The Plastic Hippo

June 16, 2012

Country matters

Filed under: Law,Literature,Media,Politics — theplastichippo @ 10:20 am

There will now be a short intermission. Ice creams, popcorn, hot dogs and soft drinks are available in the foyer. After Lord Justice Leveson has taken a bit of a break, our main feature will start shortly.

Module 3 of the Leveson Inquiry, which investigates the relationship between the press and politicians, has almost concluded and we can now look forward to Module 4, the final part of the formal Inquiry which is scheduled to be completed by the end of July. This final investigation might prove to be the most difficult channel for Leveson to navigate as it seeks to come up with “recommendations for a more effective policy and regulation that supports the integrity and freedom of the press while encouraging the highest ethical standards”. For some observers of the goings on at the Royal Courts of Justice, the words “the press” and “highest ethical standards” contained within the same sentence might appear to be mutually exclusive and the noble Lord faces the difficult task of closing down the last chance saloon that has been open for business for centuries and has been doing a roaring trade since the end of the Second World War. So what have we learned from Leveson so far?

Well, we`ve had some knockabout comedy from some so called comedians, A to Z list celebrities taking arms against the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune inflicted by the gutter press, more “ordinary” members of the public who have had their lives ruined even in the depths of grief and a whole troop of politicians who seem to be suffering selective amnesia and drowning in a sea of troubles. The heartache and the thousand natural shocks that flesh is heir to do not seem to be confined to Max Mosley. Former Prime Minister Major proved that Murdoch lied under oath and former Prime Minister Brown proved that Murdoch lied under oath with further evidence provided from the Cabinet Office that proves that the “unbalanced” telephone call did not take place. It`s a good job that Rupert is very wealthy because he will need to employ a better legal team than the one that advised him for his Leveson appearance. Only a “fit and proper person” is allowed to have a broadcasting license and perjury is a serious offence, even for a naturalised American citizen.

We had the Chancellor of Exchequer who claimed to have no opinion on the BSkyB takeover which he repeatedly stated was a “political inconvenience” rather than the most significant proposal for British television media since the invention of the cathode ray tube. Osborne claimed that Andy Coulson was the right man to head the number 10 press office and that Jeremy Hunt was unbiased in dealing with News International. Time and not Lord Leveson will the arbitrator of Osborne`s actions but, as he hands over another £80billion of our cash to his banker friends, time is not needed to decide that this oaf is fiscally incompetent and exhibits an almost imbecilic lack of judgement.

The grand finale of Module 3 was the appearance of David Cameron. Lacking the depth, intellect or subtlety to play the Prince of Denmark, the Prime Minister was an embarrassment. Gone was the swaggering bullying of insulting opposition MP`s because of a “working class” accent. Gone was the arrogance and posturing of a man born into privilege. Instead, he was unsure of facts, he prevaricated and he sweated. One observer, who should really get out more, noted that Cameron could not remember, did not recall or had no recollection of meetings, memos or conversations no fewer than 58 times during his five hours of evidence. Nearly six lapses of memory per hour are hardly likely to instil confidence in a Prime Minister who has forgotten that he did not actually win an election. Fortunately, his uncertainty over the frequency of social meetings with the bailed Rebekah Brooks was clarified over lunch by consulting Samantha’s diary. Lord Leveson might ask that Mrs Cameron`s appointments book but submitted to the Inquiry as relevant evidence.

Away from the intrigues of Elsinore or the Palace of Westminster, Cameron was exposed as a devious, manipulating and manipulated secondary character in the drama. Unable to justify the credentials of Coulson, relying on a hurried phone call to a cabinet lawyer who was on holiday to confirm the appointment of Hunt to oversee the BSkyB bid and a lack of understanding that being so close to the Murdoch gang implicates him in serious wrongdoing, leaves this Prime Minister without a shred of credibility. He may well be as barking mad as the Danish Prince, but perhaps we should turn to T S Eliot for a description of the usefulness of David Cameron:
No! I am not Prince Hamlet, nor was meant to be;
Am an attendant lord, one that will do
To swell a progress, start a scene or two,
Advise the prince; no doubt, an easy tool,
Deferential, glad to be of use,
Politic, cautious, and meticulous;
Full of high sentence, but a bit obtuse;
At times, indeed, almost ridiculous –
Almost, at times, the Fool”

