While the British papers are tonight full of long lists of people who have won damages against Newscorp for hacking their phones – the cost is running into more and more millions for Rupert Murdoch – let us remember that to date, not a single culpable person in this entire saga – a year and seven days in the making – has been tried, convicted or gone to jail apart from one reporter and his private detective sub-contractor six years ago.
I know I bang on about this quite a bit, but it’s been seven weeks since I wrote about it at all – and this is what bothers me. During that time, I’ve monitored reports in the business press around the world, watched endless former Murdoch employees perjure themselves on live TV, and followed up leads about Newscorp investigations in the US. My conclusion after all that is this: while the Leveson Enquiry will one day report its findings, by the time the learned Peer gets round to doing that, one helluva lot of trails will have gone cold. I am beginning to wonder just what, if anything, British citizens are going to get for all this expenditure.
The EU meltdown and UK economic imbalance have intervened to take our eyes off this crucially important media ball. During the time that Rupert Murdoch has been paying out all this money, he has personally realised an amount of wealth in share sales equal to seven times the total damages…damages which, in themselves, are but a flea-bite on his leathery Australian bum. This man who could barely remember the names of his newspapers in front of the CM&S committee is rumoured to be planning an entirely new media venture with his equally cash-rich daughter. He has given a typically erudite speech in Asia about the future of media. He has been at the forefront of Congressional lobbying to control what we do and don’t hear on the internet. And he has had the usual massive influence upon the fortunes of those running for Presidential office in the US, via a pernicious mixture of Fox News falsehood and huge retainers paid to legislators.
His son remains at large, free from so much as a police interview; and his former CEO is swanning round the globe using a company car and full expenses. His former News of the World Editor and Number Ten mole has still to be charged with any specific offence. Former MDs, financial directors, group controllers, and senior journalists fingered by numerous witnesses as both complicit in the scandal, and serial perjurors, are still free. In fact, every former everyone in Rupert Murdoch’s twisted life story of bribery, evasion, and perversion of justice is exactly that: formerly questioned, but not formally arraigned as such.
Newscorp shareholder meetings have come and gone. The shareholders are happy: things are stable, and the Newscorp numbers are improving. Gradually – but more quickly with every week – the toxic dust of this scandal is settling.
David Cameron too has gone from panic to strength. He has – allegedly – told the eurocrats where to get off. Every Wednesday he toys with the student politician who faces him, lip quivering with self-pity, across the Commons chamber. He grins inanely and untouchably despite the obvious waste of £30-50bn on a pointless rail infrastructure gesture. He avoids questions about further IMF contributions, and lectures the Europeans about their mistakes. And he blames the EU for an economic disaster that began to take shape long before any of the current nonsense appeared. There is, today, no credible alternative to the Prime Minister in or out of the Conservative Party.
Yet this is a man up to his neck in an intimate and extremely far-reaching relationship with senior Newscorp executives….a relationship (few people today doubt) which was designed to usurp the BBC’s position, and replace it with the wanton commercial vandalism of a triumphant Murdoch Newscorp. How close, through the bad offices of Jeremy Hunt, we came to that outcome. Without Milly Dowler, it would’ve happened.
Nor was David Cameron (and several of his colleagues, including the wriggly Chancellor) alone in this. The senior echelons of the Met Police stand accused by association of complicity in a dining club which carried on troughing….regardless of an ongoing investigation by those very policemen into the news leviathon’s nefarious activities. This is the stuff of which African republics are justly accused: this was Britain under New Labour – and even more enthusiastically so under the Camerlot Coalition.
I am – sadly, but acutely – aware of the fact that if Murdoch’s henchmen stay out of jail, and the old bastard himself winds up dominating the British televisual sector, very few British citizens will give a monkey’s chuff. The vast majority, in fact, will applaud: for very few media moguls understand the arid, low-brow, brainlessly smirking and feckless mentality of the poorly educated and easily stimulated Brit in quite the way that Rupert Murdoch does. He has, let’s face it, played no little part in the breeding of that brute since he so unfortunately landed on these shores over forty years ago.
During those five decades, Murdoch has lied to editors, readers, non-exec directors, lawyers, judges, Parliamentary enquiries, MPs, Prime Ministers, Presidents, wives, children, and anyone else whose trust it was his aim to misplace. Unscathed by fines and unsullied by a criminal record, he stands as a nasty, pulsating example to everyone of just what murder you can get away with…if you have enough power, blackmail, tapes, and money.
The only remaining ambition now for all those who have been involved in stopping this monster – even if only temporarily – is to see the police, judiciary and politicians do the job for which they are paid: to collar the accused, give them a fair trial, and despatch the guilty to very long prison sentences at the earliest opportunity. For myself, I have to admit to having had a belly-full of TV testimony, arrogant transatlantic perjury, and amateur loose-cannon interrogation by lightweight MPs thirsty for media glory. I want to see raids, I want to see policemen collared, I want to see litigious former security cops brought to book, flame-haired editors in jail, and arrogantly obfuscating chat-show morons in the dock. But most of all I want to see some justice.
If we cannot show those of our people sophisticated enough to understand equality before the law that it still exists, then what is the point of Michael Gove taking on the political activists of our mediocre education Establishment? Why should Iain Duncan-Smith bother to produce an efficient, fair and humanitarian welfare system? Why not just let Lansley flog the NHS to BUPA, or let the Sir Humphreys carry on being greedily incompetent, or smile as senior policemen and MoD officials fire useful people as opposed to themselves? Sod it – give Tesco a free hand to rape every community we have, let the lobbyists blithely swan about Westminster with their grubby deals, let the bankers empty every Treasury and foreclose on every small business, let Brussels cheat its citizens out of every democratic decision, bring in internet regulation to favour the Big Boys…..to hell with it, let’s look the other way.
Might is not right. It’s time the people we elect, and employ, made their commitment to that principle clear. Let’s see, as 2012 unfolds, whether they live up to their jobs….or lie through their teeth.