Amol Rajan: A thought experiment on 'absolutely illegal' activities

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The Independent Online

Today we are going to conduct a thought experiment. Let's imagine a giant multinational company in the field of, say, aviation – let's call it British Airways – has spent years thieving private information from people in the public domain. Somehow unnoticed by the police, whose top officers BA happens to be granting favours to, the company starts to illegally invade the privacy of the Royal Family, a serving Prime Minister of Great Britain, terrorist informers, the Governor of the Bank of England, and footballers aplenty.

Some other things the company is doing are also illegal. For instance, they are making illegal payments to police officers, and shamelessly threatening MPs who dare to speak out against the company, by employing lackeys to make private threats about the horrors that will be unleashed on them.

Meanwhile, in another branch of BA, they've been preparing a takeover bid. It's the biggest commercial manoeuvre in the company's history. Unfortunately, some people fear that it will be bad for competition, what with monopolies generally being bad for competition, so a battle ensues to approve the takeover. The Government is on the company's side. The Opposition is not.

So what follows is an astonishing volume of email correspondence, private meetings, drinks on expenses, and general hospitality from BA to the government. At a private dinner in Oxfordshire, two of the most senior members of the company discuss the bid with the Prime Minister, a neighbour in the county, though he tells parliament "no inappropriate conversations" were had.

One of those senior figures at BA is put in charge of the internal investigation into that whole illegal thieving thing. At some point hundreds of emails are deleted as part of a blatant, vast cover-up. Incidentally, the Prime Minister was also lent a police horse named after Mikhail Gorbachev's wife, itself on loan from the Metropolitan Police.

Whole divisions of lobbyists are employed to cajole members of the government, that if the government should help this takeover happen, BA will generously support them, for instance with unlimited free international flights around election time, just when help is most needed.

In one email exchange, confidential government information is passed to a BA lobbyist, who passes it onto his boss boasting that doing so is "absolutely illegal".

That concludes our thought experiment for today. British Airways never did any of the above. News Corporation did. Who the hell is stupid or corrupt enough to argue that this company is fit to own a Broadcasting Licence? Only most of the Tory Party in power today.