Posts Tagged ‘Rebekah’
Almost all the allotmenteers read Private Eye. We love it. Mind you, Mr Hislop may not love us since we only buy one copy which is passed around over the next fortnight before the next issue arrives. Today we gathered round to look at the cover of the special 50th anniversary edition. Good cover – they always are. Today features pictures of Harold Macmillan and David Cameron. The magazine asks itself if satire makes a difference. Under Super Mac’s picture the caption reads “Magazine pokes fun at Old Etonian Prime Minister surrounded by cronies making a hash of running the country”. Under Cameron it simply says “Er…”.
For half a century the magazine has beaten the dailies to every story and every scandal. There must be many a politician, both local and national, who opens the latest copy with trepidation. There must be many a council chief too, not to mention the press whose double standards the Eye delights in exposing.
Today the Daily Mail gets some stick. On September 15th the Mail attacked the BBC for its decision to show, with his permission, the death of a cancer-stricken soldier. The BBC had, pronounced the Mail, gone too far in a cynical attempt to boost ratings. The Eye goes on to show the Mail’s reaction to Gaddafi’s death. It cleared the width of its website’ s homepage to display no fewer than 17 pictures including his mutilated corpse and another of his son.
The Sun also earns attention. “Disgraced Liam Fox will get a £17,000 pay off despite breaking the ministerial code”, fumed the tabloid. The Eye says that clearly the case of the defence secretary is quite different to that of news International chief executive Rebekah Brooks, who walked off with a mere £4 milliom pay off in July after “presiding so brilliantly over the phone-hacking disaster”.
Above all, the Eye does superb investigative journalism unequalled by any other. Be the government Labour or Conservative there is a real lashing when corruption is unearthed, and over the years there has been a great deal of that.
More people should buy Private Eye. Its revelations never cease to astonish, its humour never fails to delight.
By way of a postscript here is a paragraph supposedly written by George Osborne ; ” I welcome the latest monthly figures which show that inflation has leapt to 5.2 per cent as showing that plan A is working. City economists said a rise like this was simply impossible, but I have delivered an inflation figure far higher than anyone could possibly have predicted. I see no reason why, under my stewardship of the economy, inflation shouldn’t outstrip all predictions once again”.
Happy anniversary Private Eye, may you continue to spotlight the crooks and deflate the pompous for many years to come!
TRY YOUR HAND AT THE WEEKEND GENERAL KNOWLEDGE QUIZ:
1. Which club joined the Football League in 1978 and made the Premiership in 2005? 2. Dove Cottage was home of which poet? 3. Which Pole was first reached in 1909? 4. Which Day replaced Empire Day in 1958? 5. Alfred the Great ruled which kingdom? 6. Estoril is a resort north east of which major city? 7. Which No 1 for Norman Greenbaum was reworked by Gareth Gates? 8. Who was the founder lead singer with Led Zeppelin in 1968? 9. Freddie Powell found fame as which crazy comic? 10. Which Britsh surgeon was a pioneer in improving surgery hygiene?
If you incline to the view that our politicians are men of probity you are probably weary of my banging on to the contrary. But I do try to reflect the view of our allotmenteers and, whilst it would be ludicrous to suggest that they represent an accurate cross-section of society, their unanimity on this does suggest that there are a lot of people out there who regard our leaders as about as trustworthy as Billy Liar.
It became obvious as the phone hacking scandal developed that David Cameron was involved with the Murdochs and Rebekah Brooks up to his arched eyebrows. He knowingly employed one of their villains -in-chief Andy Coulson, and he and his Witney set mingled socially with people attempting to influence his government. Even this week he is still complaining that the BBC is biased. Perhaps it takes one to know one!
Throughout the barrage of revelations showing corruption at the top it was noticeable that the opposition was less than forceful in its condemnation. Now we know why. There was already some evidence that suggested social involvement by Tony Blair with the Murdochs but today we learn just how close the relationship was.
