Henry Porter has called the hacking scandal ‘one of the most serious post-second world war scandals to affect public life’. It’s certainly shaping up that way, but there is an even greater scandal lurking behind all this. It’s the extent to which the media, and Murdoch and his organisation in particular, now has sway over the course and conduct of British politics.
Murdoch is not entirely to blame for this. Impatient with the ponderous and deliberate nature of our representative democracy, the political class has deliberately set out to undermine the institutions that support it – including Parliament – so that it can engage with the electorate more effectively – in other words by using the media.
Journalists are courted and rewarded by being given exclusive information. Government announcements are issued through the media, not Parliament. Like it or not the media has become a part of government.
It should come as no surprise that media moguls like Murdoch have become so powerful. In fact you could argue that their power has been gifted to them by politicians, and deliberately so. In Murdoch’s case his organisation has grown enormously over the past two decades, and with it his power, but the tables have turned. Politicians now hold little sway over Murdoch and his organisation, they now fear his power and dance to his tune.
Britain has become a representative democracy in name only. The institutions at the heart of our democracy have been debased. Our political class now exist in a totally separate world from the people they represent: a world so corrupted by fear and influence exerted form outside politics that political decisions are no longer taken for the benefit of the electorate.
Could this be about to change? Murdoch’s eagerness to get full control of BSkyB and the hacking scandal that is now engulfing his organisation, has revealed to us all just how rotten the apple is. From the gullibility of our Prime Minister who accepted an ex editor of one of Murdoch’s newspapers, widely believed to be implicated in the hacking scandal, as his press secretary, to the cowardly silence of the majority of MPs who failed to raise any objections to the BSkyB bid having been threatened by Murdoch’s henchmen if they did. Our eyes have been opened.
Maybe one of the most serious post-second world war scandals to affect public life may turn out to be the catalyst for real political change. Let’s hope so.