The great Murdoch conspiracy
15 July, 2011
This article in yesterday’s Telegraph is the most interesting and effective summary (so far, and to my eyes) of the infection of British politics by the Murdoch virus. The relegation of the role of Westminster to a bit player in policy formation, and an afterthought in policy announcement, has echoes in the Irish political scene.
Here are a couple of extracts from a fascinating article.
During the Blair years, News International executives, Mrs Brooks among them, would attend the annual Labour Party conference, but they were scarcely treated as journalists. When Tony Blair gave his leadership speech, they would be awarded seats just behind the cabinet, as if they had been co-opted into the Government. Arguably they had. The first telephone call that Blair made after he had escaped from the conference hall was routinely to Rupert Murdoch himself….
…There was a very sinister element to these relationships. At exactly the same time that Mrs Brooks was getting on so famously with the most powerful men and women in Britain, the employees of her newspapers (as we now know) were listening in to their voicemails and illicitly gaining access to deeply personal information.
One News of the World journalist once told me how this information would be gathered into dossiers; sometimes these dossiers were published, sometimes not. The knowledge that News International held such destructive power must have been at the back of everyone’s minds at the apparently cheerful social events where the company’s executives mingled with their client politicians.
Let’s take the case of Tessa Jowell. When she was Culture Secretary five years ago, News International hacked into her phone and spied on her in other ways. What was going on amounted to industrial espionage, since Ms Jowell was then charged with the regulation and supervision of News International, and the media group can scarcely have avoided discovering commercially sensitive information, even though its primary purpose was to discover details about Ms Jowell’s private life.
Couldn’t happen here, of course. Irish politicians traditionally don’t have a great fear of what newspapers might reveal: the thicker the envelope, the thicker the skin.