….and why the mealy-mouthed release from Culture Secretary Hunt’s department represents shameless drivel
HOW THIS POWERFUL, UNELECTED FOREIGNER’S MEDIA EMPIRE HAS SOUGHT TO SUBVERT AND CORRUPT EVERY INSTITUTION WE HAVE
Further revelations this weekend have demonstrated two things above all else: that the ruling political class kept silent about Hackgate – from a need for Murdoch’s money and support; and that the media set alone revealed Newscorp’s pernicious influence in every facet of British life.
Many things about Rupert Murdoch evoke heated debates and strong opinions. A sizeable minority of British citizens despise the man and his tool Newscorp on the basis of its cruelty, dumbing down, and crude attempts to undermine authority. Royalists detest his hatred for the Royal family, and object strongly to his tabloid intrusions into the life of our First Family. Others regard him as a hateful man who sought a University education here, but afterwards condemned almost every aspect of Britain’s culture. Soccer fans dislike what they see as his monied destruction of our national game – and consequent fund-starvation of our international side. And perhaps most of all, the ability of Newscorp staff to get favours, clearances and remain above the law is resented as a stain on our political reputation.
Today, the Observer reveals how Murdoch allegedly used his political influence and contacts at the highest levels to try to get Labour MPs and peers to back away from investigations into phone hacking at the News of the World; and an unnamed Minister claims to have seen evidence that Murdoch, the chairman of News Corporation, relayed messages to Brown last year via a third party, urging him to help take the political heat out of Hackgate. As with the Brown-on-pills story first aired by The Slog’s predecessor in September 2009, the former PM and Chancellor has declined to comment – but not denied the story.
Evident yet again here is the way in which our Ministers talk big, but hide behind anonymity or “no comment”. A ‘senior Opposition MP’ is expecting further arrests, says the late-into-the-game Telegraph group today. Well he told me that three weeks ago too – and nothing happened. Tower of strength and fighter for the poor Ed Miliband observed equally tardily last night, “What we have seen is a serious admission of wrongdoing by News International. We have now got to get to the bottom of any criminal behaviour, which is a matter for the police and should be thoroughly investigated. We need to know who knew about these actions and when.” Well Ed, with your help at PMQs three months ago, we could’ve got to the truth a darn sight more quickly. But you having a Murdoch intimate as your press secretary probably didn’t help.
Predictably, the usually irrepressible Jeremy Hunt dodged the media on the obvious question of the BSkyB bid, wheeling out ‘a Government spokesman’ to tell us that the ‘decision on the merger will not be influenced by the hacking controversy. Legally the culture secretary cannot consider other factors as part of this process.’
What complete tosh that is. The influence of Murdoch in our media set was the prime factor in considering referral of the deal in the first place. Is Mr Hunt seriously suggesting that illegally tampering with the privacy of mobile phone users to get stories for the media is therefore of no relevance to a discussion of whether further Murdoch power might be ill-advised? One of the myriad good things to come out of Hackgate is that – be not in any doubt – Hunt’s political career is finished.
Chris Bryant and Tom Watson have shown commendable determination and courage – as too has John Whittingdale, the chairman of the culture, media and sport select committee, who seems to flatly correct the Hunt Balls by saying on the record that “I think there’ll be more arrests because as I understand it, there’s more evidence that points at other people being involved”. If it’s not relevant to his Committee, then why comment on it?
The simple fact is that the Murdoch news organisation has raped the privacy (and in some cases secrecy and security) of a vast range of key British institutions, public figures, and tragic crime victims.
Brian Paddick, a former senior Scotland Yard officer and London Mayoral candidate who believes his own phone was hacked, said the NotW was apologising “only in cases where it had been caught red-handed”.
Rebekah Brooks has yet to furnish MPs with an answer about details of how she corrupted policeman ‘legally’. Anti-terrorist chief Andy Hayman has a whole host of difficult questions to answer on the subject of his frequent and oddly timed lunches and dinners with Newscorp – as do most of his senior colleagues in the Metropolitan police. An anti-IRA intelligence officer accepts that his phone was tapped by the NotW, and is demanding answers as to how they got the number – let alone hacked the high security.
Former Deputy Prime Minister Lord Prescott now has proof that his phone was hacked, as does Tessa Jowell. It is understood that Gordon Brown too is now satisfied that his phone was hacked while he was Chancellor of the Exchequer and in daily contact with Prime Minister Tony Blair. In harsher times this would represent treason: if it took place during the Iraq War, it almost certainly was treason.
In the time of our first Elizabeth, intercepting Royal Communications would’ve been a one-way ticket to the Tower of London – and a near-certain beheading. Yet over the years, Murdoch’s staff blithely hacked, it is now reported, the heir to the Throne, both his sons, the Duke and Duchess of York, and their daughter Princess Eugenie.
Last week rumours of The Sun having hacked into the phones of the Soham victims’ parents was also confirmed. As was Leslie Ash’s phone being hacked during her botox trauma.
Jeremy Hunt is our Minister for Culture. Which of the above illegalities would he regard as not to do with the very core of British culture?
The Slog has been advised that, by making financial reparations a likelihood in at least 200 cases (the Telegraph is still stuck on 100), Newscorp can relatively easily both keep the miscreants out of Court – and stop them having to answer questions about the involvement of their colleagues. Several of the Nationals have also pointed out, quite rightly, that Newscorp is only offering a limited liability in terms of time period – ie, between 2004 and 2006. Fleet Street sources were suggesting earlier today that the most obvious hacking links to Newscorp CEO Rebekah Brooks are later than that period….a cynical Murdoch attempt to stop the mud from sticking any higher on the corporate wall of silence. However, The Slog would add that a sizeable proportion of the Stephen Whittamore hacks and blags intended for a wide range of Newscorp journalists (probably including Andy Coulson) also fall before the period specified.
There will be many more ironies and twists before this affair becomes history – or rather, makes history. But the history it mustn’t make is that of press freedoms being curtailed by that very cynical political class which allowed this appalling abuse of foreign, unelected power to continue. Some turned a blind eye to it, some condoned it, but only a half dozen legislators (all backbenchers or semi-retired Peers) out of 640 elected MPs tried to blow the whistle on it.
Their reward for doing so was threats to reveal private peccadillos – and emails from the Opposition’s ex-Newscorp media spokesman to ‘lay off Murdoch’.
That despicable, gutless behaviour by our ‘leaders’ is the key issue here: not abuse of press freedoms by a minority of journalists – but the corruption of an overwhelming majority of the political class by one rich man’s company.