Socialist Worker

News of the World scandal shakes establishment

by Simon Basketter
Issue No. 2259

The edifice of stability at the top of British society is shaken. The scandal of journalists hacking into phones is rocking the establishment. Rupert Murdoch's huge media empire is in crisis and has closed one of its flagship titles—the News of the World.

In the last week a media scandal has exploded as it was revealed that the News of the World newspaper targeted the missing schoolgirl Milly Dowler and her family in March 2002.

And in the rankest hypocrisy the hacks for heroes of the Murdoch empire tapped the phones of the families of soldiers killed in Afghanistan, Iraq and the victims of the 7/7 bombs.

It is the tip of the iceberg. But this is not just about bad journalism. It reveals the unholy alliance between the police, the media and the political establishment.

News International’s chief executive, Rebekah Brooks, and former Downing Street chief spin doctor, Andy Coulson, both edited the News of the World. Both say they knew nothing about the phone hacking. Both are friends with David Cameron. Coulson was Cameron’s chief spin doctor until late last year.

According to Cameron, “I wasn't given any specific information about Andy Coulson. I don't recall being given any information.” The editor of the Guardian said yesterday he specifically warned David Cameron’s office about Coulson’s role before the last election.

But lies and cover ups run through the scandal.

Spin doctor Coulson was arrested today as the scandal keeps growing.

Police are also investigating claims that a News International executive may have deleted millions of emails from an archive, in an apparent attempt to cover-up the scandal.

The archive is believed to have reached back to January 2005 revealing daily contact between News of the World editors, and reporters and outsiders, including private investigators.

But the police don’t come out of this any better. Police investigation first suggested 'only a handful' of victims of the News of the World phone hacking. But this was based on the same boxes of evidence the Met now say show over 4,000 people were affected.

During 2003 over £100,000 in bribes was handed over to police officers.

It is just one grubby fact among many that shine a dim light on the reality of police, politics and the media. The story goes beyond cash-filled brown envelopes or even the Murdoch newspapers.

Brooks admitted to a parliamentary committee that the News of the World paid police officers. But MPs abandoned the effort to discover the truth. Senior Tory and Labour politicians told members of the select committee that News International papers would come after them.

The scandal has shown that in times of economic crisis the establishment often goes into chaos to but not in a straightforward way. After the bankers and MPs, police look to be the next arm of the state to be discredited.

It is no surprise that the virulently anti-union Murdoch chose to sack the News of the World staff to keep his empire and his allies safe.

Murdoch is not a evil capitalist he is a good one. That is why he has been courted by politicians, including New Labour for many years. Murdoch’s main interest is profit. Murdoch wants an unrestricted market because he knows that there would be one undisputed master of that market.

But the story is far from over with the closing of the News of the World. Whether Murdoch launches another Sunday title or not the scandal has revealed some of the inner working of those who dominate British society.

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