It turns out that Blair is godfather to one of Rupert Murdoch’s two young daughters. It has emerged in an interview with the media tycoon’s third wife Wendi, given to Vogue magazine. Apparently the former prime minister was ‘garbed in white’ as the children were baptised last year. Admittedly he was no longer prime minister but it would take a very lenient judge to believe that such a close relationship only developed after he left office.
The truth of the matter is that both of our major political parties have behaved corruptly in mind and probably in deed. Even the boss of a medium sized private sector concern would know that any company seeking contracts must be kept at arms length. Here we have the leaders of government in a country that has always prided itself on its probity in cahoots with a corporation hell-bent on gaining majority control of the UK media and destroying the BBC in the process.
We should perhaps be thankful for the timing of the phone-hacking scandal. Had it not been for that there is little doubt that the acquisition of BSkyB was about to be nodded through, thus justifying the achievement of Murdoch in pocketing not one but two prime ministers.
Even allowing for Lloyd George, never in our history has the stench of corruption been quite so pervasive!
Some one up there has turned off the tap! To walk to the allotments minus a brolly was little short of a miracle, and we set about our work of clearing the mud in a brighter mood than for some days. There have been moments when I wished I were a hen, able to stay in the dry with a near army of fogies attending to my every need. Then again I would never have the chance of being invited to a David Cameron birthday party as was Rebekah Brooks in October.
This latest revelation about our very strange prime minister plus the sad but very convenient death of the whistleblower Sean Hoare, who made clear that Andy Coulson was a key figure in the hacking scandal, could well have occupied our tea break but Phil had a different Cameron tale to tell.
His nephew is employed by Derby based carriage builder Bombadier. Thousands of British jobs there are devoted to building train carriages and there was considerable optimism about the future. It was widely expected that the company would be given the task of building rolling stock for the £6 billion upgrade on the Thameslink rail route, an order guaranteed to provide continuing employment for thousands.
Those thousands are now laid off and face a very uncertain future. Given the firm’s excellent quality and reliability record, the government created shock waves of giant proportions when it announced that the massive contract was to be awarded to German firm Siemens. Outrage soon followed but Mr Cameron and his Transport Secretary, Philip Hammond, proceded to claim that their hands were tied. At Prime Minister’s Questions last week, Cameron said that “we were bound by the criteria set by the previous government. In this case the procurement process was designed and initiated by them”. At first hearing it sounded a weak explanation for the sacrifice of so many British jobs. Upon examination of a leaked document it proved to be a barefaced lie.
Someone in the Transport ministry decided to reveal all by releasing anonymously a copy of the “Invitation to Tender”(ITT) for the Thameslink Rolling Stock Procurement Programme (TRSP). The document reads ; “The issue of this ITT in no way commits the Secretary of State to award the TRSP to any person or party. The Secretary of State reserves the right to terminate the competition, to award the TRSP without prior notice, to change the basis, the procedures and the timescales set out and referred to in this document or to reject any or all Proposals and to terminate discussions with any or all Bidders at any time”.
In other words the point of the process was entirely proper, to oblige the British Bidder to offer a competitive price. Predictably the government is now defending its decision to sacrifice thousands of skilled jobs, and to destroy an important British enterprise, by claiming that it would have been at risk of contravening EU procurement directives. Experts have dismissed this excuse, but even were it to be valid we have to ask ourselves about our real priorities! Since the vast majority of the people believe that we shouldn’t be subject to EU law anyway, it seems decidedly odd to sacrifice so much for fear of Brussels becoming irritated.
Former Treasury Minister Geoffrey Robinson said that the document proved that ministers were free to decide. They were free, he said, to “put the national interest first”. He ended with a plea that the decision be reversed to “save a vital British industry”.
Sadly his plea is likely to fall on deaf ears. The multi-millionaire Hammond is not renowned for viewing British manufacturers favourably, and Cameron has become totally preoccupied with explaining his extraordinary relationships with Coulson and the Murdoch clan.
