Editorial of the Socialist newspaper, 20 July 2011
When long-rotten fruit finally falls, all manner of grossness oozes from it and all varieties of parasites can come crawling out. And so it is with the all-embracing bushfire of the News International (NI) crisis.
In two weeks a paper, the News of the World (NoW), has closed, unfortunately with hundreds of job losses. Senior Met police officers have resigned and the extent of entanglement between Rupert Murdoch’s empire and the police is being exposed. John Stephenson, who resigned as Met chief, told the House of Commons that ten of the Met’s 45 press officers previously worked for NI.
No doubt many who have protested against climate change, against student fees and on other issues, will want their questions about police ’hacking’ or infiltration of their organisations answered.
Murdoch, his cronies and Cameron should tell us whether they have ever penetrated or conducted underground work in organisations such as the Socialist Party or its predecessor Militant.
Rebekah Brooks, NI chief executive, friend to at least the last three prime ministers and Murdoch’s golden girl, has not only resigned her position but been arrested. She has, alongside Rupert Murdoch and his son James, faced the parliamentary select committee. There, Murdoch senior used his son, as singer George Michael tweeted, "as a human shield".
Andy Coulson, formerly Cameron’s pal and Downing Street director of communications, has also been arrested. His other previous incarnations include a stint as News of the World (NoW) editor and witness in the case against wrongfully imprisoned Scottish socialist Tommy Sheridan.
There has also been the death, as yet unexplained, of one of the first whistleblowers, Sean Hoare.
What now for Tory prime minister David Cameron? How can he pretend that he wasn’t influenced by Murdoch’s empire? He conducted 26 meetings with NI executives in 15 months plus apparently a number of ’undocumented’ exchanges and, as Murdoch senior indicated, ’backdoor’ visitors to Downing Street. How many times did he meet victims or working class opponents of his government’s cuts?
Opposition leader Ed Miliband recognised that the exposure of the hacking of the phone of murdered school student Milly Dowler changed things. In his 19 July speech, he correctly linked all the "powerful people who answered to nobody", out-of-control bankers, tax-avoiding corporations, dishonest MPs who had indulged in a "culture of entitlement" and News International "which thought it was beyond responsibility".
Miliband pointed out that while "Sir Paul Stephenson [Met Commissioner] has taken responsibility and resigned over the employment of Mr Coulson’s deputy… the Prime Minister hasn’t even apologised for hiring Mr Coulson." Deputy Labour leader Harriet Harman insisted that they wanted to ask Cameron questions. However, Miliband should demand Cameron’s resignation, and that of his government as well.
All those who have been victims of Cameron’s cuts – ie every one of us who works in or uses public services -every one who is not as rich as the millionaire Cabinet- will want Cameron and Co sent packing.
Cameron, having absented himself to fly around Africa with a load of bankers, is returning for one extra day of parliament before the summer recess. However, one day is insufficient. Cameron must not be ’saved by the bell’. Any opposition worth the name would call for a vote of ’no confidence’ and push Cameron out. This government’s downfall would strike a huge political blow against the ruling class and their cuts programme.
But Ed Miliband himself has also been quaffing from the crystal cup at Murdoch’s recent summer party. New Labour in government never took the opportunity to clip Murdoch’s wings. Tony Blair and Gordon Brown failed spectacularly to reverse Thatcher’s anti-trade union laws or to undo vast Tory privatisations. In fact they added to those policies. Likewise there was no attempt to undo the moves towards monopoly control and political influence enjoyed by Murdoch and his ilk.
Miliband denounced the strikes against attacks on public sector pensions on 30 June, the most important day of struggle in recent working class history. Nonetheless Miliband could be brought to power, not through his own actions but through the unwinding of the crisis. From this coalition’s inception, the Socialist has warned it would be torn asunder.
But an attack on Murdoch will not be enough to win an election. A Guardian/ICM poll found that while Miliband’s personal approval had risen three points to 31%, Labour had dropped three points to 36%, 1% behind the Tories.
Labour’s no solution
For working class and middle class people a change to Miliband’s Labour would offer no solution. The trade union leaders should act. Clearly the establishment is bankrupt. Many MPs are now falling over themselves to celebrate the ’principle of free press’ – but where were they until now?
The solicitor for one hacking victim told the BBC’s Panorama programme that MPs hadn’t stopped the scandal – but merely reacted to a scandal that had finally caught up with them.
On 30 June members of the ATL teaching union were on strike for the first time. General secretary Mary Bousted was given a standing ovation at the strike rally. She said: "I am glad that the ATL is not affiliated to any political party; Ed Miliband is a disgrace." She asked: "What has he and his shadow cabinet, which is laughingly called an opposition ever done? Sisters, and brothers, we’re doing it for ourselves."
This latest crisis underlines the need for a workers’ party more than ever. Steps must be urgently taken to build a party, based on a socialist programme, that cannot be bought, that doesn’t seek the approval of anti-working class billionaires; but instead seeks to provide a vehicle to fight to defend all our rights, jobs and public services.
The Murdoch affair must not be allowed to fade over the summer break. Arising from this crisis, as well as questions about who we can trust to run the country, are questions about who should own and make decisions about the press.
The Socialist calls for the nationalisation of the press and all media facilities under democratic working class control and management. This has to be linked to a programme to abolish the roots of this crisis, the profit-motivated capitalist system and to fight for a socialist alternative.