It is not a popular view but we codgers are thankful for the drop in temperatures. Most of us spent our working lives in sedentary occupations carried out in the equivalent of air-conditioned hen batteries, the switch to hard manual labour came late in life. After the past week of sweat-dripping, we understand why builders always appear to be sitting down with a copy of the Sun in one hand and a mucky mug in the other.
Perhaps the surfeit of sun has induced madness. I say that because we have become obsessed with the Leveson Inquiry. Few believe that any good will come of it, but for sheer entertainment value it leaves Coronation Street standing. Every day brings new appearances by the great and not so good. Many appear as nervous as prospective paper-boys attending their first interview. Many are evasive, many are desperately trying to portray a world in which the name Murdoch was never heard. Many seem to suffer from acute memory loss.
But yesterday’s star turn was Michael Gove who fitted none o those categories. As teachers are only too well aware the poison-dwarf doesn’t talk, he orates. He speaks in carefully constructed sentences, enunciating beautifully, scattering his prose with ostentatiously learned language. And he permits interruption by no man, not even a learned Judge. Eventually Lord Leveson managed to get a word in edgeways but by then he was unusually tense, too much Gove is bad for the soul. “Mr Gove”, said the Judge, “I don’t need to be told about the importance of free speech. I really don’t”.
But Mr Gove was having none of it. “I think it is wise to look at the historical context”, he boomed. It was, he said, a Latin writer who had said “O tempora, O mores”. It was Gove at his patronising best, it was magnificent impertinence. It stunned even the ever-talkative QC for the enquiry, Robert Jay, into stunned silence.
But Michael Gove has a weakness. He reminds me so much of the sort of upper-class twit portrayed in Monty Python and who so often occupied the seat next to me on long flights. They talk and talk, peppering their delivery with words quite new to the ordinary soul. But sooner or later, as their attempts to impress mount, they reveal things better left concealed.
And so it proved yesterday. Our dear leader has gone to great lengths to say that ‘we’ made the mistake of getting too close to News International. But Gove saw himself in competition with Tony Blair who became so close that he became Godfather to a baby Murdoch. Asked how he would describe his relationship with Murdoch, Gove said that his friend Rupert was “One of the most impressive and significant figures in the world over the past 50 years”.
Gove was in full flow now, doubtless the Downing Street gang were tearing their hair out. Murdoch, he boomed “was a force of nature, a phenomenon, a great great man”. He hadn’t managed Godfather status but he had met the great man eleven times in the year after he became educaton secretary. On 19th May 2010 he met Murdoch and Rebekah Brooks for dinner and a “general discussion”. The party was in Murdoch’s flat in St James, central London. The following month Gove and his wife attended another dinner and “general discussion” with Rebekah.
Unlike most other attendees at Leveson, Gove suffers from no memory loss. Just the opposite. He boomed on and on about his parties with “Rupert and Rebekah”, he delighted in stressing his friendship and involvement with the greatest man of the past half-century. By way of a bonus he explained that he used to work for Murdoch and his wife still does.
Pure theatre. But by now Gove will have been told that his big mouth has destroyed weeks of spin and evasion aimed at destroying claims that Murdoch and the leading Conservatives were as distant from each other as John Prescott and exercise machines. Suddenly we saw into a cosy little world in which News Corp and the posh rich boys were as one.
The timing is unfortunate for Gove’s fellow Murdoch-worshipper, Jeremy Hunt, who is due to provide our entertainment tomorrow. Mind you, his is truly a mission impossible. He will go to great lengths to prove that he had no idea that his personal aide was feeding daily information to the Murdoch camp during the bid-process. The argument is purely academic since, as Professor Vernon Bogdanor has forcefully pointed out, being unaware does not render Hunt innocent. At best the culture secretary is guilty of “gross incompetence” since he should have instructed his staff to have nothing to do with a paid lobbyist or an interested party. Vernon Bogdanor is a research professor at King’s College, London, and is author of The New British Constitution and The Coalition and the Constitution.
Mr Hunt’s other defence is that he and his fellow ministers had no personal views on Murdoch, that melted away during the Gove lecture. In fact by Gove standards yesterday was quite a day. For by way of an encore he later revealed that he has in mind schools being run as private profit-producers. That should really cheer up our beleagured teachers!
A THOUGHT FOR TODAY!
“You can step back from your thinking, almost as though you were watching a movie instead of actually being in it. You can dismiss your thoughts – you can simply let them go”….Dr Richard Carlson