Rebekah Brooks is the focus of much of the public rage about the News of the World hacking the phone of Milly Dowler. She was editor of the paper at the time and, whether or not she knew about the hacking, she cannot escape culpability. Last night it looked like curtains for her. But this morning we are told that Murdoch continues to back her and her position is safe.
According to Private Eye last week, Cameron intervened with Murdoch to save her position before. Whether or not this was happened, it is reasonable to go along with the theory that Brooks wants to quit in her own time, with the useful reason of wanting to start a family. Ah, but not too soon, we hope!
We say her continuing presence at the helm of News International is a real bonus, and never more so as she becomes increasingly demonised. On some of today’s front pages her red-ringleted face is portrayed looking faintly sinister alongside pictures of the smiling, fresh faced Milly Dowler. And so Brooks, good friend of our Prime Minister, has become public enemy number one. Thousands are questioning her position. Thousands are demanding her head on a platter.
If she were to depart, the furore would abate, but the systemic problems would remain. The empire would lose a general, but there are many more generals. And the empire would continue to grow, with the acquisition of BSkyB. It is this acquisition and the size and influence of the Murdoch empire which are of far greater importance than someone’s job.
The current fury with the News of the World needs to be kept at the forefront of our minds, long after the shock at their behaviour wears off. Keeping Rebekah Brooks as Murdoch’s representative in Britain serves an excellent purpose because it reminds us day by day of his rotten empire and its unfitness, as George Monbiot once said, to run a whelk stall.
What we really need is a Media Commission, to break up this stranglehold of our democracy.