Murdoch, Salmond, and the Swamp of Destiny

On Tuesday 13th March David Cameron proved himself a brilliant game-player – albeit the kind that buys cheat codes.

He left the country for a state visit with Barack Obama.

Early that morning the Metropolitan Police arrested Cameron’s life-long friend Charlie Brooks and Rebekah formerly-the-CEO-of-NI Brooks and four other News International employees. By the time anyone knew about this, David Cameron was safely on a British Airways plane, mid-Atlantic.

As Fleet Street Fox notes, the convenient timing of this arrest just when David Cameron could not be ambushed with questions about his friendship with Charlie, Rebekah, and the horse, must be purely coincidental, and:

It is entirely coincidental that a public inquiry currently scrutinising relations between the police and members of the trade under examination has heard in recent days of senior coppers who have not been doing their job properly.

It is also coincidental that only last week said world leader made public statements about the arrested man being a school chum of 30 years’ standing.

It is a further coincidence that the arrests took place when the world leader had his first opportunity to be out of the country for a couple of days, allowing him to concentrate on photo opportunities while ensuring reports of his mate’s arrest fade away before he can be asked about it.

There have been as yet no suggestions of a ‘special relationship’ between the police and the man in charge of running the country, as the idea is of course ridiculous.

A spokesman has yet to say: “The only special relationship the Prime Minister has is with people who make him look good in pictures, and with people who end up getting arrested.”

As a bonus, David Cameron departed leaving Nick Clegg and Andrew Lansley to deal with any political fallout from the Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives jointly voting for the NHS Reform Bill on the same day in the House of Commons and the House of Lords. At least a dozen of the LibDem MPs who obediently trotted into the government lobby are going to lose their seats to a Tory at the next General Election because of voting with the Tories on tuition fees, welfare reform, NHS reform… and more and more Tory cuts til 2015. But as the Liberal Democrats voted themselves into electoral oblivion and killed off the NHS, the BBC News was showing Cameron and Obama getting out of a car in Washington DC – and no one in the US was going to ask any awkward questions about the Brooks arrest or the death of the NHS.

Well played, sir.

At the First Minister’s Questions on 8th March, Willie Rennie asked Alex Salmond about his relationship with Murdoch:

1224: Scottish Lib Dem Willie Rennie on the hacking scandal. The FM lent his support to Rupert Murdoch, he says, but he has been silent on the victims of phone hacking.
1226: FM says he has fully supported the Leveson inquiry into press standards and says Mr Rennie should accept the SNP’s “total commitment” to seeing the law upheld.
1227: Mr Rennie said the FM prefers to “cosy up and not stand up” to Rupert Murdoch. “He was bragging earlier about Mr Murdoch’s support for independence,” says Mr Rennie. He adds that he has ignored the victims of phone hacking. Is the FM not ashamed of this grubby deal?
1228: FM says it’s “totally reasonable” to back Leveson and see the law is upheld and adds that the Lib Dems are “the party which put the moan into sanctimony”.

But that doesn’t actually answer the question. Alex Salmond does have a cosy relationship with Murdoch – which his fans have defended to me as “everyone does it”. Sir Denis O’Connor, the chief inspector of constabulary, said on Monday 13th March that he’d discussed holding a full investigation into phone hacking with the former Home Secretary Alan Johnson in 2009 but “there was little enthusiasm for carrying it forward”. The cosiness of the relationship seems to be depend entirely on how far you’re willing to do whatever Murdoch wants.

The Metropolitan Police also had a cosy relationship with the Murdoch tabloids:

During questioning, the Met’s communications head revealed that between 2003 and 2008, the now-closed NOTW dominated the scheduled meetings he arranged. During 2003 – when phone hacking was already an established practice inside the NOTW – Mr Fedorcio said The Sun and the NOTW were the only newspapers he visited twice.

He told the inquiry that in December of that year, Andy Coulson, then the Sunday tabloid’s editor, sent the public affairs department at the Yard a Christmas hamper. Within weeks of the arrests in 2006 of the NOTW’s royal correspondent Clive Goodman, and the tabloid’s private investigator, Glenn Mulcaire – both of whom were later jailed over illegal phone hacking – lunches and dinners continued to be arranged by the Met with NOTW executives.

One-to-one meetings between the NOTW and Scotland Yard also continued within weeks of the decision by the Met not to investigate if hacking went beyond Mulcaire and Goodman.

Salmond announced SNP plans for a single unified police force over the the whole of Scotland – what damage could Murdoch corruption do in such a force in an independent Scotland? I have the highest admiration for Lothian and Borders Police and for the other police forces in Scotland: but no one is immune to corruption.

