British political circles are competing to bow and scrape in front of media tycoon Rupert Murdoch, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg declared on Tuesday at a Liberal Democratic Party session, Reuters reports.
According to Clegg, the third largest British party did not have practically anything to do with Murdoch and his News Corp. At the same time, the Labour and the Conservative Parties have admitted that they had been too close to media proprietors, in particular to Murdoch with his influential The Times broadsheet and the tabloids The Sun and The News of the World (NoW) which has been closed by now.
To all appearances, the scandalous NoW case is not subsiding, it is on the contrary gaining momentum. To a great extent, these developments are promoted by the actions of Judge Brian Leveson’s independent commission investigating the facts of illegal phone-tapping by NoW journalists as well as the ethical aspects of the links between the British establishment and the media. This commission has already discovered unpleasant facts of ties between politicians, police and the press, which first of all cast a shadow on the Conservative and the Labour Parties. In this connection, analysts believe that distancing themselves from the scandalous media baron Rupert Murdoch, declared by the party leader Nick Clegg, will allow the Liberal Democrats to raise their popularity with the voters which noticeably dropped after they united with the Conservatives headed by David Cameron in May 2010.
Hard to say if this will really come true. Besides links with media magnate Murdoch, there are dozens of other factors that affect the growth or fall in the popularity of this or that political party with the constituency. Liberal Democrats are no exception.
Now back to the work of Lord Leveson’s commission. The beginning of this week brought several bright new facts associated with the scandal around Murdoch’s media empire. Thus, on Monday, British ex-Prime Minister Tony Blair, when giving evidence to the commission, declared that close ties between politicians and journalists were inevitable. He said that British leaders had to court media barons or risk savage press attacks.
According to the ex-prime Minister, he had a choice of either being ‘torn to pieces’ by wild beasts – journalists, or using them for promoting his policy. Blair chose the latter. He feared that the struggle against the media could become so intense that it could interfere with the government doing its duties. It surprises me to hear that relations between the press and politicians in such a democratic country as the UK considers itself to be can resemble relations between jungle inhabitants.
Tony Blair also admitted that he had had contacts with Murdoch but he had not signed any deals with him. His latter words can be strongly doubted because Blair and Murdoch’s close ties are widely known and rooted in 1995. That year, the Labour leader travelled to the Hayman Island in Australia where he spoke to the News Corp board of directors. That trip became part of the new Labour policy aimed at winning over the newspapers that had previously criticized party leaders Michael Foot and Neil Kinnock.
That strategy bore fruit. During the 1997 election campaign, Murdoch’s tabloid The Sun which used to support the Conservatives turned over to supporting the Labour. Later, the Murdoch Empire supported Tony Blair’s decision to join the US in a war against Iraq. This proves that Nick Clegg’s words about many British politicians ‘bowing and scraping’ in front of Rupert Murdoch are not far from the truth. At least, this is to a large degree true about Tony Blair.
It should be noted that Blair has become the first high-ranking political figure in the line of those who are to face Lord Leveson’s commission this week. He is to be followed by Education Secretary Michael Gove, Interior Secretary Theresa May, Business Secretary Vince Cable, Justice Secretary Ken Clarke and Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt.
Recall that the investigation carried out by Lord Leveson’s commission aims at finding out why politicians failed to stop the NoW tabloid’s illegal activities: either because they were closely associated with its leadership or because they were afraid to fight against the media in general. In this connection we are in a position to suppose that evidence produced by the above-mentioned ministers of the current British coalition government still has a lot of surprises up its sleeve.