Job creation should surely be an absolute priority for any British government, particularly at a time of recession. Instead we have one happy to see thousands more skilled workers cast on the scrap heap and to defend its failure via a tissue of lies!
ANSWERS TO YESTERDAY’S PUB QUIZ; 1. Rose 2. Tessa Jowell 3. Westlife 4. Seaweed 5. Sweet 6. Victoria 7. Oil tanker 8. Fuller’s 9. Blood poisoning 10. Leopards
JOIN ME TOMORROW FOR ANOTHER PUB QUIZ????????????????????????????
Right now we hen-keepers would accept a cheap plane ticket to anywhere! Two days of continuous rain have reduced the runs to something more suitable for mud wrestling. Albert came a real cropper this morning and emerged looking like a muddy version of Stan Laurel. He also managed to crack a pane in the nearby greenhouse, prompting the inevitable comments about people in glasshouses not throwing stones.
In the light of the latest phone-hacking developments it seemed apt. Few were surprised when the prime minister’s pal Rebekah Brooks was arrested at midday yesterday, but there was many a gasp when Sir Paul Stephenson fell on his sword. There was also considerable sympathy for it was apparent that Britain’s top copper knew nothing of the scandal when the Met recruited Neil Wallis as a strategic adviser. And why should he have vetoed the move, given that Mr Wallis’s former boss, Andy Coulson, was employed by the prime minister as his personal adviser? Indeed there is evidence that officers other than Stephenson were seeing Wallis’s attraction as his connection to his former chief who was a leading aide to Cameron, then in opposition and expected to become prime minister.
The pressure on Sir Paul to stand down had been cranked up by comments made by David Cameron, and the bitterness felt by Stephenson was apparent when, in his farewell comments, he remarked that the reason for his having failed to mention the employment of Wallis was that he “didn’t want to compromise the prime minister by revealing or discussing a potential suspect who clearly had a close relationship with Mr Coulson”. He added that he was aware of the many political exchanges in relation to Mr Coulson’s previous employment and he wanted to avoid the prime minister “being in possession of operational information in this regard”. His punch line was that, unlike Coulson, Mr Wallis had not resigned from the News of the World or, to the best of his knowledge, been involved with the original phone-hacking enquiry. The subsequent resignation of Assistant Commisioner Yates was almost inevitable.
All of which leads us to wonder why different rules apply for the prime minister and the Met, especially since, unlike Coulson, Wallis had not been forced to resign from the fated tabloid. Perhaps even more to the point the prime minister has in the past few days made clear that Coulson was, and is, a personal friend. It may have been this fact that led him to brush aside strong warnings from Nick Clegg against appointing Coulson to his personal office when the coalition assumed power.
To compound the growing impression that, unlike Sir Paul, Cameron was up to his neck with the Murdoch clan today’s newspapers carry an inside story from Jeremy Clarkson of the Christmas party held at Rebekah Brook’s Oxfordshire home. By speaking out Clarkson has forced Downing Street to confirm that the Camerons were there on December 23rd, less than 48 hours after Vince Cable was stripped of his media powers after speaking against the Murdochs. Oh yes, and Downing Street is drip feeding details of Cameron’s other social engagements with the Murdoch clan. They appear to total 46 since he entered Number Ten, and are still rising as facts emerge.
Friends who should know tell me that there are significant moves afoot at Westminster. Nick Clegg has let it be known that he is extremely concerned at the growing impression of sleeze in both police and government, and has been in talks with Ed Miliband. They have already announced a joint agreement that the Murdoch empire must be broken up and more is to follow. We have all had our fun at young Nick’s expense but most concede that he is honest and patriotic. It is surely very significant that he is signalling his agreement with the surpisingly brave stand taken by Miliband. His mood won’t have been improved by cartoons today which picture Rupert, Sir Paul and Dave all sleeping in the same bed!
Paul Stephenson was right to resign in an attempt to allow the man or woman in charge of the police to be seen as absolutely detached from the repulsive behaviour of the Murdoch press. If we accept that logic, it is impossible to conclude other than that the prime minister must do the same, his involvement having been far greater.