Salmond further defended his meetings with Rupert Murdoch as “totally professional” and argued that it was okay for him to meet with Murdoch because it was not in secret:

“As soon as I had a meeting with Rupert Murdoch I released publicly that the meeting had taken place. I don’t have it in secret like the Labour government used to do. Everything was perfectly proper and above board.

“The Labour position seems to be that it’s wrong for me to openly meet News International when they have said that they’re going to change their practices, change their ways, but it was okay for them to meet News International when they were fully aware of malpractice and to do it in secret all these years ago.”

It is understandable for Alex Salmond to spin public condemnation of his getting cosy with Murdoch down to party politics. After all, there are serious questions which he ought to be answering about what deals he’s done with Murdoch behind closed doors. And while his loyal supporters may see nothing wrong with what he’s doing, to win a Yes vote in autumn 2014, he has to convince floating voters like me.

The Pope may launch his Interdict,
The Union its decree,
But the bubble is blown and the bubble is pricked
By Us and such as We.
Remember the battle and stand aside
While Thrones and Powers confess
That King over all the children of pride
Is the Press, the Press, the Press!

For a reminder of what it has been like for the victims of the tabloid press – Murdoch’s and others – Brian Cathcart of HackedOff writes about how victims of phone-hacking, both the obscure and the famous, gathered in London early in the Leveson inquiry:

We met on Tuesday evening [in November 2011] at a venue in central London. It was a fascinating and memorable occasion. Since this whole issue is about privacy it would scarcely be appropriate to recount the details, but the famous and the obscure mixed, talked and made friends and I think for at least some of them the vital objective of finding common strength was achieved.

Think of what many of them have endured: the persistent, often covert intrusion, the knowledge that News International and other journalists were in possession of some of their most private secrets, the fear, for themselves, their families and friends, that if they spoke up or sued, sooner or later these newspapers would exact their cruel revenge. There was a lot to talk about.

This was a private occasion, with no press release and no fanfare as that was the very last thing that any of the guests wanted. So why am I writing about it? Here is a clue: when the guests were arriving at the venue, press photographers were outside snapping them without their consent.

These newspapers will not let up. They are used to destroying people’s lives, they don’t want their fun spoiled and they are ready to use all their old tricks to prevent that happening. They saw a gathering of their victims, not as an occasion for their own shame, but as a chance for revenge, sabotage or abuse.

Joan Smith at Inforrrm’s Blog wrote about the launch of the Sun on Sunday, to which Alex Salmond leaked the planned day of the independence referendum:

There have been other significant revelations this week, including an internal NI memo showing that Andy Coulson and Rebekah Brooks knew in 2006 that more than a hundred people had been targets of phone hacking. We’ve also learned that the police were aware in the same year that Glenn Mulcaire had the new identities and contact details of people in the witness protection programme, a leak that potentially put lives at risk.

A single rogue reporter at the News of the World. A rogue newsroom that had to be closed down. A witch-hunt at the Sun that threatens press freedom. None of the excuses have stood up to much scrutiny, and damaging revelations continue to pour out at Leveson. Can Murdoch’s spanking new Sun on Sunday survive its association with this tarnished brand?

Can Alex Salmond’s shiny hope of an independent Scotland survive Salmond’s closed-door meetings with Murdoch?

If we vote Yes to independence, are we to wake up to Brian Souter running the transport system and Rupert Murdoch running the media? That’s not the Scotland I want to live in.

16 Comments

Filed under Elections, In The Media, Scottish Politics

16 responses to “Murdoch, Salmond, and the Swamp of Destiny

  1. “After all, there are serious questions which he ought to be answering about what deals he’s done with Murdoch behind closed doors.”

    Sigh. He’s answered the “questions”, and so has Murdoch: there were no deals. The phrase you mean to use there is “unsubstantiated allegations, which everyone concerned could deny until they were blue in the face, but which everyone who hates Murdoch will never believe no matter what”.

    You might choose not to believe the answers, but that’s not the same as constantly pretending that they’ve never been given, Asking again and again and again and again in the hope that someone will give you the answer you want is a futile pursuit.

    • He’s answered the “questions”, and so has Murdoch: there were no deals.

      That’s nice. But I’ve heard the same line about the SNP with Brian Souter. And yet we still have deregulated buses, and Souter has a knighthood.

      SNP loyalists can say again and again and again that they know Salmond’s cosy relationship with Murdoch is just about having a friendly cup of tea together at Bute House, there’s nothing else going on – but it’s not as if it’s you that the Yes Scotland campaign has to convince.
      .

