A very British “Ooh no, can’t”

It’s not difficult, unless you make it difficult.  A company that owns four national newspapers,  massive media interests and has huge sway over successive British governments, is about to be given the green light to take over a vast and growing chunk of our national broadcasting.  In anybody’s book, this is dangerous and anti-democratic.

Meanwhile, increasingly shocking revelations are coming to light about the company’s role in hacking into phones, emails, medical records,  bank accounts, etc of celebrities and former government ministers.  It’s hair-raising stuff and what are we doing about this company’s ascendancy?  Er, we’re helping.

In today’s Independent we’re told that the Department of Culture Media and Sports can’t re-open the BSkyB takeover investigation to include whether News International is a proper and fit company, even if it wants to.

“If that was going to happen it would have had to be done at the start of the process.  We can’t suddenly re-open it now …. it would be thrown out by the courts.”

And this stand is unhelpfully endorsed by who else but shadow culture secretary, Ivan Lewis:

“The serious admissions of culpability by News International aren’t relevant to the … plurality issue.”

Technically and legally, who are we to argue?  But common sense must prevail and, as Jeremy Hunt is a write-off, a legal way can surely be found to intervene and prevent the takeover.  This cannot be beyond the ingenuity of all our top-drawer lawyers, brainy civil servants and wily politicians.

But does the will exist in Westminster beyond just a few individuals?  Even Peter Mandelson, who has been smoked out to comment now that he too is a named hacking victim, is careful to say that “it isn’t acceptable to keep pointing the finger at one newspaper”.   Indeed, other papers clearly participated in the “dark arts”, but this deflection is a dangerous ploy which plays neatly into the hands of News International.  All must be investigated and brought to justice but the spotlight must remain on News International,  not only for the extent of the hacking, but for the years of concealment and for its unprecedented level of influence.

I may live to regret this statement, but I’m beginning to have more time for Rupert Murdoch himself than the assorted ditherers, pen-pushers, excuseniks, toadies and wimps who have let the rest of us down.

Even beyond Westminster, the Guardian displayed an uncharacteristically faint heart today.  In its admirable editorial queestioning the fitness of News Corp to become the most dominant media company in the UK and calling for a public inquiry into the hacking, it concludes:

“On narrow grounds he [Hunt] may be tempted to wave through the BSkyB takeover.  But how seedy the coalition government – including the Lib Dems who were so vocal on this subject before the election – would look if that were to happen without also ordering a public inquiry to examine all the evidence that the police have been sitting on ….”

I had to read this twice to check I hadn’t got it wrong.  Is The Guardian really suggesting that Hunt gives the nod to the takeover and “also” orders an inquiry?  Why not “instead”?

Thank goodness for the indefatigable, intrepid and the pretty phenomental Tom Watson.  If he and a few others had held the “Ooh no, can’t” attitude, we’d all still be in the dark about the criminality and corruption at the heart of our society.


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