Tuesday, 12 July 2011

A few notes about the Phone Hacking scandal.

I could have, had I been inclined, written 1000 words a day about this particular topic in the last week, such was the amount of information coming out, each time giving us a new angle at which to see the whole affair. I thought it was probably wise to hold my fire until we got the whole picture. It became clear after a couple of days, that could be a while and so, I thought I would just write a short bit about as many of the issues as I could.

Deleting Milly Dowler's voice mails
This, for me, still remains the most appalling of the revelations. Unfortunately, it seems to have been largely ignored, but not forgotten, as the story got bigger and bigger. There is no doubt that the scale of the practice of phone hacking is somewhat incredible and that the targets they have chosen beggar belief, but in this particular case, the News of the World weren't just eavesdropping, they were actually taking action that directly affected a) the investigation and b) Milly's distraught parents.

The arrogance involved is breathtaking. News of the World journalists decided for themselves which messages were pertinent to the investigation and which were important to Milly's parents. Those they decided weren't; they deleted. This was all in order to free up space for more messages so that they may pick up something that made for a better story. Such despicable behaviour is beyond comprehension. There may well be charges for police corruption or invasion of privacy resulting from this scandal. The one charge I will be looking out for is that of impeding an ongoing police investigation.

The Guardian's 'crowing' over the loss of the News of the World.
After the initial, almost universal outrage after the first batch of revelations, slowly but surely those of a certain political leaning took stock and realised the paper that did all the running in exposing this was the hated Guardian. This wouldn't do. It's all very well to condemn the phone hacking but letting The Guardian bask in well deserved glory? A step too far. There have been claims it was politically motivated. So what? There is nothing wrong with being politically motivated.

Consider that The Guardian were politically motivated to carry out an ethical, thorough & detailed investigation utilising genuine journalistic skill and training to target an illegal and highly unethical practice carried out by a major media outlet. Then consider that the Media outlet they were targeting were politically motivated in carrying out said practice to gather information of the then Chancellor's seriously sick child.

The Guardian can crow all it likes. They deserve to.

Labour were just as in bed with the media as The Conservatives. 
Yes, yes they were. Labour can't deny that and as far as I can tell, they haven't. The Tories have really not played this very well at all. They were at a natural disadvantage from the off because a) they're the current government and so naturally come under fire for just being in charge when the story breaks and b) because of the existing political issue surrounding the BSKYB bid. However, they had a chance to play it differently and blew it. Labour played it perfectly.

Miliband got to the issue first - they were too close to Murdoch and the rest of the media. Miliband called for a Judge led inquiry before Cameron (it was always going to end up there - why delay the inevitable) and it was two Labour MPs - Tom Watson & Chris Bryant - who had doggedly pursued the issue when others had ignored it. It is no good for Tory MPs to bleat that Labour didn't do enough to stop it whilst in Government because Ed Miliband has acknowledged that failure. We're looking for solutions and leadership, not finger pointing.

The axing of 200 staff to save one woman - why I feel no sympathy for them.
Well, actually that's not strictly true. I empathise with the awful feeling of going from having a job and the security and comfort it brings to suddenly being highly uncertain about the future and your ability to survive. For that aspect, yes, I suppose there is a degree of sympathy but it's only a slight feeling because these people were working for a Newspaper with a truly vile attitude.

These were the people that pursued an agenda of attacking anyone and anything providing it made for good copy and sold newspapers. These were the people that helped to cultivate the idea that anyone on benefits was a layabout scrounger, that any European immigrant was here to milk our welfare state and take our jobs (they never saw the clash involved with that one) and these were the same people that helped to produce a culture of irrational fear of paedophilia that led to a doctor being attacked because his attackers didn't know the difference between a paedophile and a paediatrician.

Finally, these were the same people who helped to promote the idea that public sector workers were, by and large, a prime target for job cuts. I didn't detect an ounce of sympathy from the News of the World then so don't ask me to provide it for them now.

1 comment:

  1. I agree with much of what you say here Ed, though don't agree that the reason the tory govt played it wrong was because of the BSkyB merger issue or indeed that they were an easy target merely by being in government when this erupted.

    They played it wrong because their leader, David Cameron, made Andy Coulson his communications chief. This despite repeated warnings from those around the PM about Andy Coulson and the toxic brand his image represented and the fallout that brand could reap on the government at any time.

    That advice came from those Cameron should have listened to including, Lord Ashdown, Nick Clegg and, remarkably, the editor of the Guardian, Alan Rusbridger.

    The Prime Minister also claims Rebecca Brooks as a friend. The pair are part of the now notoriously named Chipping Norton Set, a well healed and powerful clique of friends who reside in the affluent Cotswolds. I have a different name entirely for them myself.

    So, the Tories are in this mess because their leader, and he alone, put them there. His judgement has been appalling and I honestly believe it represents someone who is frankly out of their depth as the Prime Minister of this country.

    Added to this Ed Miliband has, for once, been playing a blinder. I think someone has been working on his style of delivery and body language. Certainly on this issue the startled eyes of Bambi caught in the car headlights have been replaced by a more serious, measured and thoughtful delivery. Though he'd be wise to know the limits of how far he can push this given Labour's relationship with the Murdoch empire...and he'd be wise to learn it fast.