Murdoch and the Tories
The following article was written by Peter Oborne in the Telegraph, the parish magazine of the Tory party. After reading it you may well have to pinch yourself and double-check that yes, it really appeared in the Torygraph.
“Mr Cameron and his close circle have emerged as the main public champions of News International. They are bravely – some would say wilfully – refusing to accept that the Murdoch system, as it flourished under Blair, Brown and early Cameron, is finished.
This posture first became apparent in February, when Michael Gove, the Education Secretary, launched an attack on the Leveson Inquiry while making a speech to journalists in the House of Commons. In a gigantic grovel to the Murdoch press, Mr Gove (a former News International employee) asserted that Leveson was in danger of producing a “cure that is worse than the original disease”. Yesterday, the Foreign Secretary, William Hague (who was paid a fortune for writing a News of the World column when the Conservatives were in opposition), was at it again, with a defence of the media tycoon on the BBC.
The Prime Minister has shown a similar moral blindness, with adamantine support for Jeremy Hunt after the Culture Secretary’s grotesquely biased handling of the Murdoch bid for BSkyB. Mr Cameron’s refusal to sanction an official inquiry into Mr Hunt’s dreadful conduct is extraordinary, and reinforces the impression that the Government has something to hide.
Now we can turn to the House of Commons Culture, Media and Sport select committee, which has split along party lines over Mr Murdoch’s management of his News International titles. The Labour and Liberal Democrat members judge that Mr Murdoch is “not a fit person” to run an international company. The Tory members disagree, so voted against the report.
There have long been concerns about the Conservative members of this committee. John Whittingdale, its chairman, has links with News International going back over a number of years. One of his Tory colleagues, Louise Mensch, is an attention-seeker who last year abused parliamentary privilege to make unfounded accusations of illegal conduct involving another newspaper group, thereby widening the scandal beyond News International.
Even if the motives of these MPs were entirely honourable, they have placed the Conservative Party in a wretched place as the chief partner and public supporter of News International. This is a wonderful free gift to Mr Miliband. As the New York Times reported yesterday, in a well-informed and judicious report, “part of the Labour strategy will be to tie Mr Cameron inseparably to Mr Murdoch and his senior executives in Britain, some of whom were Mr Cameron’s close confidants”.
This strategy goes from strength to strength. Think of what lies ahead. Soon, Jeremy Hunt must appear before the Leveson Inquiry and answer questions about those deeply improper emails between his special adviser and Rupert Murdoch’s lobbyist. Then Mr Cameron himself will face a lengthy session at Leveson, probably in late May.
A fresh embarrassment concerns Rebekah Brooks, who providentially retained the text messages she received from the Prime Minister, which I’m told could exceed a dozen a day. These may now be published, a horrible thought. Next year it is possible that some of Mr Cameron’s closest allies and friends, including Andy Coulson, the former Downing Street director of communications, will go on trial. Apart from anything else, these reminders of the Prime Minister’s poor judgment will reinforce the popular belief that he is arrogant, louche and only comfortable as a member of some elitist set.
Here are the News International crowd: Tony Blair, Gordon Brown, Peter Mandelson, David Miliband, David Blunkett, John Reid, Tessa Jowell, Michael Gove, George Osborne, William Hague. David Cameron, John Whittingdale and Jeremy Hunt (as well as Mr Hunt’s brainless sidekick, Ed Vaizey) should also be added to this list.
And here are the refuseniks: Vince Cable, Tom Watson, George Galloway, Iain Duncan Smith, Owen Paterson, Dominic Grieve, Ken Clarke. This is a much shorter list. My hunch is that their integrity has paid off and we are coming to the end of the Murdoch era, which was based around a cult of celebrity, collusion, criminality and deceit.
Something wonderful may be happening to British politics: the air at Westminster is becoming cleaner and fresher. Mr Miliband, always under-rated as Labour leader, has woken up to this defining story of our age much faster than Mr Cameron and his amoral strategists. That is why he has been able to convert the News International phone hacking and corruption scandal into Tory sleaze. The Conservatives need to wake up fast.”
Peter Oborne Daily Telegraph 3/5/12