Best of #Hackgate Commentary (2)

And in case you missed them, here’s the second installment:



  • andnowwhat

    I’m guessing you are aware of this but an LD minister just said in the debate that the editor’s code (?) does not demand that an editor must know the source of a story, even if it is illegal.

    That’s unbelievable

  • Dewi

    Mick – it’s Murdoch you should go for – i can’t believe he didn’t know what was going on,

  • Damian O’Loan

    I’m sorry, but this:

    “I once accidentally gained access to one of the most coveted phone numbers on this island. I destroyed it. That was tough.”

    is the most ridiculous piece of nonsensical rubbish I’ve ever seen on Slugger.

    Please, just put some ads in that space and stop indulging that kind of tasteless idiocy.

  • And now Murdoch has bought the former DPP, Ken MacDonald. See Paul Waugh.

  • andnowwhat @ 2:38 pm:

    However, Roy Greenslade was emphasizing to the BBC’s PM that a designated editor is legally responsible for the contents of the publication. That includes whether said editor was “on holiday” (the Brooks defence) or not. He managed a chortle over the old one that, when things go wrong, it’s always the case of the editor being “on holiday”.

    Moreover, even if Brooks had relinquished control to her understrapper, that again dumps on Coulson.

    And any dump on Coulson dumps on Cameron.

    I think this one is going thermo-nuclear.

  • andnowwhat

    Hi Malcolm.

    Totally agree and thanks for the clarification.

    This is the early days of a mushroom cloud. One other person it should hit is Lord Blair of Tal Mut. James Murdoch has been brought in to the fray, a close friend of Jesus’ second best friend. This all happened under his watch.

  • andnowwhat @ 7:27 pm:

    I think I have now decoded that cryptic posting. If I perceive it aright, I suggest your horizons are too limited.

    The following will need you to recognise two comments originated by the fertile brain of the only Nobel Laureate named (to my knowledge) after a Staffordshire reservoir.

    The first comment (in a 1930 letter to the Laureate’s aunt) was adapted by the Laureate’s cousin, who later became Prime Minister. Stanley Baldwin denounced the “engines of propaganda” (he meant Rothermere and Beaverbrook) as Power without responsibility — the prerogative of the harlot throughout the ages. That still resonates.

    The second comment was Kipling’s own:

    … we’ve proved it again and again,
    That if once you have paid him the Dane-geld
    You never get rid of the Dane.

    Now, there was a countervailing force to the “engines of propaganda”: it was the printing unions. Yes, they were a rapacious bunch, but they had a few principles — on the odd occasion they refused to print the excesses of the proprietors. Were the Sun printers justified in refusing to print the “Mine Führer” Scargill libel? Censorship? Decency?

    The power of the print unions was broken. The press barons — Maxwell, Murdoch, Rothermere, O’Reilly, Desmond, Ledbedev … all good men and true — thenceforth had untrammeled sway.

    We’ve been paying Murdoch, the most successful pillager-and-raper, his Danegeld ever since the Wapping dispute. Whatever the rights-and-wrongs of that one (I’ll argue that elsewhere), Murdoch could not have “won” without the active collaboration of Thatcher’s government. And didn’t he repay the compliment?

    So I’d mildly suggest that:
    ¶ this one has been cooking for some three decades;
    ¶ it certainly isn’t just one administration to blame;
    ¶ today was a landmark moment. For the first time in those three decades, a party leader has decisively spoken out against the prerogative of the harlot.

    That last point (reduced to two decades) is what Nick Robinson (Thatcherite President of Oxford University Tories) also recognised this afternoon.

  • The link did not open for me Mr Redfellow.
    But I hope the word “Wapping” appears.
    Theres a certain symmetry to all this.
    The rise of Murdoch, the crushing of the print unions, the fragrant Brenda Dean (Man United supporter)……..Murdoch at bay with his ambitions for Sky.

