Rupert Murdoch always saw himself as a revolutionary. He blustered onto the scene in the United Kingdom with a singular aim: to take on the entrenched elite – the highly conservative establishment and the liberal elites who went some of the way to keeping the establishment in check – and deprive them of their power. His attack was ruthless, long and, for a time, successful.
But as with all things under his domain, Murdoch singularly failed to see the world change around him when seeing that change wouldn’t suit his vision of himself, and the world. He was all too happy to enjoy the perks of the power he wound up wielding over the UK’s political class – the elite he came to conquer.
But what he failed to recognise was that they weren’t the establishment if they were singing to his tune. He was the establishment. And what goes around comes around.
There comes a time in the reign of any despot when he creates his own worst enemy, and even hands that enemy the weapon needed to beat him. It’s an unavoidable fact. Power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely. And when you’re absolutely corrupted by absolute power, arrogance is unavoidable. And arrogance seeped out of every pore of the News Corp operation. From Rupert’s stubborn insistence that Paywalls online will work (When they patently do not – his own efforts at The Times and sunday Times are laughingstock loss-makers) to James Murdoch, the heir apparent, having the audacity to lecture the media on how the BBC is corrupt, News Corp has conducted itself with unmissable swagger over the past few years in particular.
The news colossus had thought itself untouchable because, rightly or wrongly, it was perceived as the opinion maker. Sometimes the appearance of the ability to sway opinion is as powerful as that actual ability. It’s like when someone says “I’m not saying so and so is a murderer, I’m just saying he hasn’t said he’s not”. The status as the opinion maker was enough to allow them to frame the public narrative their way.
This arrogance spread like a cancer. It started at the top, with Murdoch’s diabolical grip on the corridors of power in Whitehall, and spread all the way down. Until finally, it infected some of the journalists, who saw their leaders picking and choosing whose political careers flourished and therefore assumed their publications were untouchable – Murdoch always got his way. And repercussions were dealt out to those who wronged his people.
And that’s when News International signed its own death warrant. And probably that of (At least part of) its global parent, News Corp.
Which brings us to how the deed was done. It was all deliciously simple. People working for News International – under the watch of James Murdoch, Andy Coulson and Rebekah Brooks – used illegal means to get their stories. And they did it a lot. And then they made the ultimate mistake: they let arrogance erode common sense and put themselves on the wrong side of certain public outrage.
When it was just celebrities and politicians believed to be victims of the widespread use of illegal investigative tactics, the sad fact is the vast majority of the public couldn’t bring themselves to care. This is pretty understandable. News International has orchestrated a culture of austerity, which has the masses more concerned with their own lives than the whinging of their oppressors (the politicians) and the better off (celebrities).
When you think about it, that was almost the perfect crime. Murdoch got his neo-conservative austerity programmes implemented and was able to use the atmosphere they created to smokescreen the dirty laundry used to get there. But then there’s that arrogance thing. The journalists responsible were blinded by their perceived invincibility.
They did the same thing to the public. Worse, to murder victims and grieving families. They crossed the moral event horizon.
And even more stupidly, they didn’t do a terrific job covering their tracks. Imagine that: journalists dedicated to finding scandalous scoops didn’t properly cover the tracks of their illegal dealings. What arrogance! Did they think that aside from being invulnerable to government and judicial intervention, the rest of the Fourth Estate was beholden to Murdoch just like the corridors of power? Or did they simply forget their power was not the result of superiority over their colleagues?
Whatever the manner of their hubris, they were undone by journalists doing real journalism.
The Guardian blew the doors off the whole thing over the course of a few years (They wanted to move faster, but judicial processes slowed things down). And once they blew the lid, everyone else seized the opening.
And really, it’s also amazing that News Corp didn’t see that coming too. The sheer arrogance of the operation is frankly incomprehensible. They were either so corrupt they were basically blind or else the outfit was run by a bunch of idiots. More likely, both.