David Cameron is an expert in PR and a smooth operator. But he will stay on – as he undoubtedly will – a very damaged individual. He has been quick to argue that things are quite different in government as against the police. Really? Sleaze is sleaze!
If, in despair, Clegg does jump ship the whole pack of cards will come tumbling down!
TODAY’S PUB QUIZ ; GENERAL KNOWLEDGE; 1. What was the name of Kate Winslet’s character in ‘Titanic’? 2. Who was Culture Secretary when the UK won the staging of the 2012 Olympics? 3. Which top-selling band featured Kian Egan on vocals? 4. What is kelp? 5. Who had hits with “Fox on the Run” and “Wig-Wam Bam”? 6. What name is an African lake, a station and a former Queen? 7. What type of vessel was the Torrey Canyon? 8. Which brewing company produces London Pride? 9. What is the more common name for toxaemia? 10. Which members of the big cat family collect in a leap?
The monsoons were back with a vengeance this morning and it has to be admitted that the cleaning out of the hen-runs was less than thorough. Muck and mud underfoot and a cascade from above plays funny tricks on the mind, and our oft quoted ethic of animals first seemed to recede faster than the tide at Southend. It meant that we had more time in the shed, more time to scan the papers. Given our boycott of The Times and Sun which always dominated, and divided, our group, the organs most in evidence were the Telegraph and Mirror.
The latter predictably carried criticism of Cameron but it was the Telegraph, often referred to as the ‘Torygraph’, that astonished us. The main headline reads ” Cameron, Coulson and a weekend at Chequers”, and back up columns and pages galore reveal that the prime minister invited Coulson to Chequers for a weekend in March, just ten days before two News of the World executives who served under Coulson were arrested as part of ‘Operation Weeting”, the new police investigation into phone hacking which was launched in January.
A statement from Downing Street told the paper that “The Prme Minister has made clear that Mr Coulson was and is a friend and that is why he was invited. It was to say thanks for the work he had done for us”. But the revelations don’t end there. The Telegraph has established that since taking office Cameron has held a whole series of get-togethers with the Murdochs and Rebekah Brooks, some of them described as “purely social”.
But it is the editorial that will be causing the greatest angst in Downing Street today. Regular Telegraph readers tell me that they cannot recall such a lambasting of a Conservative prime minister by its greatest advocate. It talks of a Prime Minister who “moralises in Parliament, trying to distract attention from the fact that he has been spending family holidays with a disgraced CEO” and whom he employed, despite warnings, as his personal adviser.
The editor continues by contending that Cameron should have dismantled “this quasi-masonic circle, with its conspirational deal-cutting and back-scratching”. Instead he “invited the circle into Downing Street”. Coming from so firm an ally, this is powerful stuff.
The overall theme of one of the longest editorials imaginable is that together with policemen, Cameron and his kind have diminished Britain. A nation that once boasted, with justification, that it was the least corrupt in the world, is suddenly regarded as amongst the most venal. The government’s reputation for probity is in tatters and it is now engaged in “the shallowest form of crisis management”.
The paper’s summary is breathtaking. Large swathes of the British establishment have been implicated in this scandal. The shady characters who have been expoosed – policemen, politicians and News International executives – have so far only revealed one aim. That is to avoid giving a straight answer to the public. The suspicion is that they are all “living in fear of what may yet be revealed”
During my many years at university, studying political history, I can recall only one similar attack by a government-backing newspaper on a serving prime minister. To find that I have to go back to Ramsey MacDonald.
And we all know what happened to him. Cameron is not yet mortally wounded but his credibility is in tatters and it is not difficult to imagine a leadership challenge if the polls continue to heavily favour Miliband. Meantime Nick Clegg, who a few days ago forced Cameron’s hand by supporting Miliband’s Commons motion, would be well adivsed to widen the gap with someone no longer trusted by even his party’s most ardent supporters!
