Matthew Norman: Now is the moment to stop Murdoch

It beggars all belief that the BSkyB takeover might still be permitted. It will be a staggering disgrace, after this, if it is

Share
Related Topics

It has many villains and one or two heroes, while its chief victim lies cocooned from the shock that has winded even the world-weariest media cynic like a kick to the solar plexus. But the story of Milly Dowler's mobile phone speaks of infinitely more than the posthumous violation of a murdered schoolgirl by Rupert Murdoch's demons and the visceral revulsion that this has induced.



This is an amorality tale of systemic corruption as insidious, deep-rooted, all-embracing, diseased and destructive as any known to a modern Western democracy. To understand how it came to this – how prime ministers and our premier police force became the enablers of News Corporation's abundant wickedness – you must go back several decades.

When Margaret Thatcher made her Faustian pact with Mr Murdoch in the 1980s, granting him his every heart's desire in return for his unwavering slavish support, she hastened the creation of the monster we see revealed in all its gruesome hideosity today.

In general terms, she gifted him the preposterous media market share he expertly parlayed into a stranglehold over the political elite. In a country without a written constitution, bereft of checks and balances and devoid of oversight, the levers of power are there to be seized by the most ruthless buccaneer in town. This he did with wonted dark genius, coaxing and cajoling, bullying and bribing, to inculcate the near universally received wisdom that without his approval, no party can be elected or prosper in power for long. Once Thatcher had established the precedent of obeisance, it was rigidly and cringingly adhered to thereafter by Mr Tony Blair, the successor but one she begat, and now by his self-styled heir David Cameron.

Specifically, meanwhile, she politicised the police by using them as a political truncheon at Wapping as with the simultaneous miners' strike. In so doing, she placed them in Mr Murdoch's pocket, where they have snugly remained ever since.

Those scouring yesterday's Sun for a full account of the Milly Dowler obscenity will have been disappointed by a page two report barely bigger than the nipples on the facing page. But those who ploughed on to the centre spread found a nicely-timed reminder of the unholy trinity at work. "On Thursday," ran the taster for the Sun's 16th Police Bravery Awards, "Prime Minister David Cameron will welcome the 59 nominees to Number 10 before a glittering awards ceremony at The Savoy." Glittering indeed. How could it be otherwise when the Murdoch press, the police and the PM come together to celebrate the tripartite partnership forged at Wapping?

If the juxtaposition of "police" and "bravery" in a News Corp context acquires a viciously satirical ring, it would trivialise this affair to harp on about the pitiful performance of John Yates, whose primary offence, one likes to think, was naively accepting the assurances of colleagues too timid to risk the wrath of the hand that feeds. Similarly, it feels almost banal to dwell on Rebekah Brooks, whose tenure as News Corp chief executive might not survive a return to a police interview room for the first time since then-husband Ross Kemp, TV's Hardest Man, dobbed her in to the fuzz during a domestic.

The details of who knew what and when are as ghoulishly fascinating as they are undeniably significant. But fixating on the personnel risks obscuring the grander portrait of a system so dominated in absentia by its unconstitutional monarch – two-bit politicians come and go while Murdoch, like the Queen, abides – that its nominal leaders quail in mortal terror of his wrath.

So does everyone else, from the Met upwards. The Press Complaints Commission is the industry's eunuch, while the Tory chair of the Commons media select committee, John Wittingdale, tells us he admires no one in the media as much as Rupert Murdoch. One committee member, Labour's Tom Watson, has been utterly heroic on phone-hacking, in starkest contrast to his leader Ed Miliband – every inch as craven as Jeremy Hunt, the Secretary of State whose rampant personal ambition dovetails so cutely with the PM's wishes over Murdoch's acquisition of a 100 per cent stake in BSkyB.

If Mr Watson's magnificent example inspired others to conquer their fear, we would be on the cusp of a revolution. Just as in the immediate aftermath of MPs' expenses, mass public fury prises open a window of opportunity. Today there is that tantalising sense that we no longer need to tolerate such Murdoch-Government axis powers' outrages as Mr Blair ceding policy on a euro referendum to him, and attending a party at Rupert's daughter's home on the arm of Mrs Brooks; Mr Cameron's covert Christmas kitchie sups at her Oxfordshire home, shortly before waving through the BSkyB deal and abandoning the greatest chance for penal reform in a generation on the say-so of The Sun; the Murdoch titles – The Times, to its eternal shame, alongside the red-tops – saving Mr Blair's hide over Dr Kelly's death in pursuit of its commercially-driven campaign to destroy the BBC.