    ……although those printers were an unlovely lot with their ancient practices like taking a few jobs on same night in Fleet Street and cash payments made to Michael Mouse and Donald Duck.
    As good socialists we heartily disapprove of such behaviour.

  • Daily Telegraph’s Peter Oborne: “Mr Cameron allowed himself to be drawn into a social coterie in which no respectable person, let alone a British prime minister, should be seen dead. … So the Prime Minister is in a mess. To put the matter rather more graphically, he is in a sewer. The question is this: how does he crawl out and salvage at least some of his reputation for decency and good judgment? This is a potentially deadly moment. If the Prime Minister plays his cards wrong, his public image will change in a matter of a few days. From a popular and respected national leader, he will come to be defined by his ill-judged friendship with the Chipping Norton set.”

    Harsh words indeed from the ‘Torygraph’.

  • pippakin

    This mess does appear to be threatening Cameron but I’m not sure I understand why it should. He employed Coulson, who presumably got excellent references from his previous employers, in good faith and his friendships with others may have been unwise but he is not alone in making poor choices. Tony Blair was just as ‘close’ to some NI executives.

    I suppose I would rather the concentration remained on the crimes committed by the media and leave politics until the media itself is sorted out.

  • pippakin @ 9:52 am:

    Up to a point, Lord Copper.

    There are two reasons why that defence might not work.

    The first, the emotive one, is the “wisdom of crowds”, which Miliband deployed in PMQs:

    I am afraid that that answer was out of touch with millions of people up and down this country. The public will not accept the idea that, with this scandal engulfing the News of the World and News International, the Government should … etc., etc.

    The second, more pointed one, is in that piece by Oborne which Nevin (above) picked up, in his midnight hour stalk.

    Oborne nails Cameron into the “Chipping Norton set” — La Brooks and her racehorse trainer husband, Elisabeth Murdoch and her husband “PR fixer Matthew Freud” (there are other louche types, such as Jeremy Clarkson, just down the road) :

    The Prime Minister cannot claim in defence that he was naively drawn in to this lethal circle. He was warned – many times. Shortly before the last election he was explicitly told about the company he was keeping. Alan Rusbridger – editor of The Guardian newspaper, which has performed such a wonderful service to public decency by bringing to light the shattering depravity of Mr Murdoch’s newspaper empire – went to meet one of Mr Cameron’s closest advisers shortly before the last election. He briefed this adviser very carefully about Mr Coulson, telling him many troubling pieces of information that could not then be put into the public domain.
    Mr Rusbridger then went to see Nick Clegg, now the deputy prime minister. So Mr Cameron and Mr Clegg – the Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister – knew all about Mr Coulson before last May’s coalition negotiations. And yet they both paid no attention and went on to make him the Downing Street director of communications, an indiscretion that beggars belief.

  • pippakin

    Malcolm Redfellow

    I agree but I’m afraid it may not be much more than a diversion. Cameron is embarrassed but a poor choice of friends is hardly illegal or even unusual. I think the concentration should be on the media at least until the whole is known, charges are brought and ‘resignations’ are made and that’s without touching on the attempt to take over Sky.

    I miss the ITV news channel…

  • Damian O’Loan

    With respect Malcolm, I’m not sure that Ed Balls is arguing exactly the same point as you are. Nor is the Guardian.

    Neither are saying the actions of the News International are the result of toothless self-regulation. They are saying there is something exceptional about this organisation that distinguishes it from others.

    That may even be true at this point in time. It’s hardly a starting point that will address the problem effectively.

    How or why this information is coming to light is beyond the knowledge of the vast majority of us. That the intended consequence is the short- or medium-term survival of the British media in terms of diversity of offer seems a reasonable assumption. By way of preventing the BSkyB takeover and reform of regulation.

    That the long-term consequence of this will be a ‘moralised harlot’ seems to be an optimistic assessment, as well as an over-confident one given the paucity of facts surrounding the release of this information. I could suggest quite the opposite, I doubt you would be convinced.

