I’m sure that if the prime minister knew of our gang of aged chicken breeders he would regard our mutterings with utter disdain. Understandable in a way since none of us would gain social acceptance at one of his Chipping Norton parties, but quite wrong in another. For we represent a cross-section of society with the breakdown of political allegiances broadly in line with those portrayed by Mori, plus a fair sprinkling of geezers who never vote at all. But we are all shocked by the unending revelations about the Murdoch empire, and even more staggered by the role that David Cameron has played in it.
Of course even we yokels realise that none of this began with the arrival in Downing Street of the Old Etonians and Mr Cameron’s main defence in yesterday’s Commons uproar – that Gordon Brown was equally culpable – misses the point. What has been uncovered over the past week or so is a large informal network, in which newspapers, policemen and politicians all looked after each other with jobs, influence, money and treats.
It is now perfectly clear that this has been the order of the day for a very long time, but the excuse that the new Prime Minister merely joined an established orgy of corruption makes his actions no less deplorable. And to compound the felony Mr Cameron conceded yesterday that, during his 26 social gatherings with the Murdoch clan since becoming PM, he did discuss the BSkyB takeover bid, albeit in an ‘appropriate’ way. He shouldn’t be surprised that his enemies are now choosing to create their own version of what took place, the point is that he shouldn’t have been there at all.
That apart there are significant questions to be answered about his judgement in appointing Andy Coulson, given the clear indications that his resignation from the News of the World was the result of charges of phone hacking. In July 2007 Cameron appointed Coulson to his office as leader of the Conservative Party. He said then that “Andy will make a formidable contribution as a senior member of my team in building the most effective strategy and operation to win the next general election. I look forward very much to working with him”. Of course what emerged from that election was a coalition and one of the first to warn Cameron against bringing Coulson into government was his then admiring partner, Nick Clegg. This followed a Commons committee accusation that senior executives at News International were concealing the truth about the extent of phone hacking. Yesterday the MPs attacking the PM included many of his Lib Dem partners.
Sadly even the announcement of the terms of reference for the Inquiry into all this aroused suspicions. Cameron surprised everyone by including the BBC. It may be a coincidence but this was a constant demand by the Murdochs whose motives for shrinking the Beeb have always been obvious. Perhaps we are all paranoid in wondering if their word still holds sway?
But the story that has unfolded would create paranoia in a monastery. It is increasingly clear that the Murdochs have frightened our politicians into submission. Just a fortnight ago, Ed Milioband was warned that Murdoch’s papers would “make it personal” after he broke with the political class omerta towards the company. There are now a whole list of similar threats to various politicians. In effect the fear was that those who crossed Murdoch would get the full tabloid treatment. It was a powerful Mafia-like racket. And turning to the police for help was not a good idea!
It is clear that when the various trials take place there may well be much more for the Prime Minister to fret over. But right now it would be good to believe that he ‘gets it’, that he realises that someone has to clean up our corrupt and bullying culture at the top. A small step in the right direction would be for David Cameron to become totally detached from the clique which has done so much to damage him.
He must realise that right now, at least so far as Tory and Lib Dems are concerned, this is not an issue about changing governments. It is about changing the Prime Minister and he needs to act right now. No more cosy parties with Rebekah Brooks et al, no more toadying to the will of corrupt bullies!
ANSWERS TO YESTERDAY’S QUIZ; 1. Shoulder blade 2. Great Stour 3. Sex Pistols 4. Falmouth 5. India 6. Judo 7. Henry the First 8. The wind 9. Maastricht 10. Young