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Saturday 11 July 2009

Murdoch is Served (6)

Still rumbling on, Phonehackgate has been lent another twist by the highlighting of yet another coincidence of view between Rupert Murdoch’s business interests and proposed Tory Party policy. I mentioned yesterday that David Cameron’s standing by his communications chief Andy Coulson, one of the Murdoch “family”, may play well with Rupe. Today, Guardian columnist Polly Toynbee, favoured hate figure of many on the right (some of whom occasionally manage a coherent written critique) has pointed out another connection.

I reviewed Young Dave’s speech earlier this week on the Quangocracy, noting that he was aiming specifically at Ofcom, the media regulator. What I had forgotten in the meantime was that Ofcom has proposed cuts in the price that Murdoch owned Sky charges other providers to air its content – the proposed cuts being because Sky enjoys a monopoly in areas such as new movies and sport, and those prices are perceived to be higher than they would be in a genuinely competitive marketplace.

Rupe’s troops didn’t like that at all. The routinely obedient Sun went Ofcom bashing, showing the hacks throwing their toys out of the newsroom pram in some style. So the statement by Cameron that Ofcom would cease to exist in its current form chimes remarkably well with the Murdoch wish list. Communications minister Stephen Carter, not surprisingly, is of a dissenting view, calling Dave’s comments “somewhere between superficial and ill-informed”.

Whether ill-informed or not, Cameron is now firmly on Murdoch’s wavelength: even the Tory move to create a new right wing grouping in the European Parliament chimes with Rupe’s longstanding hatred of the EU. News International and the Tory Party are – coincidentally or otherwise – becoming more interdependent. Now into this new and apparently harmonious relationship has been thrown the phone hacking grenade. How should Young Dave respond? After all, we’re talking about illegal acts here. Forthright condemnation must follow – mustn’t it?

Apparently not. Thus far, Dave has spoken only to defend Andy Coulson, and confirm his communications chief in his post. The silence has continued as more has been revealed this morning by the Guardian on the payouts made by News International which included a gagging clause. But then, so what? Does it matter?

Yes it does. When we go to the polls, we elect those on the ballot, and expect the Government formed from a majority of those who were successful to do the governing. The revelation by former Labour insider Lance Price that, during Tony Blair’s premiership, decisions waited on the opinions of three men – John Prescott, Gordon Brown and Rupert Murdoch – shows that others get involved.

That’s not good enough. We don’t need an interfering foreigner sticking his oar in.

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