Whilst the damning select committee report on phone hacking is entirely welcome, it is also not very surprising. The political class have lost their fear of Murdoch and he has well and truly lost his hold over them, and I’m sure he knows it.
Rejoice. Great news. We can all sleep a little more soundly at night knowing that this malignant presence once at the centre of British political life has had his wings clipped.
I’m pleased that he Murdoch and his empire have been condemned so strongly by a majority of the select committee. But it wasn’t just phone hacking that made Murdoch unfit to run a large company.
And obviously it’s super-great to see that News International as a whole, at all levels of the once all-consuming media behemoth, has been condemned. What happened over the years wasn’t the consequence of one man’s actions and the whole ‘rogue reporter’ excuse was of course a scandalous perversion of the truth. Phone hacking as a practice was deep rooted, had been given the nod from the very top of the organisation and was a cancer eating away the heart of public life. Huge swathes of the political and policing establishment are implicated in one way or another.
The inconvenient truth though is that the problem of Murdoch goes back a generation, the problem hasn’t suddenly gone away with this report and it is a problem that has infected many members of our political class, whatever party they might be in. It didn’t begin with Cameron promising Murdoch that he would clip the knackers of Ofcom and Jeremy Hunt not very subtly supporting Murdoch’s bid for the rest of BskyB.
Margaret Thatcher almost certainly waved through Murdoch’s purchase of the Times and Sunday Times back in 1981 after lobbying from the media mogul, and since then politicians in both of the main parties have routinely grovelled before the Australian. We all know how sickeningly incestuous the relationship was with Tony Blair, but it also wasn’t that long ago that Ed Miliband and even Gordon Brown were supping at the court of King Rupert, and Neil Kinnock wasted the late 80s worrying what the Murdoch press would say about him and tried, fruitlessly, to tailor Labour policy to their whims.
Alex Salmond, who appears less and less left-wing (and shrewd) as the days go by is still doing it even now.
Swearing fealty to the News International stable was until very recently seen as a rite of passage for any aspiring mainstream politician, putative Prime Minister or party leader and their party’s policy agenda had to reflect the wishes and prejudices of Murdoch.
But all the politicians who did his bidding and kissed his arse (however enthusiastically matters not, the results were the same) did so of their own free will. No one made them do it. It was the easy, painless option, even if in the long term they completely compromised themselves by associating with him. There was an alternative. Not a nice one admittedly, but the right one, and we would all be better off had someone done this before Tom Watson and Chris Bryant took it upon themselves to take a stand.
It’s obviously good to see that Labour from the leader down are going after Murdoch and NI with all the fury of a lover scorned.
It’s a shame they didn’t do it 20 years ago though.
And tomorrow the Murdoch press (and all of the other right-wing media groups) will be continuing to drip-feed the British people lies, half-truths, the agenda of the 1% and the deliberately divisive, ill-informed prejudice that appears in the likes of the Sun and the Times.
We’ve luckily escaped the fate of America, where the national discourse has been poisoned by the truly awful Fox News. But what we are left with isn’t a whole lot better.