      • “But I’ve heard the same line about the SNP with Brian Souter. And yet we still have deregulated buses, and Souter has a knighthood.”

        Jesus. There was actually an independent investigation of the Souter business, which unequivocally cleared Salmond and the SNP of any wrongdoing of any kind, yet here you are still making insinuations anyway.

        http://news.stv.tv/politics/282982-inquiry-clears-salmond-of-influencing-souter-knighthood/

        Do you see what I mean? Clearly, no amount of denial – or even official independent judgements of innocence – will satisfy you, so why bother constantly demanding “answers” when what you really want is a confession, true or otherwise?

        And, y’know, you sound like it was the SNP who deregulated buses in the first place.

        • There was actually an independent investigation of the Souter business, which unequivocally cleared Salmond and the SNP of any wrongdoing of any kind, yet here you are still making insinuations anyway.

          Yeah, it’s funny how that works in politics, isn’t it? Alex Salmond / the SNP didn’t do anything unlawful at all, investigation cleared him of that. Nonetheless, a sleazy businessman whose biggest claim to fame is either homophobia or running a bus empire that everyone loves to hate, take your pick, got knighted. It just so happened that he’d also given the SNP a million pounds. Fight how you like, you can’t make that look good.

          Clearly, no amount of denial – or even official independent judgements of innocence – will satisfy you, so why bother constantly demanding “answers”

          Because I want to know if it’s going to be worthwhile voting “yes” in 2014. And for that, I want to know that Salmond’s broken off his unpleasantly cosy relationship with Murdoch, and isn’t going to do any under-the-table deals handing NewsCorp the BBC.

          You’re absolutely right that no amount of verbal denial will clear Salmond of that. How could it? Why should I believe him when he’s having private tea parties in Bute House with Murdoch?

          Why keep asking? Because Salmond needs to know that while his SNP loyalists will forgive him anything and everything, the voters he needs to convince aren’t so gullible.

          And, y’know, you sound like it was the SNP who deregulated buses in the first place.

          So? The SNP had proposed to regulate the buses again at their conference before the 2007 election. But they got half a million from Souter and suddenly that idea just disappeared. Why do you think we should just pretend that didn’t happen?

          • Let me just fix this for you:

            “Why keep asking? Because Salmond needs to know that while his SNP loyalists will forgive him anything and everything, the voters he needs to convince won’t forgive him anything they IMAGINE he’s done, even if he hasn’t actually done it, and has been cleared of doing it by one of the most senior impartial legal authorities in the land.”

            Attempting to convince those who have no interest in listening is a pointless exercise. You think Souter’s knighthood was connected to the SNP, even though it’s been absolutely independently determined that it wasn’t. So what are the SNP supposed to do? How are they supposed to convince you? They clearly can’t, and therefore it’s a waste of their time trying. Best move on to the people whose minds *aren’t* closed by blind bitterness.

            I don’t like Souter any more than you do. But his money’s good – every bit as good as that of the criminal who gave millions to the Lib Dems and which they show no desire to return, for example – and for all his vile homophobia it’s still the SNP who are bringing forward same-sex marriage, so he’s clearly not dictating their policy agenda. I’d like buses re-regulated too, but given than Labour didn’t do it in 13 years in power and the Lib Dems are showing no sign of trying to do it in coalition, I’m going to assume there are reasons not to, rather than just making a tedious conspiracy theory out of it based on smear, supposition and innuendo.

          • Try as you like, Wings: Souter did give the SNP £1M: Souter did get a knighthood: and the SNP did decide to uphold bus deregulation and Souter’s bus empire. None of that is my “imagination”. You just want to put the best interpretation possible on it, and it obviously frustrates and annoys you that other people less loyal to the SNP don’t.

            So what are the SNP supposed to do? How are they supposed to convince you?

            End bus deregulation.

            See?

            Action, not words. No one except Souter loves Stagecoach. In a country the size of Scotland we need a good public transport system. Why are the SNP against that?

  2. “Souter did give the SNP £1M: Souter did get a knighthood”

    Absolutely true. Also, I *did* have Frosties for breakfast this morning. There *was* a suicide bomb attack in Iraq today. Both things happened, but only an idiot would say one caused the other, and they’re just as connected as Souter’s donation to the SNP and his knighthood.

    That’s not my opinion – if your position is that Lord Fraser of Carmyllie is an “SNP loyalist” who’s just making excuses for Salmond, just come out and say so. You’ll look pretty ridiculous, though.

