It would be nice to turn to other topics today but the News of the World scandal refuses to budge from our collective thoughts on the allotment. Having had time to digest the announcement of the papers immediate closure, we all seem to have arrived at the same conclusion, the closure is a giant con-trick aimed at drawing a line under the hacking affair. And, to quote Albert, who has returned from his abandoned holiday at soaking Blackpool, it just won’t wash!
We may be simple souls but even we can work out what the Murdochs are trying to do. Two days ago the domain names TheSunOnSunday and SunOnSunday.com were registered. Out goes the Screws and in comes the Sun. But the public are unlikely to swallow this, neither are the advertisers who were pulling out of the doomed paper. A thorn by any other name is still a thorn.
All that we have learned so far is that the Murdochs are ruthless. When News International chief executive Rebekah Brooks went to the News of the World offices to make the announcement to the staff she had a very rough reception and had to be escorted out by security staff. Small wonder, for most of them joined the paper after the hacking was at its peak and most felt that the editor of the day was culpable. How anyone can be expected to believe that Brooks was unaware of what was happening beggars belief. The same goes for her successor Andy Coulson but, like the staff, he has been hung out to dry by the Murdochs whose handed-over evidence will almost certainly result in his facing serious charges, especially now that the police have realised that backing villains is not wise.
David Cameron has had no option than to change his mind on the need for an enquiry led by a Judge. He tried hard to avoid it as demonstrated by the hapless Chris Grayling who, on Question Time, tried in vain to produce a rationale for what he then believed was his master’s position. Maybe it was the furious reaction of the audience and Hugh Grant that caused the U-turn. Either way the prime minister will not be sleeping easy for his personal friendship with Brooks and his close working relationship with Coulson may well provide insights that he would prefer remain hidden. There are this morning some bizaare theories on that point, one being that the appearance of all the leading Labour cabinet members on the police list of hacking victims may not be a coincidence! Perhaps this could prove to be a Wapping-gate?
But there is a bigger issue here. Rebekah Brooks, Andy Coulson, Glen Mulcare and the Murdochs are neither the origin nor the limit of the problem, which is the unprecedented concentration of media ownership and power, and the corporate culture of arrogance and impunity that this engenders. It is now clearly in the public interest that News Corporation’s ownership of other media in the UK be broken up.
It is equally in the public interest that both Conservative and Labour politicians break off the social involvement that they have all nurtured with Murdoch. Yes, Cameron is the extreme example but even two weeks ago virtually every member of the cabinet and shadow cabinet attended a Murdoch party in London. Humble servants all, and it is totally inappropriate. To be fair to Ed Milband he is the first senior poiliticain of either party to stand up to Murdoch and the idea that he will now be targeted is repulsive. Who rules Britain?
Right now it is News Corporation, aided and abetted by government and police. For once the public has rebelled, what has happened has repelled even the most fervent reader of the tabloids. But we musn’t forget that the loss of a couple of papers is no big deal in the court of Murdoch, what he wants is ownership of BSkyB and the political power that brings.
There will be prosecutions galore and the idea that Hunt can still wave through the takeover is bizaare. If he does that the government could fall, no one will tolertae such power being ceded to people who oversaw the secret violation of the families of murdered children and slaughtered troops. Nothing will atone for that but the extension of the empire of the vile perpetrators must be stopped. Murdoch and his colleagues should be debarred from running, or owning any company in the UK. It can be done, it must be done, however close Cameron may be to the mogul.
This might be an appropriate time to re-show Melvyn Bragg’s interview with Dennis Potter. In it Dennis tells us why he named his cancerous tumour Rupert!
TODAY’S PUB QUIZ; GENERAL KNOWLEDGE; 1. Had Theo Walcott played in the Premiership before his 2006 World Cup call-up? 2. Which duo had hits with “Mrs Robinson” and “America”? 3. What is the fear of enclosed spaces called? 4. Which Suday comes before Easter Day? 5. On TV, which night featured a show from the London Palladium? 6. Alphabetically, which is the last of the calender months? 7. What would a palaeontologist study? 8. Which Disney creature nickname was given to Tony Blair? 9. Which veteran comic Bob celebrated his 100th birthday on 29th May 2003? 10. When Eric Weiss escaped from his name he was known as who?