Thursday, 31 May 2012

"There may or may not have been trees"

Good morning everybody. The big event of the day of course is Jeremy Hunt's appearance at the Leveson Inquiry. He's only been up for half an hour so far and all my suspicions about the vacuity of rich Tories and the debasement of the public sphere have been confirmed.

Take the event from which the title of this post is derived: Hunt attended a party at which Rupert Murdoch was present, at a time when he was meant to be judging whether News International should be allowed to take over BSkyB. Spotting some journalists, he hid behind some trees to avoid being seen. Imagine: a Minister of the Crown, lurking behind the shrubs in case the press ask him quite proper questions about his behaviour. If this was Yes Minister, the scene would be deleted as too ridiculous. Right now he's explaining that despite being formally told he couldn't meet News International, it's 'entirely appropriate' to have the same conversations on a mobile phone. There's a man who steadfastly prefers to see trees where the rest of us see woods.

Hunt's general tenor is that of a man unshakeable in his conviction that Murdoch, Michel, Brooks et al should never be impeded, but bright enough to realise that not everybody shares his view. The records unearth a series of previously unacknowledged meetings with News Corp, unminuted but - Hunt finally admits - concerning the Sky bid, which Hunt's texts candidly proclaim he supported. The general impression is that not only does a politico-corporate elite exist, but that Hunt then and now sees this as entirely proper. There's a sense of 'now it is our turn to eat' (in the Kenyan formulation) about this government's behaviour.

They're so confident that they resent any scrutiny, hence Hunt's and Gove's use of private gmail/hotmail accounts to conduct government business, in the belief (mistaken, I hope: it's going through the courts) that such media are outside Freedom of Information rules. The last two years has seen macro-policies designed to enrich the Tories' core supporters - finance, the rich - and day-to-day corruption, such as Gove channelling money without tender to a 'charity' which helps Tories set up so-called 'free schools'. Millionaires get tax cuts, disabled children have their benefits cut.

From the testimony so far, it's hard to see how a man like Hunt has become so rich in business and so powerful in politics. The answer, of course, is that those skills - primarily ratlike cunning - and those required to be a government minister aren't the same. People like Hunt have spent decades schmoozing some people and knifing others in the back, then find themselves unable to acquire the attributes of a servant of the people: humility, judiciousness, impartiality. It was the same with the New Labour clique: having spent twenty years trashing their intellectual and ideological heritage, they found themselves tied hand and foot to their new friends in the City, and playing a self-destructive game of hardball with the press. Result: a cowardly neoliberal warmongering administration too scared to do anything other than bow to the received wisdom of a rightwing Establishment.

(Oh yes, and he uses the phrase 'going forward', referred to himself in the third person and uses 'we' when he's making things up. So he's clearly a worm).

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