games. If it were proven that he had given Murdoch special favors, his lead role on the games — where a level playing field is guaranteed for all — might be in jeopardy.

Prime Minister David Cameron expressed confidence in the 45-year-old minister, but within minutes of Murdoch’s testimony, opposition politicians were calling on Hunt to step down.

“All politicians, including Labour, became too close to the Murdochs, but this is in a completely different league,” Labour leader Ed Miliband told journalists. “We have Jeremy Hunt engaging in detailed discussions with a party, News Corporation, that is bidding to take over BSkyB and he is supposed to be the impartial judge.”

The nature of the Murdoch family’s links with senior politicians is one of the key questions raised by the phone hacking scandal. Critics of News Corp. argue that Conservative Party politicians — including Hunt — waved through the BSkyB deal in return for favorable press coverage. Murdoch, showing little emotion, repeatedly denied the charge Tuesday.

“I would never have made that kind of a crass calculation. It just wouldn’t occur to me,” he said.

Murdoch’s testimony gave a feel for his company’s considerable clout, detailing 20-odd dinners, lunches, breakfasts and other meetings with Cameron and other leaders — including former prime ministers Gordon Brown and Tony Blair.

Earlier in the hearing Murdoch was forced to defend his record at the head of his father’s scandal-plagued British newspaper arm, saying that subordinates prevented him from making a clean sweep at the now-defunct News of the World tabloid.

Murdoch repeated allegations that the tabloid’s then-editor Colin Myler and the company’s former in-house lawyer, Tom Crone, misled him about the scale of illegal behavior at the newspaper.

Leveson asked Murdoch: “Can you think of a reason why Mr. Myler or Mr. Crone should keep this information from you? Was your relationship with them such that they may think: ‘Well we needn’t bother him with that’ or ‘We better keep it from it because he’ll ask to cut out the cancer’?”

“That must be it,” Murdoch said. “I would say: ‘Cut out the cancer,’ and there was some desire to not do that.”

Murdoch’s father Rupert, News Corp.’s executive chairman, is scheduled to testify before Leveson on Wednesday morning.

Media analyst Paul Connew predicted more pain for British politicians. “James Murdoch’s appearance is only the warm up act,” he said.

Printed on Wednesday, April 25, 2012 as: Murdoch inquiry affects top UK officials

LONDON — The childhood homes of former Beatles John Lennon and Paul McCartney, where the pair wrote some of their early songs, will be preserved, the government said Wednesday.

Lennon’s house in south Liverpool and McCartney’s nearby row home will be granted a grade 2 listing, which means they cannot be altered without the permission of local officials, said Britain’s Heritage Minister John Penrose.

The decision means the homes of one of Britain’s greatest songwriting teams will be protected for generations to come. Their work has long been associated with the northern port city Liverpool, particularly because of songs like “Penny Lane” and “Strawberry Fields Forever” that celebrated their childhood haunts.

Lennon lived at a comfortable 1930s duplex house called “Mendips” in 251 Menlove Ave. from 1945 to 1963 with his aunt and uncle after his parents separated when he was five.

McCartney lived in nearby Forthlin Road for nine years from 1955. The two musicians held early practice sessions for their first band The Quarrymen while living at these houses, and wrote The Beatles’ first number one hit, the raucous “Please Please Me,” at Lennon’s home.

Preservation group The National Trust has already restored the houses to look as they would have when Lennon and McCartney were growing up.

In a statement Wednesday, Lennon’s widow Yoko Ono said: “Mendips always meant a great deal to John and it was where his childhood dreams came true for himself and for the world.”

The preservation order was granted by English Heritage, a government-sponsored body that decides which buildings to preserve. It decided not to preserve the childhood homes of Beatles lead guitarist George Harrison and drummer Ringo Starr.

Emily Gee at English Heritage said Lennon’s and McCartney’s homes had been preserved because “they were scenes of huge amounts of rehearsal, of composition of songs, really intense, creative hubs.”