While our free and fearless press woke up overnight to the threat of Russian interference in the UK’s various democratic processes, with the Daily Mail being particularly righteous, one rather worse and indeed longstanding stain on our politics has remained untouched and untroubled, despite a BBC2 documentary which yesterday evening demonstrated its insidious infiltration of the body politic. But then, this is one of the press’ own.
Within a decade, the Sun had become a rabidly Thatcherite paper. It only switched sides, to supporting a Labour Party led by Tony Blair, after Blair had won over Old Rupe. After Young Dave schmoozed the Murdoch circle, the Sun backed the Tories. Such was the fear instilled in politicians that they all wanted to pay fealty at the Murdoch altar.
This singularly unhealthy situation meant the Murdoch press got away with its indulgence in The Dark Arts. David Mellor suggested tougher press regulation; the flat where he met his mistress Antonia de Sancha was bugged and he was duly splashed all over the Screws and Sun, courtesy of Southern Investigations (prop Jonathan Rees) and “Fake Sheikh” Mazher Mahmood. Was it legal? Who cared? They could please themselves.
When former Labour MP Tom Watson described the Murdoch empire as a “Mafia organisation”, he was right. When Gordon Brown claimed to have had personal information about him extracted for the Murdoch press’ use by blagging, he was also right, This organisation has not yet matched Russia on assassination, but otherwise is far more of a threat to the UK’s democratic institutions than Moscow.
As Hugh Grant put it when interviewed for The Rise of the Murdoch Dynasty, “Murdoch’s a proper danger to liberal democracies … if liberal democracy is your thing”.
Liberal democracy is forever devalued if those elected allow themselves to become corrupted by interests who would rather subvert it for their own ends. Just a thought.