From Old to New Corruption
The Leveson Inquiry and the Commons Select Committee Report on News International has highlighted some extraordinary details about how our rulers conduct their affairs.
The Prime Minister went horse riding with the former editor of the Sun who is currently on police bail relating to phone hacking inquiries. He also attended a Christmas lunch at her house where he discussed with James Murdoch a now withdrawn bid for BskyB.
These matters took place before Cameron became PM, were originally denied, but have now been confirmed as true.
The Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt, was given the job of overseeing the BskyB bid by Mr Cameron after Vince Cable was relieved of the role because he was thought to be hostile to the Murdochs. Mr Hunt, who was supposed to be impartial, described himself on his own website as a cheerleader for News International.
Meanwhile the Commons Select Committee Report has described Rupert Murdoch as not a ‘fit person’ to run a major Company like News Corp. Some Tory MPs on the Committee dissented including Louise Mensch who is a personal friend of Mr Cameron.
We might also note that the Prime Minister hired as his press spokesman Andy Coulson, former News International Editor, who is also now on police bail and no longer in the role.
At the same time several senior police officers have departed their roles as an over familiarity with senior figures in News International came to light.
It is an extraordinary story and while Labour under Ed Miliband has made it clear that it wants no part of the Murdoch largesse, the former Blair and Brown Governments were not so very different in their dealings to Cameron.
The difference with Cameron is that he has claimed that he also is above News International influence.
Yet the suspicion must be that the support of the Sun for the Tories at the 2010 General Election came with some informal strings relating, for example, to that Sky bid and to a substantial cut in the Budget for the competition- the BBC.
Recently it has become clear that News International support for Mr Cameron has been withdrawn.
Whether any personal corruption was involved here will be determined by the Courts but it is difficult to escape the conclusion that there is serious corruption of the political system.
It is a ‘new corruption’ well able to match the ‘old corruption’ prior to the 1832 Reform Act of which William Cobbett wrote.
EP Thompson noted in the Making of the English Working Class what made Cobbett angry about Old Corruption:
‘the fat contracts, the squalid scandals of the Royal Dukes, the soaring rents and taxes, and the impoverishment of rural labourers, the Ministerial subsidies to the press, the destruction of popular amusements by the informers of the Vice Society, Disaffection swelled for a hundred reasons. Hostility to the press-gang, the grievances of disabled soldiers, the grievances of artisans elbowed out by the mushrooming war-contracting firms and, after Trafalgar, the growing undertow of opposition to a seemingly endless and purposeless war’.
Britain, historically, was a world leader in promoting practices of political corruption and it seems that the present Government so useless at most things, is at least able to demonstrate that the New Corruption of 2012 is well up to the standards of 1832.
The silence of Deputy Prime Minister Clegg who spoke before the May 2010 Election of the need to extend the democratic principles which were laid out by the 1832 Reform Act, designed in part to deal with Old Corruption speaks volumes here.