We have learned from Leveson that successive governments and Prime Ministers have debased themselves in the hope of garnering support from Rupert Murdoch. Blair and Cameron acquiesced and found favour. Major and Brown played the role of sycophant but democratic principle got in the way and they were pilloried in the Murdoch press. In defending the integrity and freedom of the press, Lord Leveson needs to consider the definition of a free press. In the hands of megalomaniacs like Murdoch, the rather bizarre Berkley brothers, fraudster Conrad Black and the repulsive Richard Desmond, the press cannot be considered as being free. The ghost of Robert Maxwell haunts Elsinore.

The printed press is dying and much was made at Leveson of 24 hour television news and, gawd help us, the internet. An interesting strata of evidence at the Inquiry suggested that News International were demanding that government abolish the Press Complaints Commission, remove Ofcom and do away with the BBC license fee. These three measures alone would allow News Corp to maximise profit and avoid wasting time on irritating litigation when accused of illegality. If the Murdoch Empire is successful, we may see more examples of private investigators in south London car parks having their heads caved in after getting too close to the truth.

With the influence of Murdoch waning after such an uber scandal onmi shambles, the reaction of the BBC has been interesting to say the least. Reporting on alleged deals between media empires and government, the BBC seemed to concentrate on the government line. On Monday, the scandal was about Brown and Labour and not the woeful performance of Osborne. On Tuesday it was about the honourable Sir John Major and the shifty Ed Miliband. Wednesday didn`t really matter as Clegg and Salmond are irrelevant. By Thursday, Nick Robinson was purring over Cameron`s confidence in describing future regulation of the press and glossed over the Prime Minister`s obvious failings when face with some fairly gentle examination. Few Labour MP`s have been invited to comment on Radio 4 and on Dimbleby`s Question Time, the ridiculous Grant Shapps was seen to be applauding like a performing seal when a member of the public suggested that the public wasn`t interested in Leveson. If there was no overt or covert deal between the government and News International, one wonders if the BBC are making positive noises about the government in exchange for the protection of the license fee and an offer of a favourable charter renewal.

If Leveson is to purge this viper`s nest of incestuous patronage and crony nepotism he has to be courageous. The elite may be rattled and made to feel uncomfortable about revelations over private conversations at drinks parties in Oxfordshire and Westminster, but they are surely confident that the storm will pass and we will return to the status quo where the unelected hold sway. Hamlet in Act 3 Scene 2 comes up with some outrageous innuendo worthy of a Sun headline. Ophelia, although worldly wise, was not impressed. It is worth remembering that most of the protagonists in that particular drama ended up stabbed or poisoned.

In classrooms across the nation, any discussion of country matters in Hamlet reduces boys to fits of girly giggles and causes girls to blush. What then should we make of country suppers? Ay, there`s the rub.

One wonders, given the level of greed and self interest being displayed, if the elite think that this country actually matters.

1 Comment »

  1. An excellent polemic – a dying art that needs to be revived.

    However, one or two crictical observations. First,in a polemic, never include rhetorical questions such as your last statement. However much they plead to the contrary, these people have no interest in anything but themselves, their wallets and their legacy.

    Secondly, in a polemic, never expect your target to sort out any problem caused by it in the first place.

    It is almost inconceivable that Cameron and his pals will act seriously on any Leveson findings, except to pass a law, as requested by the police, that every email and mobile exchange made by anyone is open to State scrutiny and monitoring. After all, having been found out by such means, their only option is to limit freedom of expression for the rest of us by threat of discovery.

    Without the willingness of Government to actually do something about its findings, Leveson will fizzle out and be remembered as no more than a sparkler, when it should be celebrated as a bonfire of the vanities.

    The Realist

    Comment by The Realist — June 19, 2012 @ 11:06 am | Reply

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