Wednesday, 13 July 2011

The Joys of Regicide

The revolution is won.

The spark that set it off, of course, was the revelations of tapping (and interfering with) Milly Dowler’s voicemail. People were outraged.

People were so outraged that both News Corp and Parliament lost control of events. And because Parliament could no longer control events it couldn’t, even if it wanted to, support the News Corp cause. All the bad things that would come from defying News Corp were going to come anyway or had already happened. You can't "out" Chris Bryant twice. All the good things that come from bowing to News Corp were lost anyway. Cameron was never going to get another Obama style poster on the front page of The Sun

Parliament had nothing to lose.

It must have felt good.

And if you’ve got nothing to lose in standing up to a bully, the chances are that the bully is going to get it good.

So, right now, the Prime Minister and prospective Prime Ministers no longer abase themselves before News Corp. There is no question of anyone promising to weaken the BBC to help BSkyB (as Cameron was alleged to have done). There is no question of a Prime Minister needing to defend his European policy to Rupert Murdoch (Blair). Murdoch no longer claims the right to be consulted, Cameron’s aids laughed at the idea that the Prime Minister might condescend to meet Murdoch.

This is how it should be: News Corp is no longer a de facto part of the UK Constitution. We have had a sudden and dramatic change in Constitution: a revolution.

Much was the same situation in 1789 Paris and 1381 London. The French citizens were running their own affairs and the English peasants had removed the Lord Chancellor, Lord Treasurer and were wandering at will through the capital. Both revolutions appeared to have succeeded.

One did, one didn’t. After the revolution had been won the French killed the king, to secure the revolution. The English peasants were presented with the opportunity of doing the same. The English balked and were robbed of all the revolutionary changes.

It was the people wot won it. It was the regicides wot kept it.

Fortunately, in this day and age, we don’t need to actually kill anyone. Not the least reason is that the person we need to be shot off is a corporation: News Corp. But if we are to keep these revolutionary gains we need to remove News Corp from our country.

- Dropping the BSkyB bid is a delay, not a cancellation
- The News of the World looks likely to be reborn, with much the same staff and much the same corporate culture, as the Sun on Sunday
- The 39% stake in BSkyB is still there
- The Times, Sunday Times and The Sun are still owned and controlled by News Corp.

They will be back.

Unless, of course, we kill the King : force News Corp to divest itself of all its UK interests.


Sunday, 10 July 2011

Vive la revolution!

What’s the difference between a riot, a popular movement or a demonstration on the one hand and a revolution on the other?

A riot, popular movement and a demonstration may change government policy or a law. Poll tax riots at least helped to end the poll tax and the gay rights movement has nearly got gay marriage legalised (it has got gay nearly-marriage legalised).

A revolution changes a constitution: the permanent environment within which public affairs, whether to have a poll tax or let gays marry, are conducted. The French chopped off the King’s head and transformed France into a republic: that counts as a revolution. East Germany didn’t have to chop anyone’s head off, they just went through some wall, had a few beers and “bingo!” they were part of a democracy. That still counts as a revolution as it transformed the constitution.

Now, the constitution is not only important, in public affairs the constitution is of overwhelming importance. The UK is, in general, a nice place to live. North Korea is, in general, a hell hole. The UK is a liberal democracy (small “l”) and, as can be seen by a quick mental survey of other reasonably nice places to live, liberal democracies generally are reasonably nice places to live. The example of places that were not nice places to live, Nazi Germany, fascist Spain and others, that now are reasonably nice places to live suggests that liberal democracies are reasonably nice places to live because they are liberal democracies.

Over longer timescales we can see that feudal corporate countries were not such nice places to live as liberal democratic nation states. Medieval France and Medieval England were places of servitude and cruelty, utterly inegalitarian and culturally repressed. Whilst modern day France and England are by no means perfect (especially France, obviously) they are paradise by comparison. Let’s get this straight: the increase in VAT to 20%, “THE CUTS!!!!” or student fees are temporary. Constitutional changes, universal suffrage, equality before the law, the secret ballot have permanent and deep effects on every citizen’s life.