For the truth is, News International and its parent have not done a great job making friends. All their “friends” were the politicians. And even they were never really friends. More brown nosers. Perhaps News Corp’s biggest error of judgment was in making rivals like the BBC, Trinity Mirror, Telegraph Media, Guardian Media and more not simply dislike them, but despise them.
Indeed, the enemies of News International in many ways needed to Kill the King to ensure their own survival. News International was the biggest game in town, and if they got a hold of the rest of BSkyB whilst managing to force the BBC – the only legitimate competitor to News International in terms of size – to cutback, scale down…Well the future was bleak for everybody else. Trinity Mirror, the sole remaining truly Left-Wing voice as it was would have been an especially big concern.
After all, what if The Sun crushed The Mirror, and then there was an election where the Indy and the Guardian endorsed the shamed Lib Dems again? All the papers in the UK endorsing the right wing and their lap dogs? That’s a chilling thought.
Meanwhile, what response could Virgin Media have had to the sudden massive escalation in size and power for its entrenched, larger rival – BSkyB? They already have to be in an uneasy partnership with them because of BSkyB’s borderline anti-competitive stranglehold on content. A combined News International-Sky could have snuffed out Virgin Media in a heartbeat. And all this whilst the BBC was thrown to the wolves by the News International attack dogs – the Conservative-led Coalition of the Losers.
So every player in the game had reason to let loose the dogs of war at the first sign of weakness in the King’s Castle. Worse still for News International, they had made an enemy of an old ally: they duplicitously went back to supporting the Tories after Gordon Brown’s (Initially hugely popular) Labour Party made overtures to going its own way on the back of Brown’s initial success. Call a snap election, win, and then be able to lead without Murdoch’s interference. That was the plan.
George Osborne, thinking himself clever, encouraged the ailing new leader of the washed up Tories to take the opportunity to become the new News International golden boy. Cameron went ahead with it. He hired Coulson, came to think of him and Rebekah Brooks as friends, followed their advice, did as Murdoch instructed. But more on the Tories later.
With the News International attack dogs forcing Labour out of power, the new boy came on scene. Ed Miliband. A politician in a mould so fresh the press kept trying to brush him aside rather than bother trying to comprehend it. The press had gotten lazy. They wanted politicians to be artificial people – puppets controlled by the Andy Coulsons of the world lurching from crisis to crisis with spin and PR. Ed Miliband is a straight-shooter. He talks like a human being. He was one of so-called “saints” of the expenses scandal. Murdoch, the epitome of press arrogance, dismissed Miliband because he didn’t understand him. The News Corp top brass didn’t consider this man a threat.
Oh how very, very wrong.
Miliband was the worst possible man for Cameron to face across the Dispatch Box when News Corp blew up in his face. Ed was on the right side of public outrage. Ed was no News International apologist. He wasn’t paying that game. He didn’t need to hop on the bandwagon, because in the political sphere he was the man driving it. Sincerely. And he was surely in no mood to be cautious. News International deposed his Party and assaulted his leadership.
Fitting then that is Ed Miliband who will probably Kill the King this coming Wednesday, by showing the leadership the Prime Minister lacks and leading the House of Parliament into a vote to block the BSkyB takeover bid which has so infatuated the Murdochs.
Welcome to the rise and rise of The Rt Hon. Ed Miliband, MP – The Leader of Her Majesty’s Most Loyal Opposition and likely The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland’s Seventy-Sixth Prime Minister.
But let’s get back to the Tories, they who were the last ones tied to the News International Pole when the music stopped (And, really, the ones who have mostly been in that position – Murdoch is a dreadful right-wing dinosaur and his family are much the same. That’s part of why they hate Ed Miliband, he comes from the core Centre-Left bedrock of Labour, where the Labour activists mostly lie). You’re probably wondering why I’m now so certain Ed Miliband will ascend to the Premiership when last week it looked like a tough ask (At least according to some analyses).
