To get gossip on politicians used to be simple. Head to the Red Lion on Whitehall, get talking and drinking with the researchers and soon tongues loosen and you’ll find out who is having sex with who, who loathes who and why and any sidelines the politician had. But that kind of gossip or corruption was hardly ever published unless it was the right season for it, meaning a government on the slide.
Getting celebrity gossip simply involved hanging out outside bars and clubs and doing some basic one plus one maths. But since (and I’m taking arbitrary times here) Princess Diana, Murdoch taking over the Sun or the beginning of OK! magazine, the press has got far more competitive (and shallow) and therefore the chase for the stories gets dirtier. And now the biggest fish has been snagged.
Finally the News of the World has admitted what we knew all along. That it hacked the phones of hundreds of famous people all in the pathetic name of celebrity gossip. What a bloody mess. Its been clear for a while the NoW hadn’t just checked their email account and uncovered compromising emails in the trash. They’ve been playing it out, discussing it behind closed doors, running for cover, trying to arrange the cards as opaquely as possible until they were ready to admit some liability.
That happened today. They’ve offered to compensate 8 celebrities up to £1 million but don’t expect it to end there. NoW won’t fall. Its too big for that, backed by political influence and unfortunately for the real ‘truth’ to come out, the very politicians who were hacked aren’t now in power. And yes I am saying politics (and money) will affect the extent of investigation and who gets convicted.
Andy Coulson, the PM’s former head of communications has already fled. If he is found guilty, this will affect Cameron in the short term but it won’t do long term damage unless he refuses to throw him to the wolves. He must know he has to and will gamble on what he knows. That being, a large section of the media have been very quiet over this festering story because they too will have checked their emails and have information they can’t account for. With that in mind, their criticism will be fairly muted. A lot of concerned faces and head shaking before they can scurry back to their offices.
What I am saying is the long term repercussions will be less than we could hope for in a democracy who consistently congratulates itself on its ‘fair play’ and promotion of democratic values. Having worked in Parliament, I am aware of the melting pot atmosphere between the media, politicians and the bureaucracy. Everyone knows everyone and works the same conduits. Prescott banged on about the press last night (rather than his secretary) and he is right, its all very illegal but the truth is any politician would let the press running with a story as long as there is political capital in it. The same is true for business (over corruption) and it all comes down the slurry pipe to us to exclaim ‘well I never’ at celebrities and shake our heads at business and/or politicians as we download some music or a film illegally. So we all get something out of it.
Now just to check the cupboard…