The Murdoch scandal looks to be shaping up like a British Watergate. Things are moving quickly as the various members of the British ruling elite manoeuvre to best escape the shitstorm. Although such things as Rebekah Brooks’s arrest might have been tactical, it is proving impossible for this crisis to be ‘managed’. As Lenin’sTomb says: “A very significant nexus of ruling class power is decomposing.”
Paul Stephenson (5 WEEKS in a health spa!) of the Met has gone, with John Yates on the brink too. Cameron is looking increasingly dodgy. At the very least, his judgement must be seriously called into question. In the short run it may be Boris Johnson, or elements to the right of him, who benefit, but in general this is a further disintegration of the political elite...of a piece with the MPs expenses scandal...and providing further evidence of the disgusting, illegal way in which the rich and powerful operate. The Tories are up to their armpits in this, but so is the Labour Party. The nauseating footage of Blair & Brown schmoozing Rebekah Brooks are clear evidence of Labour’s grovelling to the Murdoch minions.
The Metropolitan Police are once again shown (despite their recent protestations that the ‘bad old days’ are gone and that the cops are now squeaky-clean) to be corrupt and dishonest. But this time the toxic, dysfunctional relationship with politicians and the media is especially disgusting. (In South Wales it coincides with the trial of 8 police officers, including 2 retired chief inspectors, accused of fitting up the Cardiff Three over the murder of a prostitute).
Sometimes an issue becomes a lightning conductor for much more than simply itself. The hubris of the Murdoch empire is like that. My first experience of the politics of Rupert Murdoch was in 1986 outside the gates of Wapping during the mass pickets. This was part of an employers’ offensive: Eddie Shah had begun the union-busting in the print at Warrington in 1983. 1984-85 had seen the year-long miners’ strike.
Then in January ’86 the printers on the Murdoch press took strike action to defend jobs, and were immediately locked out as Murdoch shifted his operation from Fleet Street to Wapping. For months, it became a matter of trying to stop the scab TNT lorries getting the newspapers out of fortress Wapping. Police used horses and violent attacks on pickets to push them through. One young lad was knocked down and killed.
Murdoch shared the politics of Margaret Thatcher – hard-right anti-socialist union-haters – as was clear from the right wing rags he produced – The Sun, The News of the World, The Times and the Sunday Times. He was a major factor in the moving of the media to the right generally, producing a combination of light and sometimes sleazy entertainment, celebrity-worship and right-wing news and opinion. As Jonathan Schell says on al-Jazeera: “ In Britain, News Corporation has been creating a sort of state unto itself by corrupting the police, assuming police powers of surveillance, and intimidating politicians into looking the other way. In the US, it has behaved similarly, using corporate media power to breathe life into a stand-alone political organisation, the Tea Party”.
The Murdochs and Brooks will be questioned by MPs on Tuesday, and on Wednesday MPs will discuss the scandal. It remains to be seen whether the bark of these parliamentary poodles will be worse than their bite. Watch this space, as they say...