YOUR WEEKEND GENERAL KNOWLEDGE QUIZ; 1. Which animal can be described as ursine? 2. Who was the older when he died, Graham Hill or James Hunt? 3. Which prize for fiction was instigated in 1969? 4. Which Jackie Wilson hit was No 1 nearly thirty years after it was made? 5. A tarpon is a type of what? 6. In the pop charts of 2004, how was Yosuf Islam known when he was last in the charts? 7. If something is vernal, what is it connected with? 8. Where do Southend United play their home games? 9. How did both James 1′s mother and son die? 10. The sidewinder belongs to which group of snakes?
Great delight on the allotment this morning, and I am not referring merely to a record number of eggs or even the bright light in the sky. Some of my pals who bought the final edition of the News of the Screws did so in the hope that the sacked staff would include an attack on the whiter-than-white Rebekah Brooks, but they were initially disappointed, no great surprise since she had ordered a top-level scrutiny at the proof stage. What she didn’t think to do was to check the crossword. Yesterday afternoon Tom tackled the puzzle and, to his delight, gradually realised that the answers added up to abuse of the dear lady on an unprecedented scale! Clever!
Speaking from a personal angle what is not so clever is the sudden appearance amongst the headlines of the so-called ‘Chipping Norton set’. It may well be the first time you have heard the name of my favourite Cotswold (ish) little town. When I was a boy back in the 40s the greatest treat was an outing to Chipping Norton children’s home. At that time I was by compulsion a part of a floursihing Methodist chapel in Oxford, and a lot of effort was devoted to raising funds for the orphanage, as it was known then. Once a year it held a fete and along we went in a coach armed to the teeth with every copper we had scraped together.
Once the admittedly limited excitement of a fete was over, we would wander down into the picturesque town. I remember the broad accents, the friendly manner, the cosy shops. This, I decided, was the place I wanted to live in when I grew up. Of course it never happened, but to this day I think of the place with affection. At least I did until the Murdoch scandal broke and suddenly the little innocent haunt of my childhood became identified with ‘The Set’ or, as I gather the locals term it, the ‘Cameroons’.
Friends from the area tell me that David Cameron is to be seen regularly out riding with Rebekah Brooks. The now Prime Minister’s constituency home is just four miles from that of the chief executive a la Murdoch, and it was at her home that the now infamous Christmas party took place. She lives two miles from the town centre, in a luxury barn conversion, with her second husband, Old Etonian Charlie Brooks, the former jockey, horse trainer and now thriller writer. We now know that James Murdoch was also there for the get-together between the Camerons and Brooks. It was just after the party that Vince Cable, the business secretary and no fan of Rupert Murdoch’s, was relieved of his responsibility to decide on Murdoch’s attempt to take full control of BSkyB.
Ten minutes drive away lives Matthew Freud, the PR Guru, and his wife Elisabeth. They are at the heart of the ‘Set’ and are said to be immensely influential. Oh yes, Elisabeth is the daughter of Rupert Murdoch. A well know personality living nearby is Jeremy Clarkson, the ‘Top Gear’ presenter and columnist for The Sun. It was at his home that Elisabeth met her second husband, Charlie, an old pal of Cameron. In fact the prime minister turned up for the launch of his latest thriller. He was also happy to appear as ‘Top Gear’s’ The Stig in a video tribute at Clarkson’s 50th birthday party.
On Saturday the town held its festival but there was no sign of, to quote locals, the ‘Cameroons’. But several folk were happy to have their say. At the Chequers pub, David Hawker, suggested that the prime minister might want to “put some distance between himself and The Set. “It’s not ideal for the PM” was his verdict. Others are pretty annoyed at the way their beloved community has sprung to national notice. Don Davidson, a former mayor, said that “Chipping Norton should be known for real community spirit, not the outrageous things that have been taking place in Wapping”. The present mayor, Chris Butterworth, said that he would prefer his town to be known for more positive things”, and local resident Graeme Garden spoke out at the fete itself.
