The undeserved privilege of those above the law is the problem government must tackle.
Once again the insistent tentacles of Newscorp are seen everywhere in the British political process. Once again, a Rupert Murdoch title stands in the dock, accused of privacy invasion. And once again, these are revealed as the revenge of an old man who – as a young man – was ridiculed at Oxford, and never forgave the British Establishment.
Before we all lose sight of what’s been going on here in a murky hypocrisy of feigned Party political outrage, let us summarise the background. For over thirty years now, Newscorp’s owner has been trying to decide the outcome of British elections – with a large degree of success. He swung all his media empire behind New Labour, and before that Thatcher – the two victories which, I still contend, together destroyed most of the England I love. (I can’t talk for Wales or Scotland).
One of his newspapers illegally hacked into the Establishment he had grown to hate: above all the Royal family – and what New Labour became over time. This same New Labour who’d licked Rupert all over between 1997 and 2006 for electoral purposes is now calling for the Prime Minister’s head because he did precisely the same thing after 2007.
David Cameron did so because he believes (as do most of the political class) that you can’t win an election in the UK any more without Murdoch’s approval. And because the PM thought it would be ‘a smart move’, he also hired Murdoch’s disgraced editor Andy Coulson as his spin doctor.
Because it suits their book in turn, the UK media set has thus far chosen to present this grimy series of events as an issue about Cameron’s judgement. And that is fair to a small extent. But the real issues here remain the ones that have plagued us for some years now: when should the press butt out of privacy? How can we make the police apolitical again? and how can we reduce the power of the media moguls who so love to hobnob with those they believe can return their favours?
The Government is currently rushing into a privacy law of which almost everyone is justly suspicious; but at the same time, that commentariat grudgingly believes it necessary to protect the private citizen so obviously being abused and bullied by the red-top monsters. As the Slog has asserted frequently in the past, super-injunctions in particular and the cost of legal services in general ensure that the advantage currently lies with the rich and privileged. Whether footballers, politicians – or ironically, media stars – these people and their agents of redress have perverted, and nearly inverted, the purpose of British justice.
Caught red-handed hacking into the private media of people in public life, Coulson’s News of the World grinned insolently at the legal implications of their actions, while Coulson himself quite incredibly suggested that he knew nothing about them….activities that were common knowledge in Wapping.
Here again, however, we come face to face with the boys in blue: the same shower who turn up at private addresses and make accusations of homophobia; who blithely walk into Parliament without a warrant and start rifling the desks of elected officials; who, when faced with an obviously illegal privacy invasion, ‘don’t want to get involved’; who curry favour by going on diversity courses; and who won’t come out of their police stations for any crime lower than serial homicide.
Careerism is driving the police in the direction of becoming merely enforcers for the Government of the day – a sort of more gentlemanly Gestapo if you will, in that they always obey orders, but couldn’t solve an apolitical crime to save their stripes. Most noticeable of all is the contemporary copper’s unwillingness to upset those with powerful connections.
Thus, both the legal and investigative arms of justice are beholden to the tiny privileged minority. And yet – irony of ironies – it is only an insistent media set that has forced the hand of the Met, and made them reopen an investigation that should never have been closed.
And there is the rub: we need the media, and we need a good police force. This is no different to needing bankers and trade unions -providing they stick to their assigned roles. But when a craven quasi-political police force threatens liberty, and a media owner perverts the sovereignty of Parliament, we have a problem.
This problem will not be solved by asking first for Coulson’s head, and then Cameron’s. It might suit the book of the Progressives and the Tory Dinosaurs to destabilise the Coalition (and Chris Huhne in particular is in a sticky position here) but these people are merely symptoms, not the malaise itself.
Rather, what this shameful series of events demands is first, tougher action by Theresa May at the Home Office – to do to the police what Thatcher did to the Unions after 1979: point them back to their heartland and publics.
Second, we must curtail those unfettered powers of the media being flagrantly abused by their journalists and owners. Two immediate and obvious examples here are the establishment of private property rights to stop tabloid sociopaths camping in gardens and yelling though letter-boxes; and a convention between the Parties that they will remain in all realistic senses at arm’s length from those owning powerful media interests.
Third, alongside any privacy law must come a draconian attack on legal reptiles and their ludicrous gagging orders. This applies as much to the corrupt Secret Family Courts as it does to the Carter Rucks of this world hiding Wayne Rooney’s sexual obsessions from the public. ‘Right to know’ will remain a difficult area – but both legal and media powers have increased, and ought to be diminished.
Like a broken record, The Slog returns in conclusion to familiar themes: specifically, we must swallow our bile and accept that the only way we will get clean politics is by funding them out of the public purse and issuing a blanket ban on any and all political contributions. And generally, we should never forget that ‘class’ is a red herring when discussing the problems of Britain in 2010. Britain’s core problems are all cultural, but the culture of privilege is the one slowly destroying our ethics, values, and economic system.
The following groups enjoy unwarranted privileges in 2010 UK: senior civil servants, politicians, Islamic clerics, bankers, the media, the rich, celebs, the judiciary, social services, non-doms, pregnant and ethnic women in the workplace, trade unions (still), property developers, unelected political advisers, and local government officials. Even taking into account those feather beds I’ve missed, this list is far, far too long. Unless we attack unearned privilege in all its forms, the Andy Coulsons and the Rupert Murdochs will -like the poor – always be with us.