Monday, 22 August 2011

The politics of phone hacking

It's interesting to note that, before the recent revelations about hacking emerged, it was a common belief on the part of many right-wingers that the allegations against Andy Coulson etc were a) a journo-on-journo obsession and b) politically motivated. Some people were even dumb enough to argue that the whole thing was politically motivated, cooked up by Labour and The Grauniad, which looks very stupid in retrospect. Boris.

Now that I've got my partisan jibe in, I thought I'd relay my own views on this one. Over the past couple of months I've followed a lot of the detail of the hacking scandal. In all of this I can honestly say politics, in the partisan sense, isn't a factor. I'm not bothered if the scandal does damage to David Cameron, regardless of what I think about his judgment in hiring Coulson. I didn't celebrate the closure of The News of the World, with innocent employees given the boot, though nor did I join in the collective misremembering of what was, in large part, a comic. I don't hope the knock-on effects will damage Fox News - I don't like or watch it but am totally comfortable with others doing so. Nor do I want to see Sky damaged, otherwise how will I watch humiliating 7-1 defeats... I would even go a long way defending journos on public interest grounds, even, maybe, employing hacking. But in this case we clearly see that the practice went way beyond that.

I don't deny that some of these factors may have affected others' views of the hacking scandal, but I can honestly say that isn't why I have got interested. For me the issue is the misuse of power and a lack of accountability. News International has had a corrupting influence on politics and the Police. Through the select committee process, we have seen that this is a company that will do anything to avoid accountability. It is only in the last month and a half, when faced by a serious crisis, that it has given any ground. And even now it maybe the case that the company is not playing with a straight bat. In the broader sense of politics, regardless of which parties Murdoch papers and channels support, this is behaviour that any self- respecting lefty should be concerned about.

I am a strong believer that the fish rots from the head down, and that corporate norms are hugely influenced by executive behaviour. If any former or existing NI employees are shown to have misled parliament they need to be made to face the consequences. I am not the sort of lefty that believes in the 'evil-global-megacorp' view of corporate influence on politics. I don't believe that most companies behave like NI. But in order that people do have a degree of trust in the system an example needs to be made in this case.

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