The former member of The Goodies said he spoke as one not invited to any of the parties held by The Set. Graeme has lived in Chipping Norton for thirty years and is less than enamoured with The Set. “I can think of more acceptable reasons for us to be put on the map, rather than through any association with sleazy journalsim” he complained.
Amen to that. As the old line has it, they are treading on my dreams. In those, Chipping Norton is still a lovely friendly place where everyone looks out for everyone else. I hate to see it portrayed as the home of a secretive, powerful clique that trades in deception and half-truths, that was prepared to hack into the phone of a murdered child.
I am striving to apply a mental censor and to delete the existence of such ghastly people from a place that served ice cream and doughnuts to small boys on long gone sunny summer days.
TODAYS PUB QUIZ; WHO WAS WHO? 1. Who became US President in 1992 when Governor of Arkensas? 2. Which playwright Arthur, an ex of Marilyn Monroe, died in 2005? 3. Which scientist gave his name to the process of pasteurisation? 4. Who left $9 million to give prizes in five different fields? 5. Did Tony Blair have one, three or five children when he became Prime Minister? 6. Who lit the fuse for the 1605 Gunpowder Plot? 7. Was it John Ford or Henry Ford who manufactured cars? 8. During which war did Anne Frank write her diary? 9. Indira Ghandhi was Prime Minister of which country? 10. John Paul Getty made his millions from which commodity?
Several of my allotment pals had a copy of the last ever edition of the News of the World in their pockets this morning. Some of them have been regular readers for many years and seemed genuinely sorry for the staff who have lost their jobs. Few of them had any involvement in the hacking scandal. Yesterday, Rupert Murdoch remarked that he is not in the business of pushing innocent people under buses. But that is exactly what he has done. He also stood by Rebekah Brooks who was in charge at the time of the worst excesses! That young lady appears to have powerful friends for Murdoch describes her as his ‘favourite daughter’ and the Scotland Yard Assistant Commissioner, John Yates, referred to her by her Christian name during an interview.
As the revelations unfold one thing above all others registers on the corruption scale. We are deluged with pictures of the Blairs, Browns and Camerons mingling constantly with the Murdoch clan. It seems that nothing was too much trouble for the disciples of the great man. We tend to imagine the United States system as corrupt, an assumption based on Nixon. But there the realtionship between politicians and media is a distinctly remote one. The kind of socialising that we see regularly here would be seen as improper. And it would be impossible to imagine Obama spending his Christmas Eve at the home of a press baron in the way that the Camerons did with Rebekah Brooks.
To the surprise of many, one politician has broken ranks by openly declaring war on the Murdoch empire. Ed Miliband initially demanded Brooks’ resignation and received warnings from Murdoch’s men that he would be targetted come the next election. Many of his MPs flinched at this, the longer-serving had been brought up to understand that keeping in with the all-powerful was crucial. But now he has gone one step further by launching a Commons bid this week to suspend the planned takeover of BSkyB until after the criminal investigation into phone hacking is complete – a process that could well take years.
The vote will be held on Wednesday, the day on which the Opposition sets the business of the Commons. On such a day, even if Miliband wins, it is not legally binding on Cameron and Hunt, the culture secretary. However the political fall-out from defying the House in support of Murdoch would be devastating. It is therefore safe to assume that what happens on Wednesday will destroy or endorse Murdoch’s ambition to control the greater part of the British media. So we at last have a clear test of just how deep the corruption runs.
The pundits believe that Miliband may well attract support from a lot of Liberal and Tory MPs. They may be proved wrong if Cameron and Clegg cobble together an escape route. One favourite might be to argue that approval of the deal should only be based on media plurality. Another might be some supposed concession or other offered by Murdoch. Despite his gaffe in declaring Andy Coulson to be a close friend, Cameron is a clever political operator and anything could happen. But the simple truth is that unless he and his ministers vote for the Miliband proposal they are deep in Murdoch’s pockets.