The UK, as above, is a reasonably nice place to live and a big part of that is that we have a good constitution. We have a representative democracy, with a more-or-less independent judiciary and respect (sort of) by our rulers for the rule of law. Officiallywe have a Queen, actually her role is mainly ceremonial and just looks as though it’s a part of the old feudal set up. Officially the media have no role in the UK’s constitution. Actually one particular media organisation, News Corp., has become part of how public affairs are organised in the UK. Not just taking part in public affairs, many groups do that, but that there have arisen obligations on the part of others in public affairs to News Corp. Just as the government may be over-ruled by judges and Commons legislation is subject to amendment in the Lords the government is subject to oversight by News Corp. This is oversight, we all suggest things the government should do and anyone is entitled to suggest or campaign, with News Corp. there is a duty on the part of the government to take News Corp. wishes into account.

The Daily Telegraph quotes “a senior News International figure” on the first meetings of Cameron with Murdoch:

“We told David exactly what to say and how to say it in order to please Rupert. But Cameron wouldn’t play ball. I can’t understand it.”

There is a duty to please Rupert Murdoch. It makes sense to tell someone what to say to Rupert. You’re supposed to do as you’re told, to do otherwise is incomprehensible.

News Corp. have insinuated themselves into the very constitution of the UK. And how do they do this? We know that they made money by illegal means. To protect this they followed classic Mafia strategy: they paid off police officers and kept politicians in their pocket. News Corp. are part of our constitution and they are a foul and pestilent part of that constitution: the robber baron of the corporate feudalism we thought we had left behind. But they’re in there, and it seems as if only a revolution is going to get them out.

Revolutions usually start when “something snaps”. The causes will have been there for years, perhaps decades, perhaps centuries but suddenly something pushes the populace over an undefined limit. Revolutions often start small, they often don’t look like revolutions and don’t start as revolutions but, somehow, gain their own momentum. An isolated incident starts it off and initial successes feed the populace’s confidence. The power of the elite, which depends on the populace’s lack of confidence, teeters and falls.

‘Phone hacking and, more broadly, the excesses of the tabloid press have been with us for decades. The hacking of Milly Dowler’s ‘phone was just another, all-be-it spectacularly foul, incident of press lawlessness. But something in the populace seemed to give: the outrage was immense, such that advertisers dropped out, such that the News Corp. lie of “one rogue reporter” failed to work. News Corp seem now to be pushing the “one rogue title” line with the closure of the News of the World. But will it work? It’s a confidence trick, confidence tricks rely on confidence and the public’s confidence in a denial from News Corp. has disappeared. We may well be seeing the start of a revolution.

Protean revolutions though, can peter out. If this revolution is not to peter out it the rage of the public must be used for constitutional change. How does News Corp. push itself into our constitution? What would stop it doing so? That is what should be attacked. Unfortunately, much of the public rage is being used to attack Coulson and Brooks. But this is not revolutionary, that’s like the peasants in the Peasants Revolt being satisfied with policy promises (later renaged on) rather than shooting the King. In the case of Coulson, and the decision to appoint him to Number 10, this is in the past. We will gain nothing by concentrating on Coulson. Brooks is still in the job, but she’s a side issue: a hate figure whose demise will help appease the masses (just like the Peasants Revolt again).

Change the constitution, remove the means by which News Corp. Exercises power. Those bent coppers are more important than either Coulson or Brooks. Those coppers who may not be bent, but acted as is they might as well have been (Yates, anyone?) are more important than Coulson or Brooks. Get rid of them.

And then there are the politicians. We all know that they have been running scared of News Corp. Other than the Lib Dems (big “L”), Tom Watson, John Prescott, Chris Bryant and a few others they have all been running scared. Or, to be more exact, have been following their constitutional duty not to upset Rupert. Some though have not just been submitting to News Corp. but actively promoting its interests. They may not be shills per se, but they might as well be shills. These are the supporters of the ancien regime, these are the people it is critical that the energy of any revolution is targeted at.

Forget Coulson and Brooks: get Hunt and Gove and Osborne. Give them, by all means, an opportunity to renounce News Corp. and reform. But if they refuse, remove them, guillotine their careers. Yes Ed, call for an inquiry. It's pretty obvious that we should stop the News Corp. BSkyB bid and, yes, it was a silly appointment. But cooperate, Ed, cooperate with Cameron on the condition that he purges his Government of anyone pro-Murdoch. Do the same with your party, ditch them. Disown Blair.

Nick! Grow a pair. Take control. Talk to Ed. Talk to the rest of the Commons. Oh, and Commons! Yes I'm talking to you, forget about scoring some little point against the opposition and get rid of any Murdoch supporters. Get them out and get him the hell out of our country.

Vive la revolution!