Just now the chattering classes are all in a frenzy because it has been revealed that the gutter press are in the gutter. Quelle surprise, next we will be hearing that bears defecate in the woods and that the Pope is a catholic. They have always been there, it is just that on the watch of the last, Labour, government their behaviour got more out of hand than usual. And far more importantly, substantial levels of police corruption were involved. We really must not take our eye off this last issue because it is the most important by far.
The police were selling private phone numbers to the press so that they could be hacked. The police were selling location details for mobile phones (called pinging). The police were selling stories. The police were not investigating the gutter press even when they had the evidence to do so. Yet these are the same police who are paid to protect us and to uphold the law. This is, by a very long way, the most important issue to come out of the current scandals, yet it seems to be getting a fraction of the news coverage of far more marginal issues. So what is happening here?
Now we have Gordon Brown blustering onto the scene, obfuscating the whole matter and looking for the sympathy vote with what looks like a fictional story. He is doing exactly what the Sun newspaper did in using his son’s condition to create a story. And the big thing here is that Brown knew what the gutter press were up to, yet he was big mates with Murdoch and Brooks and, whilst prime minister, he did absolutely nothing to try and clean them up. Why didn’t he? Cameron certainly is.
Which brings us to the leader of the opposition Ed Milliband, who was a part of the government that did nothing about the gutter press. Now he seems to have lost the plot, he is using the whole issue purely as a mechanism to attack the prime minister. He is the only person doing so. And he has completely lost sight of the bigger issues here, so keen is he to try and score cheap political points. And his director of strategy, Tom Baldwin, is an ex News International journalist who has been accused, by Lord Ashcroft, of nefarious behaviour.
Usually a big scandal story like this can hold the headlines for ten days and so for this one its time is up, it would take major revelations to maintain the impetus at the current level. Meanwhile let’s hope that the activities of the police are thoroughly investigated and cleaned up and let’s also hope that the plurality of the press isn’t damaged even further by the lynch mob.