The UK’s Leveson Inquiry into media ethics, set up by PM David Cameron to take the heat off politicians for their cosy relationships with law-breaking newspaper groups, has well and truly backfired.
For Cameron and co obviously, because their cringe-making relationships with the media have been under the spotlight. But for his Lordship too, as the whole circus is now more about politicians than it is the media.
So the cause of the trouble in the first place – News Corporation via its UK operations headed by James Murdoch, Rebekah Brooks (pictured) and others – have slid off the hook as the politicos have crawled out from under their stones to be revealed in their true light: Cameron desperate to be liked by journalists, his finance minister George Osborne revealed as being more interested in politics than rescuing the becalmed UK economy, former Labour PM Gordon Brown as having an idiosyncratic view of his own actions (nobody believes a word he says about spinning but he he clearly does) and Brown’s predecessor Tony Blair reminding us of what a great prime minister he might have been of he hadn’t given in to the US and George Bush over Iraq.
In all this we’ve completely forgotten about culture secretary Jeremy Hunt, the lobbyists’ best friend.
Which is all fine and interesting but it doesn’t get us much further with the business of re-ordering the UK media in a way that preserves its freedom of manoeuvre (the ability to offend people, as ex-hack and now minister Michael Gove put it) while adhering to everyday standards of decency.
So News Corp, for the time being, is getting off lightly, considering that it was its phone hacking and the subsequent cover-up which set this ball rolling in the first place.
It looks as though it will take the UK courts to resolve this to most people’s satisfaction. Brooks, latterly CEO of News International and before that editor of both the News of the World and the Sun, remains the key figure.
She has been charged with both phone hacking and conspiracy to pervert the course of justice and will appear for trial some time next year. She may have been Rupert’s surrogate daughter (according to some accounts) but now she’s on her own, apart from co-defendant husband Charlie, who must wish he’d stuck with horse racing.
She will not wish to face the prospect of spending the next few years behind bars for alleged crimes in which she was hardly a principal, although she was happy enough to reign over it all, and throw her weight around, as the big boss at News International.
Her lawyers will no doubt be explaining exactly this to her as the months go by.
She remains the key to the whole affair and may yet have the last word.