Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Keeping the investigation into Newscorp balanced.

As the News Corp case unfolds and the Murdochs and Rebekah Brooks are held to account by a parliamentary select committee I have begun to think about some of the dangers of the case.

The British people always need a villain, be it the Germans (at war and football), Nick Clegg (a former hero who fell to villainy- the best kind of hate figure.), Gary Glitter and Bin Laden. These are people that you can walk into any Pub or public venue and say "... what a bastard" and get a general murmur of agreement whether deserved or not.
The media will often attack them on front pages and reports, it becomes easy for people to be lead by the passions and centralise their anger on one target often losing track of all of the information involved aided by distortions in the media.

A current example of this is the growing call for David Cameron to stand down and resign over links between Andy Coulson and the mobile hacking cases at News of the World. It would be ridiculous to suggest that Cameron should be removed just because he has association. To be fair to David Cameron, when Andy Coulson was hired he had been sworn, on oath, that he had no involvement with phone hacking. As far as anyone should be concerned, at the time the man was not proven guilty. Accusations are not fact until proven.

At the time, despite these accusations, Coulson was a good choice for the role. (although maybe Cameron should have listen to leading Lib dems such as Clegg and Lord Ashdown!) The appointment has now proven to have been a mistake but despite the protestations of Ed Miliband- who is himself courting the media and scoring easy points against the government by echoing what the people want to hear rather than come up with an alternative economic policy, hindsight is the only thing proving it.
Beyond that, the removal of David Cameron as Prime minister at this time, for this reason would be detrimental to this country's economic recovery. Agree or disagree with the coalition's economic policy any delay or massive political upheaval cannot be good for the economy or in investment confidence in Britain.
After all for the meantime Nick Clegg would be running the country until the next Conservative Party conference in September when the leadership contest would be resolved and then there would be a shift in the dynamic in the Coalition agreement. Love it or loath it the fact that Cameron and Clegg get on in a personal capacity and share many of the same ideals helps keep the coalition together, without that dynamic it could descend into chaos and inter party fighting that could tear the agreement apart and possibly force a general election, something no one is prepared for and would again through economic stability to the wind, or a minority government. What we need is stability and a steady hand on the tiller. At the moment I think that there is the correct amount of debate and discussion in parliament to affect change that has been thoroughly thought our.

My other worry is that Rebekah Brooks and Andy Coulson are being painted up to be the main villains of the piece along with the Murdoch's. I think Rupert Murdoch has shown good amount of humility and an understandable lack of culpability with the main issues, after all he claims not to have spoken to the News of the World editor on a more than a monthly basis, after all it made up less than 1% of his global empire.

However Coulson and Brooks are being painted as the key "bad guys" - The danger of this is, yes they as editors were responsible for the conduct of their staff and if they were unaware that certain practices were being carried out then they were clearly incompetent and had no idea how their organisation was being run. However I fear the public will continue to bey for their blood and once they have been prosecuted then they will lose interest. Much like the MP expenses scandal, some of the worst were charged, publicly shamed, lost their seats or removed from power but the lesser players got away with it as the Public lost interest. Worse yet they will shout miscarriage of justice if they are declared innocent whether they are or not.

My fear is that everyone will be concentrating on Brooks, Coulson and the Murdoch's and forget about the people who actually carried out the acts or allowed them to happen and will have satisfied themselves with just the big scalps much like the Nuremberg trials, the top people all rightly dealt with by justice but those who signed individual orders, or carried out acts of brutality slipped the net.

Another fear is that this will turn into a guilt by association like the July bomb plot of 1944. Just because you have had dinner with Mrs Brooks, or had meetings with Mr Murdoch over the years you must somehow be linked to the scandal and have your name and office smeared by the association. After all Sir Paul Stephenson has gone from the Met and he was a much better head then Sir Ian Blair, and now so has his deputy on the basis of an as yet unproved rumour and pressure is mounting on Cameron to resign just for association with the Murdoch press. Something Mr Miliband has avoided despite him having 11 meetings out of 32 with News international yet the PM is feeling all the heat and now George Osborne is taking the flak as well for 18 meetings during the election.

What needs to be done is a sensible, non frenzied investigation that takes in all the possible guilty parties and prosecutes everyone who is guilty. There should also be a further reaching investigation to see if other newspaper groups are responsible for similar acts and legislation drawn up so as to make sure it never happens again. Clear guidelines need to be put down as to what is and isn't acceptable for reporters and also the way politicians and Police interact with the media as well as stiff penalties for those who break them.

1 comment:

  1. I've been following Twitter and it seems that this scandal goes way beyond News International and the Murdochs.