There are those in the Opposition who doubt the wisdom of what Miliband is doing and without doubt the new seven days per week Sun will be a dangerous enemy. But he appears to be that rare thing, a politician who is not prepared to be bought off. Without doubt were he able to deliver a majority demanding suspension of the takeover this would be a major rebuff for Murdoch. And that means that Cameron has to stop it to avoid also incurring the tycoon’s wrath. But on the other hand he risks incurring the wrath of the electorate which is repelled by what has happened.
Of course things are moving fast and almost anything could happen between now and Wednesday. Maybe even Miliband will lose his nerve. But whatever happens we will at last know exactly who is really dancing to the tune of an organisation that allowed the most appalling behaviour in the history of British newspapers!
Wednesday just could be not merely the end of the Murdoch dream of total power. It could also be the moment at which an historic clean-up of British politics began. One suspects that, even as I type, frantic talks are taking place between News Corp and its political lackeys!
JOIN ME TOMORROW FOR A NEW PUB QUIZ!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I cannot recall any story having quite the impact on my allotment pals of the one now developing around the News of the World. Several, who are regular readers, said this morning that they have bought their last copy. And it seems that they are not alone. Across the country a wave of revulsion is heading Murdoch’s way, advertisers are cancelling contracts and thousands are signing up to the ’38 Degrees’ petition demanding that the government reconsider its view that News Corp is a ‘fit and proper’ organisation to become the major power in the British media.
Each day brings fresh revelations of the phone hacking scandal. Until yesterday most of us had been fairly indifferent to stories of millionaire soccer players and their kind being subjected to intrusion. Suddenly we learned of the hacking of, and interference with, the phone of murdered schholgirl Milly Dowler. Now we are told that the same callous treatment was probably applied to Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman, the girls killed in Soham by Ian Huntley, as it was to their distraught parents. We also learn that Graham Foulkes, whose son was killed in the attack at Edgware Road tube station, has been advised by police that his details were also in the records made by Glenn Mulcaire.
Mulcaire has gone public with a profuse apology, claiming that he was under great pressure to do what he did by the News of the World. It seems inconceivable that the editorial staff did not know. Revelations will undoubtedly pour out over the next few days since the police appear to have held for a very long time a great deal of evidence. That of course raises the appalling suspicion that they turned a blind eye. Why? Pointedly News Corp yesterday insisted that payments were made to the police during the editorship of Andy Coulson. Indeed he and Rebekah Brooks seem implicated in all that went on.
And that is why the finger of shame is panning wide to include David Cameron in its range. He was known to be a friend of Brooks, some papers today suggest that his Witney kitchen was often the venue for informal chats. What we do know for sure is that over last Christmas he and his wife were entertained at her home. What we also know for sure is that he appointed Coulson to be his close adviser, and steadfastly defended him each time accusations were made.
Yesterday the politically astute prime minister spoke publicly of his being appalled at what has happened. Strangely he also chose to say that this could not affect the decision over the Murdoch takeover of BSkyB. Perhaps we are getting paranoid here but Cameron also fired Vince Cable when he was overheard to be criticising News Corp.
Things may worsen for Cameron yet. Perhaps a cornered Andy Coulson will reveal to what extent he told the prime minister what had happened, and was happening? Be that as it may there is only one way in which Cameron can restore his moral standing. He must ask Ofcom to review the conduct of News Corp companies and, meanwhile, he must suspend the authorising of the News Corp aquisition of shrares in BSkyB. If he fails to do this the vast majority will believe that he is hiding behind self-made rules to deliver the prize sought by his friends in the Murdoch juggernaut in return for favourable press coverage.
The long established Sunday newspaper is almost a British institution. Suddenly it is a loathed one and David Cameron would be well advised to demonstrate quickly that he identifies with that sentiment.
