Hugh Grant last night spoke at a fringe event held by the Hacked Off group at the Labour Party conference. Although self-deprecatingly referring to himself as the bait so that others could discuss the issues, he proceeded, “humbly”, to make a number of very good points, particularly in arguing that not every politician who spoke up against the Murdoch empire’s abuse of power deserves praise. Coining a phrase, he divided those who did into “signposts” and “weathervanes”.
By the time that it became clear just how popular putting the boot into the Digger’s empire was, it was hard to find an MP defending him (except for a few; as Grant pointed out, the godfather of Grace Murdoch is unlikely to be a signpost or a weathervane). The question is whether in doing so they were spinelessly chasing public opinion, or attempting to lead the way.
He also described many national newspapers as operating on the same business model of “criminal appropriation” of private information that the News of the World did, pointing out that the battle was not over once that paper had shut down.
You can watch the video of the Hacked Off event below:
Meanwhile, Len McCluskey, Unite’s General Secretary, launched a strong attack on the Murdoch media empire today. Speaking in advance on a motion calling for James Murdoch to stand down as Chairman of BSkyB, McCluskey said:
Rupert Murdoch did not become an enemy when he turned on Gordon Brown and the Labour Party at the 2009 party conference. He was the enemy of everything decent and democratic in this country long before that.
He has a long history of attacking working people, starting with his onslaught on the unions at Wapping 25 years ago, throwing thousands of loyal workers onto the scrapheap.
The moral pollution that his company fostered has seeped into the very fabric of British life – from politicians to the police, and, more widely, to the moral malaise peddled by the right-wing jingoism and sexism in his papers. There is a moral and political thread that leads straight from Wapping to Milly Dowler.
This pollution includes the contemptuous way his papers treat working-class people – not least the Liverpool fans who died at Hillsborough, and who they smeared in a way my city – this city – will never forget.
Murdoch’s minions did all of this because they thought they could get away with it – that they were above the law. And for years they were right as our own leaders were too bedazzled by his power. Or simply too afraid.
To stand up to Murdoch and take the slightest step to curb his power or even apply the law was to excite his wrath.
The motion under discussion also called for the setting up of a further two commissions, in addition to the Leveson Inquiry. The first would look at the rules controlling media ownership, specifically to examine the “unacceptable” concentration of power which McCluskey picked out the Murdoch empire as being the worst example of. The second would go wider still and examine the role of independent trade unions in ensuring that the rich and powerful do not exercise their power unopposed.
With the – perhaps polar opposites – of celebrity and unionism joining to call for the end of one of the most corrupting influences in British politics, it looks like the Murdochs’ plan of making a few token sacrifices and then lying low until the whole thing blows over is unlikely to work.
• The government must explain the alternatives to Conditional Fee Arrangements – Jonny Mulligan, September 23rd 2011
• The Daily Mail’s poisonous lies must be fought by all trade unionists – Rick Coyle, September 23rd 2011
• De Piero: High time Labour redefined its relationship with the press – Shamik Das, September 22nd 2011