UNISONActive is an unofficial blog produced by UNISON activists for UNISON activists. Bringing news, briefings and events from a progressive left perspective.

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

A Headline We Never Thought We’d Write.. Well done FORD

Celebrities so called, having problems with Rupert Murdoch’s newspapers were never going to excite us. Since ninety plus per cent of tabloid output consists of gossip relayed by a member of Cheryl Popstar’s inner circle or an intimate friend of Robbie Football-Millionaire or one of Jenny Megastar’s crew, the idea that their privacy had been invaded was a strange one.

Then came the affair of the super-injunctions. At this point politics started to enter the equation. First, the idea that major corporations could hide their wrong doing by appealing to the courts to prevent publication of stories and then hide their intention to do so sounded undemocratic. Then as the details of the fact that individuals were using the same legislation, suspicions emerged of a class bias in this use of the courts.

Since most of those doing so were wealthy, white and male, using the courts to prevent poorer women from telling their stories, usually in the name of  “family values", the warped nature of the legal system was exposed.

Any belief in the idea that the UK has a free press usually vanishes in the first flush of a left wing adolescence, at whatever age that adolescence occurs. But the idea that some stories were not even allowed to get to the stage of being stories to be interpreted in whatever way the newspaper proprietor allows adds a new frisson to any reading of the British press.

Now it emerges that sections of the press may have been actively interfering in ongoing police investigations. Phone hacking the families of children who had vanished in strange circumstances or the victims of terrorism seems an odd preoccupation even for the lowest of tabloid life.

But throughout this saga it is the lowest of tabloid life that has been indicted. There is a temptation to ask who buys the News of the World? Someone somewhere obviously does however. And someone in the Rupert Murdoch empire has to produce some content for it every week.

So when it has not been fake sheiks or rambling drivel about politics, recent events would suggest that the content has been details of hacked mobile telephone messages.

It would seem that a large part of the published content has been the work of a band of private investigators whose credentials are best read in their police records.

News International has insisted all along that there is no evidence that newsroom staff have been involved, and that its highly paid editors have no intervention in these matters. So Rebekah Brookes and Andy Coulson, both quoted within the industry as ”hands on” editors were “hands on”, but brain dead if News International are to be believed.

Who was running the news room? Who agreed copy? Who accepted content based on inside information but failed completely to ask basic questions, such as how did we get these facts? Who paid the hackers?

Rupert Murdoch has never impressed the public as a front man for an anarchist collective allowed to pursue its individualist concerns but every time his Director of Corporate Affairs appears on TV to defend the corporation against the latest revelations that is the impression that he gives.

Even as more and more evidence emerges, his “deny everything” strategy looks increasingly desperate, and “I know nuffin” denials from former editors strain the boundaries of believability, especially as previous employees tell a different story, one in which the use of hacking was taken for granted.

The pantomime continues as the latest headlines give rise to yet another internal investigation, this time to be headed by Brookes into the running of the newsroom under her watch. News International investigate thyself, again.

Pay off those papped celebrities. Batten down the hatches. But this particular storm cannot be allowed to blow over. And hopefully it will not be resolved through further private conversations between our own dear Prime Minister and Rebekah over dinner.

In part that will depend on Inspector Knacker of the Yard, whose own role in this saga is worthy of parliamentary inquiry. Allegations of the payment of serving police officers for information by News International has been a matter of record since the early 2000s, as has the social relationship between highly promoted senior officers and Rupert’s minions.

Why when the Met had all this information on 2006 was the scope of the investigation so limited? Where was the investigative rigour on which Scotland Yard is said to pride itself? Can some multi-national corporations be regarded as being above the law of the land? We merely ask the questions, but refrain from offering comment.

However the reports that that those who pay the most money into the coffers of News International are now regarding it as a toxic brand - the advertisers - is probably the biggest blow that is likely to hit the company. Capitalism understands profits and the bottom line, and a blow to the bottom line hits Murdoch where it hurts. So congratulations Ford. Who will be next?