I could go on and on cataloguing the Murdoch tentacles that spread everywhere, from the trivial granting of lucrative columns to semi-literate former ministers and retired coppers, to Mr Cameron's breathtaking misjudgement in hiring Andy Coulson as his media supremo. If the PM has discovered that the second iron rule of national life is that you cannot get into bed with Murdoch without one day waking to a nasty rash and an embarrassing discharge, he has always known that the first is this: whatever the battle, whatever the terrain and whatever the stakes, in the end Murdoch wins.

Today there is the hope, faint but seductive, of change. Public repugnance on this scale is a rare and precious force in a country beset by apathy. It fades very quickly, and must be harnessed and deployed before it does.

It would take cross-party unity on a scale seldom witnessed outside time of war, with all three leaders agreeing that this, finally, is the moment to take up Vince Cable's rallying cry and go to war with Murdoch to break his dominion. A full independent inquiry into News Corp's internal workings should be as automatic as one into the Met's scandalous collusion by lethargy. So, needless to add, should an instant reversal of the green light on the BSkyB deal. It beggars all belief that the take-over might still be permitted. It will be a staggering, transcendent disgrace, after this, if it is.

Murdoch has never been as vulnerable as today and, if allowed to wriggle free, never will be again. This is an historic opportunity for parliament to excise the most aggressive malignancy in the body politic these past three decades, or at the very least stop it growing.

Doing so would not mean that Milly Dowler did not die in vain. It would be insufferably glib to suggest that. But it would honour the memory of her name if something wonderful could be salvaged from an unspeakable tragedy that meant no more to Murdoch's minions, as ever working to the Fuhrer in whose image they are cast, than another opportunity to cash in.



React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Copywriter / Direct Response Copywriter

£20k plus sales linked bonus. : Guru Careers: We are seeking a Copywriter to j...

Recruitment Genius: Accounting Technician

£17000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A fantastic opportunity has bec...

Guru Careers: 3D Creative Designer

Up to £26k DOE: Guru Careers: A Junior / Mid-Level 3D Creative Designer is nee...

Recruitment Genius: Ecommerce Website Digital Marketing Manager - Fashion / Retail

£40000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: You'll be joining a truly talen...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Jeremy Corbyn greeted by supporters in at a Labour leadership rally Camden, North London  

Labour leadership contest: Hard-left caricatures of Jeremy Corbyn are not fair or right

Richard Burgon
Edward Heath, pictured at his Albany flat in 1965, the year he became leader of the Conservative Party  

Edward Heath 'child sex abuse' allegation: Rumours always swirled about his sexuality - I’m sure that’s all they were

John Campbell
Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Obama's deal with Ankara is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken Isis

US betrayal of old ally brings limited reward

Since the accord, the Turks have only waged war on Kurds while no US bomber has used Incirlik airbase, says Patrick Cockburn
VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but doubts linger over security

'A gift from Egypt to the rest of the world'

VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but is it really needed?
Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, applauds a man who clearly has more important things on his mind
The male menopause and intimations of mortality

Aches, pains and an inkling of mortality

So the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
Man Booker Prize 2015: Anna Smaill - How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?

'How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?'

Man Booker Prize nominee Anna Smaill on the rise of Kiwi lit
Bettany Hughes interview: The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems

Bettany Hughes interview

The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems
Art of the state: Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China

Art of the state

Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China
Mildreds and Vanilla Black have given vegetarian food a makeover in new cookbooks

Vegetarian food gets a makeover

Long-time vegetarian Holly Williams tries to recreate some of the inventive recipes in Mildreds and Vanilla Black's new cookbooks
The haunting of Shirley Jackson: Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?

The haunting of Shirley Jackson

Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?
Bill Granger recipes: Heading off on holiday? Try out our chef's seaside-inspired dishes...

Bill Granger's seaside-inspired recipes

These dishes are so easy to make, our chef is almost embarrassed to call them recipes
Ashes 2015: Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

A woefully out-of-form Michael Clarke embodies his team's fragile Ashes campaign, says Michael Calvin
Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza

Andrew Grice: Inside Westminster

Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza
HMS Victory: The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

Exclusive: David Keys reveals the research that finally explains why HMS Victory went down with the loss of 1,100 lives
Survivors of the Nagasaki atomic bomb attack: Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism

'I saw people so injured you couldn't tell if they were dead or alive'

Nagasaki survivors on why Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism
Jon Stewart: The voice of Democrats who felt Obama had failed to deliver on his 'Yes We Can' slogan, and the voter he tried hardest to keep onside

The voter Obama tried hardest to keep onside

Outgoing The Daily Show host, Jon Stewart, became the voice of Democrats who felt the President had failed to deliver on his ‘Yes We Can’ slogan. Tim Walker charts the ups and downs of their 10-year relationship on screen