Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Hacking Scandal Is Hiding Real Issues That Affect People; Columnist

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Hacking Scandal Is Hiding Real Issues That Affect People; Columnist

Article excerpt

Byline: Paul Linford

ONCE again, the week concludes with phone-hacking back at the top of the political agenda, as MPs discuss a possible fresh grilling for News International's James Murdoch amid more conflicting tales about who knew what and when.

Sure, it's all very entertaining, especially for those of us who have spent years longing to see the Murdoch Empire cut down to size, and in view of his long-standing links with the NI crowd, it remains a potentially toxic story for Prime Minister David Cameron.

But sometimes the inevitable media firestorm around stories such as these can detract from the really big issues facing the country, the ones that affect people's lives on a day-to-day level.

And for most people, not least in the North East, the really big issue remains the fragile state of the economy and its impact on jobs.

The publication of the threemonthly GDP figures on Tuesday saw a brief, almost evanescent shift in the news agenda away from phone-hacking and onto the bigger economic picture.

The revelation that the economy grew by just 0.2% in the last quarter will have come as no great surprise to anyone who has been attempting to run a business over the course of that period.

If the previous set of GDP figures in April, showing 0.5% growth, were seen at the time as disappointing, then this week's were truly dismal.

The country may have avoided a double-dip recession - but it has done so only by the skin of its teeth, and there seems no great reason to suggest we are anywhere near being out of the woods yet.

It was tempting to see George Osborne's attempts to pin the blame for the economy's continued sluggish performance on the Royal Wedding as part of a worrying pattern of behaviour on the part of the Chancellor. After all, this is the man who found himself compared to a rail announcer of yore by blaming April's figures on the winter snows.

But maybe Mr Osborne had a point this time round. The confluence of the late Easter, the wedding, and the May Day Bank Holiday, though no fault of the government's, was scarcely helpful at a time when the economy is struggling to get into gear. …

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