Stephen Glover: Murdoch's cheerleading for Labour is being forgotten

During Rupert Murdoch's long affair with New Labour, there were a few people on the left who went on expressing their loathing for the old rogue. The Guardian's Polly Toynbee springs to mind. But, for more than a decade, the man who had once been a hate figure became really not a bad chap after all.





And he certainly delivered for New Labour. Mr Murdoch's major contribution was as a cheerleader for Tony Blair's various wars. The Sun and The Times were enthusiastic supporters of the invasion of Iraq, and neither paper worried very much about Mr Blair's sometimes contingent relationship with the truth. Indeed, one wonders whether the British Government could have taken us to war in Iraq if, for some freakish reason, the passionately pro-American Rupert Murdoch had been against it.



Particularly when William Hague was Conservative leader, the Murdoch papers had it in for his party. The Times conducted a vicious campaign against his friend and Tory benefactor Michael Ashcroft, assisted by its allies in New Labour, before overstepping the mark by ludicrously suggesting that the billionaire was some kind of Central American drug runner. Despite Mr Hague's extreme Euroscepticism, the Eurosceptic Sun generally portrayed him as a nincompoop, and once famously represented him as a dead parrot on its front page.



That was the time, of course, now so difficult to imagine, when almost the entire media establishment, from the BBC to The Daily Express, was sympathetic to New Labour and the Tories were considered by all right-thinking people as a hopeless, nasty little sect. In those pre-Iraq War days, only The Daily Mail and The Daily Telegraph declined to join the party, though they sometimes despaired of the Tories.



Peter Mandelson's bitter remarks about The Sun last week should be interpreted in this historical context. No one in New Labour, apart from Mr Blair himself, was friendlier towards Rupert Murdoch, or more appreciative. Lord Mandelson did not fret when for several years we virtually lived in a media one-party state. Now, as The Sun switches its allegiance to the Tories, he puts on that splendidly bogus high-minded look and, in that pained way of his, waxes moralistic.



His argument against The Sun is wholly threadbare. He suggested that the paper influences Rupert Murdoch's Sky News which, in turn, influences the BBC in favour of the Tories. Surely he cannot believe this hokum. For one thing, Sky News has not been discernibly pro-Tory, and I challenge Lord Mandelson to produce an example of anti-Labour bias on the channel. For another, it is absurd to imagine the much larger BBC taking its cue from Sky News. What he said would not have passed muster in a first-term undergraduate media studies essay.



This is not to say, however, that The Sun covered itself in glory in the way it attacked Gordon Brown last week. Its own newly appointed political editor, Tom Newton Dunn, is said to have been discomfited by the severity of the assault. He knew the Prime Minister's eyesight is so poor that he cannot write legibly. Most people, including many readers on The Sun's website, thought Mr Brown was at least trying to do the right thing in penning a hand-written note, though obviously he should not have misspelt names.



The Sun's first major strike against the Prime Minister went awry and hardly redounded to the paper's credit. Lord Mandelson's remarks about the paper were not just wrong-headed but also unnecessary, given that public opinion had already rallied to the Prime Minister. Dominic Mohan, its new editor, should choose his next casus belli more carefully.



Whatever he does, though, we will hear a lot more from Lord Mandelson and others in the Government about the supposed iniquity of The Sun and the Murdoch press in supporting the Tories. A few like-minded commentators will crank into action. Evidently, Rupert Murdoch is acceptable to them when he supports a left-of-centre party, but he turns back into a dangerous monster who imperils the democratic process when he endorses a right-of-centre one.



An editor can't have it both ways with the watchdog



The Guardian drew itself up to a great height after last week's report by the Press Complaints Commission (PCC) which concluded, rightly I believe, that there is no evidence of current illegal phone hacking on national titles, as the paper had alleged. It published an irate and lofty leader, and Nick Davies, the reporter who had suggested that phone hacking still goes on, and was more widespread several years ago at the News of the World than has been admitted, sprang into print. The Guardian even issued a statement dismissing the report as "complacent" and declared that the PCC does not have the "the ability, the budget or the procedure to conduct its own investigations".



I cannot recall a newspaper reacting in so high-handed a way to a report it did not like. The nearest memorable case happened to involve The Guardian. In 2003 its editor, Alan Rusbridger, talked about withdrawing from the PCC after it had ruled that the paper had been wrong to pay a prisoner for a diary which described his time in jail with the novelist Jeffrey Archer.



On the other hand, The Guardian has sometimes been on the receiving end of favourable judgements by the PCC, in which case it is perfectly content. For example, in 2006 it found in favour of the paper after a complaint was made about an article that drew parallels between Israel and apartheid South Africa. In that instance The Guardian did not question the resources or methodology of the commission.



As a member of any organisation, one should learn to take the rough with the smooth. If Mr Rusbridger believed the PCC has been under resourced, he could have campaigned to do something about it, rather than attacking the organisation over rulings he dislikes, having embraced favourable ones. The Guardian assumes it occupies a moral sphere all of its own, and, if it says something is true, that belief overrides the opinion of all other earthly authorities, and doubtless divine ones too.



I hope Mr Rusbridger does not ever end up in court on a charge. Should judgment go against him, he will lecture the judge about his intellectual limitations, rebuke the jury, and declare he does not propose to serve any sentence that might be imposed on him. If he believes the PCC is utterly defective, he can withdraw his newspaper. Or accept its conclusions like a man.

Voices
On the last day of campaigning before the polling booths open, the SNP leader has written to voters in a final attempt to convince them to vote for independence
scotland decidesIs a huge gamble on oil keeping First Minister up at night?
Arts and Entertainment
Rosalind Buckland, the inspiration for Cider with Rosie died this week
booksBut what is it like to be the person who inspires a classic work of art?
Life and Style
techApple has just launched its latest mobile operating software – so what should you do first?
News
A male driver reverses his Vauxhall Astra from a tow truck
newsThe 'extremely dangerous' attempt to avoid being impounded has been heavily criticised
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Lionel Messi in action for Barcelona
filmSo what makes the little man tick?
Arts and Entertainment
tvReview: An undercooked end (spoiler alert)
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell dismissed the controversy surrounding
musicThe singer said 'the last thing I want to do is degrade'
Sport
Cesc Fabregas celebrates his first Chelsea goal
footballChelsea vs Schalke match report
Arts and Entertainment
Toby Jones (left) and Mackenzie Crook in BBC4’s new comedy The Detectorists
tvMackenzie Crook's 'Detectorists' makes the hobby look 'dysfunctional', they say
Life and Style
fashion

Olympic diver has made his modelling debut for Adidas

News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Head of Marketing - London

£60000 - £85000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Interim Head of Marketing / Marketin...

IT Application Support Engineer - Immediate Start

£28000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Software Application Support Analyst - Imm...

Digital Project Manager

£25 - 30k: Guru Careers: A Digital Project Manager is needed to join an exciti...

Paid Search Analyst / PPC Analyst

£24 - 28k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Paid Search Analyst / PPC...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week