ANSWERS TO YESTERDAY’S EGGHEADS QUIZ; 1. Orange 2. Jennifer Saunders 3. Madonna 4. London and Birmingham 5. Unchained Melody 6. Goldcrest 7. 18 8. Martin 9. Cricket 10. 1940s
It has to be admitted that we chicken-keepers are to be numbered amongst the masses who help the tabloid press to rake in the cash. We have always realised that many of their exclusives are based on information obtained illegally but, to be honest, we have never been too horrified at the revelations about pop-stars and the like. They take their millions and must expect intrusion probably sums up our view, always assuming that we had one at all. But suddenly we really are horrified at what Labour MP Tom Watson yesterday described as a “despicable and evil act”.
Today’s Guardian reveals that the News of the World hacked Milly Dowler’s phone during the police hunt for the missing schoolgirl. Even worse it deleted voice mails to make room for more incoming frantic appeals to the young girl, an action that led friends and relatives to conclude wrongly that Milly might still be alive and risked destroying evidence. Small wonder that the Dowler family yesterday issued a statement describing the paper’s action as “heinous” and “despicable”. In effect the News of the World was listening to, and recording, every private word, every desperate plea for Milly to get in touch. When her voicemail box filled up, the newspaper’s employees deleted the messages left in the first few days after her disappearance.
According to the Guardian, the paper paid a private Hampshire investigator, Steve Whittamore, to track down phone numbers, two of which were “blagged” illegally from BT’s confidential records. Then with the help of its own private investigator, Glenn Mulcaire, the paper began its “hacking”.
At that time the editor was Rebekah Brooks, now Rupert Murdoch’s chief UK executive. The deputy editor was Andy Coulson. Both have strong links with David Cameron, the former having entertained Cameron at her home over Christmas, the latter having been his media adviser. It seems extremely unlikely that they did not know what was happening. Indeed Paul McMullan, one of Brook’s assistant editors, is on record as having said that he personally commissioned several hundred acts that could be regarded as unlawful and that senior editors were aware of this. Former showbusiness reporter, Sean Hoare, is also on record as telling the New York Times that he was actively encouraged by Coulson to hack into voicemail. Clearly the paper had come to see itself as above the law, in fact Brooks claimed at one time to have paid the police for information.
Since this latest, and most shocking of all, revelation has come to light during the period when culture secretary Jeremy Hunt is deciding whether to nod through the bid by Murdoch’s News Corp to take over BSkyB, one would have imagined that even he would be concerned at the conduct of what will become the major media organisation in the UK. But it seems not. The only MP to speak out has been Tom Watson who told Newsnight that leaders of all parties received “plenty of hints” that something murky was going on. “That’s the biggest scandal of the lot”, he said. “Politicians are frightened of News International and they need to act”. The only other dissenting voice was that of John Prescott, himself a victim of hacking. He revealed on Twitter that he was writing to Hunt demanding he block News Corp’s bid.
But they may prove to be voices crying in the wilderness. The Labour Party stopped short of calling for a re-examination of whether News International could be regarded as fit and proper to take over BSkyB. The Conservative party did the same, an inevitability given the personal links that its senior members have with the Murdoch organisation.
Just how close are we as a society to being corrupt? We have the gutter press plumbing ever greater depths, we have police who clearly have been very reluctant to investigate, we have politicans at the top who appear to be in cohorts with the alleged perpetrators of what Milly’s grieving family call “heinous” crimes.
The sad answer is : very close indeed!
TODAY’S NEW EGGHEADS QUIZ; GENERAL KNOWLEDGE; 1. In international soccer, what is the main colour of Holland’s shirts? 2. Who is older; Ruby Wax or Jennifer Saunders? 3. “Into the Groove” gave a first UK No 1 for which singer? 4. Which two cities were linked by the M1 whwn it first opened? 5. Which song was a British No ! for Jimmy Young, the Righteous Brothers, Robson & Jerome and Gareth Gates? 6. What is Britain’s smallest songbird? 7. How many sides are there in a pair of nonagons? 8. Which George was the main producer of the Beatles hits? 9. E W Swanton wrote about which sport? 10. Was Joanna Lumley born in the 1940s, 50s or 60s?