    • Also, I *did* have Frosties for breakfast this morning. There *was* a suicide bomb attack in Iraq today. Both things happened, but only an idiot would say one caused the other, and they’re just as connected as Souter’s donation to the SNP and his knighthood.

      It’s nice that you believe that, Wings.

      But let’s make it clear.

      In autumn 2014, Salmond want a majority of Scottish voters to vote Yes for independence. Your own means of campaigning for that appears to be to berate floating voters, dubious about the SNP and Salmond and plans for independent Scotland, as “idiots” and “ridiculous” for not having the total faith in the SNP/Salmond that you do.

      You should be clear in your mind: this isn’t how Salmond can convince me. It’s not how the SNP can convince me. It’s not how anyone can convince me to make up my mind in autumn 2014 or at any other time.

      That may scare you and frustrate you. But it’s the plain truth.

      • “It’s nice that you believe that”

        Like I said – it’s not my opinion. I have no privileged information whatsoever. It’s the opinion of an independent inquiry conducted by one of the most senior legal authorities in the land, and if his judgement isn’t good enough for you I can’t imagine whose would be. It seems clear that your mind is made up, and will not be swayed by any sort of evidence, so why would the SNP waste their time on you when other people are more open to reason?

        I’m not a member of the SNP. I never have been. I don’t even vote for the SNP, and do not represent them in any way. My opinions are my own, and when I see people behaving idiotically I tend to call it that way.

        • it’s not my opinion. I have no privileged information whatsoever.

          No. You’re just absolutely determined to think-no-evil about Souter donating half a million to the SNP and the SNP dropping opposition to bus deregulation, to Souter’s advantage and no one else’s: and to think-no-evil about Souter donating another half million to the SNP and by-total-of-course-coincidence getting a knighthood. For services to transport. Someone must have had a sense of humour.

          It seems clear that your mind is made up, and will not be swayed by any sort of evidence

          Now, you’re just making that up. I’ve told you what evidence I would want.

          I’m not a member of the SNP. I never have been. I don’t even vote for the SNP, and do not represent them in any way.

          Okay. So why does it matter to you what I think of Salmond, the SNP, and Brian Souter?

      • “Your own means of campaigning for that appears to be…”

        Incidentally, some time ago I invited you to write a piece on your position on independence, to be published on my blog in the interests of reaching out to the undecided and conversing freely with them. Since you didn’t even offer the courtesy of a reply saying “No thanks”, I feel disinclined to listen to any lectures on civility.

        • Sorry. I should have said then “No thanks.”

          No, thanks.

          (Update, 5:30) – also, just to be clear: My objection to your strategy of berating me is not for its incivility – I don’t regard what you’ve said as being over the line, I don’t have a problem with how strongly you disagree with me or how you express that disagreement – my issue with this is, bluntly, how ineffective it is.

  3. Also: bringing back bus regulation will convince you that Salmond didn’t do a deal with Murdoch? Novel bit of reasoning.

    • Also: bringing back bus regulation will convince you that Salmond didn’t do a deal with Murdoch?

      No. You referenced Souter only in your comment: my reply dealt with Souter only.

  4. Pingback: Wings over Scotland | Occam’s Beard

  5. Just out of interest Edinburgh Eye.

    I think that Sun King Salmond was still doing Murdoch’s dirty work with the Observer bank account claim at Leveson.

    Strikes me as ‘fishy’ that he should choose to make this revelation against News International’s nemesis, Guardian News & Media at this time. He certainly knew full well the headlines the news would receive.

    Effectively it served three purposes for the FM; 1) deflect from his previous silence over being hacked, 2) put some pressure onto GN&M while deflecting from News International, 3) make him look like a victim of big bad journalists.

    At first I thought the ex-Observer journalist referred to must be a present employee of News International or NewsCorps, but it looks like it’s far closer to home. Risky business for the FM, I hope it comes back and bites him.

    Your argument with the frothing Salmond apologist above is fairly typical of his pattern of pathology. He called me a “hate blinded idiot” on my second or third ever post on his illuminating “civic” website. He’s banned me now because he doesn’t have the courage of his alleged convictions.

    You can read my take on the banning issue here: http://wp.me/p2for3-mK (Apologies for the link if you consider it to be spamming – further apologies if it bores you to tears)

    Before the Sunday Sun, I was fairly neutral toward Wee Eck.

    I felt insulted by him over the Sunday Sun’s cover.

    After the James Murdoch lobbying intent revelation I started to dislike him.

    After Leveson’s shifty work I can only say that I find him loathsome.

    Still admire him for his craftwork. But I could say the same about Murdoch.

    Regards

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s