Mark Steel: Watching Murdoch crisis so much fun

July 15, 2011

Oh this is such fun. And every few hours it gets better, but always with an announcement there’s “still worse to come”, leaving us struggling to imagine what they might have done that’s worse.

Presumably by tomorrow it will turn out they planted a bug in Heather Mills’s false leg and hacked into Stephen Hawking’s voicebox.

The only thing that tarnishes it slightly is now everyone hates Murdoch. It’s like when you follow an obscure band and they become famous.

Suddenly politicians who’ve spent their careers prostrate before him are shocked at how dreadful these revelations are. This astonishment might be reasonable if News International was run by Susan Boyle or Dame Judi Dench, but this was RUPERT BLOODY SODDING BLOODY MURDOCH YOU IDIOT.

The politicians can’t be blamed because, as Peter Mandelson said: “We feared him.”

You can understand this, because the people in Egypt and Syria who stand up to tyrants only face torture and death, but Murdoch could print a picture of you with your head in a lightbulb and no one can be expected to withstand that, especially if you’re in a humble job with no power such as prime minister.

So what else could they do but fly round the world to see him and be photographed laughing and having dinner with him over and over again? After all there’s no point in being a martyr.

Cameron ensured continuity, hiring one of Murdoch’s closest people and removing a minister in case he got in Rupert’s way.

He even had News of the World editor Rebekah Brooks round for Christmas dinner, which she explained was because she was one of his constituents.

So this Christmas all his constituents should invite themselves there for dinner, and no doubt they’ll all be let in to chat about the drains behind the local supermarket over a glass of port.

But now the party leaders are appalled and disgusted and could never have guessed, as convincing as someone who protests: “I’ve spent 10 years hanging around with a dogfighting gang, but I had no idea they were involved in dogfighting.”

The police are shocked too, because how could they know 11,000 pages of documents about phone hacking might contain evidence of phone hacking?

There should be a detective series based on Inspector Yates, who led the first investigation into phone hacking allegations. Each week would end with all the suspects together in a room and him saying: “In this box are documents proving which of you is the murderer. But I don’t have time to go through that lot so you can all go.”

Even Brooks herself is astonished, and is eager to investigate. So the newspaper will investigate itself, the police will investigate themselves and the politicians will be investigated by an inquiry set up by themselves.

They are all keen on stringent law and order so maybe this is their plan to speed up the justice system. Instead of costly trials the accused will be told to hold an inquiry into themselves, and come back in three years and let us know if they did anything wrong or not.

But despite this, every day is glorious for those who’ve watched Murdoch’s organisations bend governments, cheer wars, support massacres and smash unions, because he’s on the run, stumbling like a dictator whose rule is under threat, bewildered as to why people don’t bow to him anymore.

And as a bonus it seems every day someone else unpleasant gets dragged into trouble, so by the weekend I expect to see the DJ Chris Moyles being asked to resign, and pressure being put on the bloke who cut me up as I was turning into Streatham High Road.

And, like all crumbling despotic regimes, stories now unfold of the madness within, such as the tale of Rebekah Brooks asking a reporter to attend the news conference on the morning after 9/11, dressed as Harry Potter.

If only he’d done as he was told, and then turned her into an earwig.

[This article first appeared in the Independent.]

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