Our little boycott of the Murdoch press is clearly the exception rather than the rule if the sales figures for yesterday’s Sun is any indication. It would seem that the great British public, or to be more precise the Sun readers, is/are quick to forgive. And however much we rant at the sheer injustice of what was done to Millie Dowler’s family and hundreds of others, we have to grudgingly admit that the Digger knows a thing or two about marketing. And, to quote Albert as we cleaned out the hens this morning, the man has more than money in his pockets!
We all know about the Cameron connection, but few of us realised that Messrs Salmond and Gove are also resting neatly inside that posh greatcoat. Yesterday’s Sun was light on content but it did include one surprise. It quoted an unknown Scottish government source as saying that 18 October 2014 is being lined up as the referendum date. It will be, the Sun announced, the day when people will get the chance for independence and equality for Scotland. The story was described as a “world exclusive about the Day of Destiny”.
What is going on here? After hailing the Time’s decision to make the Scottish Nationalist party leader “Briton of the Year” in late December, Murdoch said earlier this month that Salmond was “clearly the most brilliant politician in the UK”. He followed that with a tweet last Monday stating; “Let Scotland go and compete. Everyone would win”. So the tycoon has decided. Scotland is to get independence and it was the Sun ‘wot did it!
Up to a point Salmond does appear to be brilliant, for he has wooed the great man and made the right promises. The referendum date story follows a long courtship of Murdoch and News International by Salmond. By the summer of 2011, Scotland’s first minister had held more than 25 meetings with News International editors and executives. He has showered the tycoon with gifts and made a direct bid to win Sky coverage of a Scottish cultural festival.
Last week Salmond called Murdoch in London, and had a private chat about the new Sunday edition of the Sun. It seems reasonable to assume that a deal has been struck. Cameron will now find opposing Salmond’s tactics a good deal trickier!
Meantime the Digger is keen to make inroads into education via educational innovation, or video lessons to you and I. He has already made substantial progress in the USA, and in June of last year Gove addressed the teachers college in Birmingham on the “amazing progress of iTunes U in pubishing lessons on line”. That evening he dined with Rupert Mutrdoch again. I say again because Gove has dined with him on many occasions, including a shared meal following the tycoon’s delivery of the Margaret Thatcher lecture at the Centre for Policy Studies. Time and again Gove has extolled the News Corp’s education project, time and again the two men have met privately.
Last week Gove pubicly attacked the Leveson inquiry. It is, he inferred, a threat to press freedom. “Whenever anyone sets up a new newspaper -as Rupert Murdoch has done with the Sun on Sunday – they should be applauded and not criticised”, proclaimed our education secretary. It wasa reminder of just how close the two men are. One of Murdoch’s long-term projects is what he calls his “revolutionary and profitable move into on line education”. But what is in it for Gove?
There are clues. When Gove first arrived at Westminster in 2005 as a backbench MP, the Times topped up his salary with a £60,000-a-year column. His wife still works for the paper. And Murdoch’s publishing arm, Harper-Collins, gave Gove a book advance in 2004, when he was first selected for the safe Conservative seat of Surrey Heath. The book is to be a history of Viscount Bolingbroke. It has yet to be written but the advance has not been returned.
You could say that these are all straws floating in the wind. Or you could say that Rupert Murdoch does what anyone in his position of power does. He uses it.
The Scottish vote and the Schools technology project appear to be buttoned-up. The fascinating thing now will be how Murdoch will pay the General Election. Messr Cameron and Miliband would be well advised to give it some thought!
ANSWERS TO YESTERDAY’S QUIZ; 1. California 2. Dead Sea 3. Betty Boothroyd 4. World Filled With Love 5. The Listener 6. The Friendly Islands 7. John Lennon 8. Richard Beckinsale 9. Gosport 10. Busta Rhymes