As a contributor to the Sunday Times, the little quips from friends and acquaintances — never a truer word spoken in jest — have already begun about my ethical orientation and the suitability of NI as an employer. I hastily add that as a freelance, and therefore self-employed, my boss is of limitless impeccability.
Situation not helped by Gordon Brown's rambling and bilious assertion that ST journos have links with the "criminal underworld". Clearly Mr Brown's party would never have dreamt of employing a tabloid hack as a press secretary (why isn't Alastair Campbell in jail? Thousands of deaths and maimings down to a spurious piece of "evidence" he cobbled together off the internet).
Nor would Brown have been caught hobnobbing with Rebekah Brooks nor attending her wedding. Nor cosying up to Gaddafi, whose atrocities, revealed in recent, and chilling, archive footage of public lynchings from the 1980s (see The Guardian online), make Murdoch look like a boy scout, though reviled as if his crimes were of greater magnitude (The Guardian. Oh the irony!)... the same Gaddafi, by the way, who sponsored Scargill's NUM.
Point of note: Blair's employment of Campbell came a mere handful of years after the Mirror's criminal overlord (and former Labour MP), Robert Maxwell — once an employer of mine — topped himself after (the Red Flag now, on the count of three)... stealing his workers' pensions.
Personally, I hated the NOTW. Horrible rag. Tabloid journalism has been making life increasingly difficult for broadsheet writers, especially in the Arts, where every interview is now preceded by all sorts of waivers, riders and guarantees for signing on the assumption that you're going to stitch up your subject like the proverbial kipper. Though I feel sorry for the staff, apparently not culpable with regard to the current mess, and laid off in tough times. That said, I suspect today's questioning of Murdoch and co. by MPs will evoke the courts of Nazi Judge Freisler. Will they allow the defendants the dignity of clothing?
Opportunism? Ed Milliband's history of challenging media monopoly till last week? Nonexistent. Come to think of it, Milliband's history of championing PR before the referendum came round? Nonexistent. This is a weak, weak government not to call him on this stuff. The most lightweight government in modern times? Looking that way.
Still feel that the NI affair is an overblown Westminster Village story amplified by the fact that it is also, by its nature, a media story, resulting in the kind of feeding frenzy that wouldn't have happened were this, say, a bank in the dock rather than a newspaper.
Let's not lose sight of what's at stake. Was what the NOTW did disgusting? Absolutely. Should the culprits be brought to book? Without hesitation. Have governments of whatever hue been guilty of toadying to the press barons? Too bloody right. Do the public give a monkeys? I suspect not. More people vote for the X-Factor, etc., etc.
Heard Neil Kinnock on the Today programme this morning. Blair never arse-licked Murdoch, he merely "neutralised" him, he says. Oh and Kinnock doesn't agree with a free press — but then his Euro career has been forged through obstruction. And to think I voted for you, boyo. Maybe that 1992 Sun headline was right! In the meantime, enjoy this fabulous link...