  • Damian O’Loan @ 11:55 am:

    I haven’t seem Ed Balls’s comments, so I don’t know how they differ from what I’m trying to say.

    Currently, the focus is on NotW and therefore, by extension on News International, and therefore by further extension, on BSkyB.

    That’s the way the press want it, for obvious reasons of self-interest.

    What will not go away is the likes of that ICO Report, What Price Privacy from five years ago. This is the document that “Lord” Ashcroft mined so effectively, and to which I have referred (through his summary) several times here on Slugger.

    That report derived, in large part from the Whittamore/ “Operation Glade” investigation, but pertinently included this in its prefatory “Executive Summary”:

    1.7 Much more illegal activity lies hidden under the surface. Investigations by the ICO and the police have uncovered evidence of a widespread and organised undercover market in confidential personal information. Such evidence forms the core of this report, providing details about how the unlawful trade in personal information operates: who the buyers are, what information they are seeking, how that information is obtained for them, and how much it costs.

    Where Ashcroft goes beyond the ICO report is the results of his FOA trawl:

    the ICO data released to me shows that the 305 journalists, the identities of whom have yet to be revealed, commissioned no fewer than 13,343 separate lines of enquiry from Whittamore. These transactions can be subdivided into three categories:-
    • those which are positively known to have constituted a breach of the Data Protection Act, of which there were 5,025.
    • those in addition which were probably a breach of the Data Protection Act, of which there were 6,330.
    • those lines of enquiry which were questionable, but in relation to which there was insufficient information to form a definitive view, of which there were 1,988.
    The 305 journalists worked for a total of 21 newspapers and 11 magazines, although some journalists worked for more than one publication. However, the concentration of activity was striking. One newspaper, for instance, employed no fewer than 58 journalists who commissioned illicit acts during the period.
    The numbers of individual journalists from each newspaper who commissioned information from Whittamore were:-
    Daily Mail 58
    Sunday People 50
    Daily Mirror 45
    Mail on Sunday 33
    Sunday Mirror 25
    News of the World 23
    The People 19
    Sunday Express 8
    Daily Express 7
    The Observer 4
    Daily Sport 4
    The Sun 4
    Daily Star 4
    Daily Record 2
    The Times 1
    Sunday Times 1
    Evening Standard 1
    Sunday Sport 1
    Sunday Business News 1
    Mail in Ireland 1
    Sunday World 1

    That, and it should be underlined, is the score of just one police raid on just one investigator.

  • It is in the News Internationals interest to make this a story about ethics (sic) and illegality in Journalism.
    (note the Suns non headline today).
    But it is in “Journalsts” interest dump everything on the Sun.
    It is in the Medias interest to blame the Police.
    In the Polices interest to blame the Media.
    Its in the Politicians interest to blame everyone except them.
    There are few Heroes in this.
    And a lot of Cowards.

    I got the distinct impression last night that everyone wants some arrests.
    It will have the effect of allowing all the dodgy people to play the honourable “sub judice” card. And effectively close the story down for several months.
    As there was an “appalling vista” for the Justice system in the 1970s, there is an “appalling vista” for Journalism.
    Ultimately the instinct to survive (at the expense of hanging a few hacks) is what will happen.
    So Gin and Tonics all round at Westminster, Scotland Yard, Wapping and just about every news-room and chapel meeting.

  • Damian O’Loan


    Ed Balls indeed.

    No, I was attempting to respond to your allusion to a party leader.

    “I am afraid that that answer was out of touch with millions of people up and down this country. The public will not accept the idea that, with this scandal engulfing the News of the World and News International, the Government should, in the coming days be making a decision outside the normal processes, for them to take control of one of the biggest media organisations in the country. I know that this is difficult for the Prime Minister, but I strongly urge him to think again and send this decision to the proper authorities—the Competition Commission. As I say, this would provide breathing space for legitimacy and for the proper decisions to be made.”

