Media Watch 27/3/15

By Rowan Williams

Police have seized the possessions of German pilot Andres Lubitz, co-pilot of a Germanwings flight that crashed  and killed 150 people in the French Alps on Tuesday, amid growing evidence suggesting that Lubitz crashed the plane deliberately. After listening to the flight’s cockpit voice recorder – which appears to show Lubitz locking the flight’s captain out of the cockpit before flying into the ground – French prosecutors shocked the public and media with their conclusion that Lubitz appeared to want to “destroy the plane”. Those who knew Lubitz have expressed shock at his actions. German police have found clues in Lubitz’s flat suggesting he suffered from a psychological illness, while German media have reported that Lubitz had taken time off from flight school due to depression. Flight deck rules are expected to be changed after the crash, with European airlines expected to adopt American rules that make it compulsory for two staff members to be present on the flight deck at all times.

Prime Minister David Cameron and Labour Party Leader Ed Miliband have gone head-to-head in the first set-piece television event before the general election. One early poll found that the Prime Minister was felt to have ‘won’ the broadcast, with 54 percent of the vote. Rather than a one-on-one debate, Thursday’s broadcast consisted of separate, back-to-back interviews with each leader followed by questions from the public. Interviewer Jeremy Paxman pulled no punches in his questioning, grilling both men on their records in office.  David Cameron was forced to admit the government had missed immigration and deficit targets, while Miliband was forced on the defensive over the economy. The Prime Minister was keen to emphasise his government’s role in creating a better economic climate. Ed Miliband aimed to dispel doubts held by some over his suitability for the role of Prime Minister. A televised debate between seven of the UK’s party leaders is due to be broadcast on 2 April.

UK Chancellor George Osborne overrode strong Foreign Office objections in joining the China-led Asian Infrastructure Investment bank (AIIB), it has been reported. Osborne rejected diplomats’ fears that joining the AIIB would alienate allies Japan and the United States, gaining support from the Prime Minister at a meeting of senior foreign policy body the National Security Council. Foreign Secretary Phillip Hammond was reportedly persuaded by Chinese assurances on the AIIB’s governance and safeguards. While the US was critical of the UK for its decision to join the bank, six other European nations susequently joined the bank, including Germany and France. China has yet to decide on a location for the European headquarters of the AIIB, with London, Frankfurt and Luxembourg all contesting to be chosen.

The Papers

The co-pilot of Tuesday’s crashed Germanwings flight makes the headlines today after it was learnt co-pilot Andreas Lubitz allegedly crashed the plane deliberately. The Times writes in its headline that Germanwings owner Lufthansa “knew about killer pilot’s depression”, given that Lubitz “had been suspended from flight school” for depression. Lufthansa could face up to £100 million in legal claims if it is deemed to have been negligent, the paper writes. The Independent dubs Lubitz “Killer in the cockpit” in its headline, writing that Lubitz had “no known message, motive or mercy” for his actions.  The paper quotes German Chancellor Angela Merkel in its subtitle, after Merkel spoke of the “new, simply incomprehensible dimension” to the tragedy. The Guardian leads with a large picture of Lubitz, along with a headline that introduces Lubitz with “This is the pilot who flew his jet into a mountain”. Airlines will now “move to change their flight deck rules”, the paper writes – a thread also picked up by The Daily Telegraph, which writes in its headline of an “Air safety overhaul” after the crash. “Urgent action by airlines” is expected, the paper reports, with a new rule to be introduced making it compulsory for two staff members to be present on the flight deck at all times. The Financial Times, meanwhile, leads with news that Chancellor George Osborne “overrode diplomatic fears to join China-led development bank”, the Asian Infrastructure investment bank. Foreign Office objections to the bank were “rejected”, the paper writes.

British Media on China

On the China-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) and the UK: the UK’s dealings with the AIIB made the top story for the Financial Times today, with the paper leading with the headline “Osborne overrode diplomatic fears to join China-led investment bank”. In the article, the FT writes that “Officials in Beijing and London had believed until the last minute that opposition from the Foreign Office would prove insurmountable”. The paper notes how Osborne has frequently pushed for a “mercantilist foreign policy”. Other FT articles on the AIIB from today report the UK’s move to join “even surprised China”, while another article reports that South Korea is to join the AIIB.

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