Thursday, 22 April 2010

Could it be Murdoch wot loses it?

The arrogance of power without accountability has been a major driver of public fury with both the bankers and MPs' expenses over the last year.

But one source of cultural, political and economic power in Britain usually remains beyond the close scrutiny of our take-no-prisoners' newspapers - and that is the press itself.

That things should remain that way would appear to be the passionately held view of Rebekah Wade and James Murdoch of News International, who are reported to have paid an extraordinary uninvited visit to Independent editor in chief Simon Kelner, who has had the temerity to run an advertising campaign telling the public


How dare they! Though the polls since The Sun backed David Cameron - then 14+ points ahead last Autumn - suggest a certain truth in the observation.

Tory high command thought the Restoration of the mighty and feared Tory press would guarantee a Coronation. They still hope the fear of a hung Parliament message from party and press alike can scare the voters back into line - but there are now worries too about how to insulate the party from a potential backlash against the daily temper tantrums of their big beasts in the press. With friends like these ...

Michael White is unimpressed - and amused.

Murdoch biographer Michael Wolff finds much symbolism in the occasion.

Their point was that newspaper publishers don’t slag off other newspaper publishers in polite Britain, but also the point was to remind Kelner that he wasn’t just slagging off another publisher, he was slagging off the Murdochs, damn it. Indeed, the high point of the screaming match was Wade/Brooks, in a fit of apoplexy and high drama, neck muscles straining, saying to Kelner: “And I invited you to Blenheim in the first place!” Blenheim being the Murdoch family retreat and the highest social destination for all Murdoch loyalists and ambitious Brits in the media.

This is one way for empires to end.

Gary Gibbon of Channel Four floats the intriguing theory that they may have been in the Indy building to pay a visit at Mr Paul Dacre's Daily Mail.

Curiouser and curioser.

Is Murdoch's power on the wane? Certainly, nobody can recall any of his former editors previously writing anything like ex-Sun editor and recovering Murdochian David Yelland's extraordinarily frank column in The Guardian this week about the power and arrogance of the media:

"The fact is these papers, and others, decided months ago that Cameron was going to win. They are now invested in his victory in the most undemocratic fashion. They have gone after the prime minister in a deeply personal way and until last week they were certain he was in their sights. I hold no brief for Nick Clegg. But now, thanks to him – an ingenue with no media links whatsoever – things look very different".

Let's not forget too about one of Wade's conditions for The Sun backing Cameron was the ditching of cerebral shadow home secretary Dominic Grieve. As The Spectator's well informed report set out:

Grieve was not a typical shadow home secretary. He is a cerebral QC who speaks fluent French and he had little time for the tub-thumping approach to the job so beloved of some politicians. This caused problems. At one lunch with the then editor of the Sun Rebekah Wade, Grieve criticised the way that the paper covered crime. Wade reportedly told Andy Coulson that as long as Grieve remained in that post, the paper could not endorse the Conservatives. So, in January’s ‘pub-ready’ reshuffle, Grieve was replaced by Chris Grayling, one of the more politically aggressive members of the shadow Cabinet.

Hello Chris Grayling, Shadow Home Secretary! So how has that worked out? Not so well, you might think, unless you get your news from The Sun, whose coverage of the Grayling gaffe catalogue has been, coincidentally, remarkably light.

Today begins to look like a day when the all-mighty British press jumped the shark in its attempts to insist that an era of transparency and accountability should apply to everybody else but never the press themselves.

These events are the talk of every newspaper office in London.

If this row was between politicians, football managers or celebrity chefs, you would expect to read extensive coverage in all of the newspapers over your cornflakes tomorrow. But it will be interesting to watch how many newspapers think this particular tale of the rich and powerful is not worth troubling their readers with tomorrow.

1 comment:

Braveheart said...

If GB promised a law to outlaw foreign ownership of press and tv, he would win a lot of votes .....