    “He should immediately appoint a senior figure, potentially a judge, to lead this inquiry, make it clear that it will have the power to call witnesses under oath, and establish clear terms of reference covering a number of key issues: the culture and practices of the industry; the nature of regulation, which is absolutely crucial; and the relationship between the police and the media.”

    These are Miliband’s points of focus.

    I’m not convinced his aim is to moralise the harlot whatsoever, or whether he just wants her to be more ‘faithful’.

    I quite agree with your diagnosis of the problem. I’m just not sure that many of those with the power to address it would agree with you on the solution.

  • Damian O’Loan

    This article for the HuffPo is even more revealing:

    There is no engagement with the root causes of this. All the leader of the opposition is interested in is preventing the BSkyB takeover.

    These actions are not the result of a potential monopoly situation. Why that is becoming the focus is beyond me, but greater media competition – or even the survival of the Guardian – will certainly not ‘tame the beast’.

    Moreover, I’m not sure it should be tamed. People don’t want their own phones to be hacked, but the mass consumption of paparazzi invasions of privacy suggests there is a market for the product. It’s been clear for a long time now that the tabloid press has been involved in actions like this, yet the Sun continues to outperform its broadsheet rivals.

    We can reasonably suspect that this is a corporate culture, i.e. not limited to NI, but part of NewsCorp’s modus operandi. A boycott of NoW is meaningless. Encouraging competition in media is equally meaningless – Murdoch’s internet savvy rivals Berlusconi’s so the future is far from written.

    Hacking of soldiers’ or victims’ phones or inboxes is just the price people will eventually accept, because they like the products an unregulated media serves up better.

  • GreenBack

    End of the News of the World.
    This Sunday’s will be the last, apparently James Murdoch has said.

  • andnowwhat

    Just listening to this Greenback.

    They’ll no doubt do something like launch a Sunday copy of the Sun

  • pippakin

    If the NOTW dies this weekend then that is NI using the big stick, that is not a good enough reason to tolerate, allegedly guilty people remaining in position of authority in other media organisations. Its also a pretty clear indication that there was a lot more shite inside the reeking shell of a once proud paper.

  • Damage limitation exercise by also saying all profits to go to good causes

  • andnowwhat

    Did Pippa just use dirty talk?

  • pippakin


    I have never known a world which did not include the NOTW. I hadn’t bought it for years but its scoops were known to everyone. Its management were the predatory dregs of the print media industry and its shame on them.

    The thought also skims across my cynical mind that this is showing the power of NI and Murdoch. If we don’t like what they do – they shut a famous paper down.

    Its the fault of the NI management and so far most of them are still in post.

  • andnowwhat

    Pippa, I wouldn’t give Murdoch a penny.

    I’m so thick. This move is clearly to keep the BskyB take over alive.

  • Damian O’Loan

    Damage limitation perhaps, but it does leave the question of where the readers will go – circulation is almost identical to The Sun though.

    Le Monde has the most pertinent point. Correctly focussing on Corp, it states:

    “The Murdoch group is not ideologically neutral. Its publications are all based on a surprising cocktail: the most absolute of defences of economic liberalism and promotion of the most reactionary of family ‘values’ – the messenger of conservatism in all its forms. The NoW affair undermines the credibility of a general editorial line which gives morality lessons to the entire world.”

    What is less clear is whether this liberalism will be risked under a Tory government of all things. Labour and the Lib-Dems openly pledge support to the liberal consensus. Or will the media be forced to unilaterally disarm its freedom so as not to interfere with those other sectors that maintain their own?

  • pippakin


    Oh yes, the NOTW is the sacrifice but it should not be allowed to be the end of the matter. News International is a shameless organisation.

    Print media is slowing down and there may be other reasons behind the closing of the paper.

  • Add to the rolling blog this one:

    As it is in The Register, I am not sure if it is genuine or a spoof.

  • Manfarang

    Boycott the Sunday Sun!