The Conservative-led Coalition of the Losers is held together by duct tape and the fact Nick Clegg is spineless. Had he not made the Coalition pact, Clegg would have been politically finished. Most Party Leaders would resign for doing far better than Clegg did. Gordon Brown did, for example. Many of us gave the Coalition two years at most before collapsing when it was formed. It turned out, Clegg was even more toothless and spineless than we thought. So we revised our assessments: it was going to run to term. Meanwhile, the presumed dissenting voices in the Lib Dems failed to step up to the plate. Rather than voting “no,” they would abstain like cowards.
So the Coalition, with its politically gerrymandered foundations and supports, looked set to rock on. After all, it was politically impossible for the Lib Dems to leave the Tories, they had all the toxicity. The Tories had somehow escaped. The Lib Dems were finished if they rebelled and the Tories would call a snap election they’d likely win.
But now, the Conservative Party’s leader, the Prime Minister David Cameron, has allowed himself to be seen to be on the wrong side of public outrage, whilst the Honourable Gentleman opposite him was The Public’s Voice in Tough Times. Cameron has had to back down, capitulate to Miliband’s demands. And still he has failed to move from the wrong side of public outrage by failing to apologise for hiring Coulson, by failing to call for Rebekah Brooks to be immediately fired.
And we now know there are more awful things about News International’s actions set to come out. So how can Cameron afford to be seen to be standing by any of the Chipping Norton set? He can’t, not really. The time then is ripe for Clegg to recognise his folly last year and bite the hand which has had him by the collar.
The Lib Dems can whack the Tories mercilessly on this, leap to Labour’s side, the side of public outrage, condemn their partner’s actions. And all the toxicity is flung onto the Tories in one fell swoop. Memories are short. Sure, Clegg will probably still lose his seat if he stands at the next General Election, but if he grows some balls and punishes the Tories for the public, some of his failings will be forgiven and he can be safely deputised to Europe by the inevitable Labour Government.
Have the Lib Dems set a date? No. Ed Miliband has though. This coming Wednesday. This coming Wednesday, the Coalition Government will be rocked by the fact that Ed Miliband commands a Majority in the Commons, however briefly. But once the Lib Dems and the factions within the Tory Party who want Cameron out have rebelled en masse once, what’s the point in stopping? Especially if the situation with News International and Cameron worsens. How long can Cameron reasonably expect to command a Majority?
I give it till no later than the end of October at this rate. Something unforeseen may occur to allow them to cling on, or the Lib Dems might be cowards after all. But barring that, the Government will likely collapse once Coulson et. al. are hauled back into the Old Bill. I could see the Lib Dems publicly trumpeting their future independence at their conference, Miliband preparing his Party to return to power at theirs, and Cameron resigning at theirs. It’s so beautiful in my mind.
Of course, it’s just the dream right now. But this is the moment in time we’re at. Revolution. It’s exhilarating, especially for those of us on the left, the progressives. We live for this. And it’s all the sweeter to turn the cannons on Murdoch, a man who once claimed the mantle of revolutionary, only to out-establishment the establishment.
The trouble, as I see it, is that whilst the downfalls of News International and their attempts to ensnare BSkyB are both inevitable (More on that in Part 2), the downfall of the Tories rests with the Lib Dems and Nick Clegg, a man of no political courage or power at present.
Still, the prospect of News Corp losing its 39% of BSkyB (Never mind failing to get the rest) is plenty exciting. We stand at a fork in the road. Ahead lies a bold new future of media plurality here in the UK. That’s down both paths. But down one, the age of austerity continues.
On the other road, the age of austerity withers and dies. Labour rebuilds this country and we all get back on with fulfilling the British Promise.
Remember this moment in time when we eventually do go to the polls, whenever it may be. 2011, 2012, 2014, whenever. It was Ed Miliband at the forefront of the Revolution. Ed Miliband leading for the people.
Turn Left, Go Forth: Vote Labour. A Future Fair for All, Free from News International’s Influence.