Posts Tagged ‘Daily Herald’

Murdoch Hacks Now Begging People to Buy Papers

April 7, 2020

Okay, no sooner had I put up my piece earlier today arguing that the reason the Scum’s journo, Trevor Kavanagh, wanted the lockdown lifted was because it was causing Murdoch’s papers to lose money, then confirmation of a sort came. Zelo Street had put up a piece reporting that various hacks from the Scum and the Times had written pieces begging people to #buyapaper. They included the Scum’s political editor, Tom Newton Dunn, Jack Blackburn of the Thunderer, Mark Lawton, another Times hack, the Scum on Sunday’s political editor, David Wooding, Sathnam Sangera, Matt Chorley, Martyn Ziegler, all of the Times, and the Scum’s Ryan Sabey and Dan Wootton. They said that the press was in trouble, but journalists, production staff, printers and distributors were all working hard during the crisis to bring us all trusted information, not myths. We would all miss the papers if they vanished. That included the local papers, whom they condescended to mention were also experiencing problems.

Zelo Street commented at the end of this litany that in times like these, people realised what was essential and what was not. ‘A daily paper is rapidly falling into the latter category, especially when, unlike the claims of the Murdoch goons, it is bringing not trusted stories, but an incessant diet of bigotry, hatred, political propaganda, and worthless and uninformed punditry.

Our free and fearless press is bottom of the European trust league. The Murdoch titles play their full part in that ranking. Karma can be a beast sometimes.’

See: https://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2020/04/murdoch-goons-pass-begging-bowl.html

This is correct. I think Zelo Street, or perhaps one of the other left-wing blogs, has put up the stats for the most trusted, and trustworthy, papers in Europe. And they don’t include Britain’s. Murdoch’s own papers have been leading the decline in quality in the British press since he acquired the Herald in 1969 or thereabouts, and turned it from a quality socialist paper into a Tory propaganda rag. Murdoch’s journalistic standards were so low that his staff in New York and Australia went on strike against the way his direction for their journals had turned them into a laughing stock. But Murdoch ploughed on, and the malign influence he exerted through his press and media empire has contributed to Britain becoming a spiteful, hateful place for ethnic minorities, the disabled, and the unemployed, low paid and other folks on welfare. Murdoch’s not alone by any means. The Heil, Depress, and Torygraph have all played their part. But the Scum has become proverbial for its gutter journalism.

This country does have some very good journalists – Mike is one, obviously. But its newspapers are disgusting. Many of them are effectively kept running by unpaid interns and freelance staff, whom they try to find every means they can not to pay. According to the Eye, the worst newspaper for using interns was the Groaniad. Meanwhile, the name hacks get salaries in the tens of thousands, and the proprietors and board all give themselves very handsome salaries and bonuses. As for content, it’s almost entirely shameless Tory propaganda. That, in my view, reached a new nadir last year in the massive smear campaign against Jeremy Corbyn and his supporters, in which Mike and very many others were libelled and smeared as anti-Semites and Nazis. This included decent, self-respected Jews like Jackie Walker. This all comes from Murdoch himself, although I very much doubt he personally ordered any of it. It’s just the direction he’s taken these papers from the start. He is reported to have a very cavalier attitude to libel. Apparently he isn’t deterred from publishing a libelous story by the mere fact that it is libelous, only by whether the fine from a successful prosecution would be more than the sales gained through publishing it. If the number of copies sold wouldn’t be worth more than the fine, the story’s spiked. If the sales and the profits from them are more, then he goes ahead. And heaven help the poor soul at the other end.

According to the Eye, the Times is losing money hand over fist. So much so, that if it were any other paper it would have been axed or sold years ago. But it’s Britain’s paper of record, and so gives Murdoch a place at the political table. Murdoch’s empire as a whole is also in dire financial trouble. Zelo Street a little while ago put up a piece about what News International’s published accounts showed, and instead of a tidy profit they showed a massive, staggering loss. Some of that is due to the fines and out of court settlements Murdoch has had to make for the phone hacking scandal. I’ve forgotten the precise figures, but it’s tens of millions – a truly eye-watering amount.

The Murdoch press’ concern for local papers is also, as you might guess, hypocritical. Going back to Private Eye again, that paper reported in its ‘Street Of Shame’ column that in terms of sales, local papers are actually doing rather well. They’re bucking the decline in newspaper sales. However, they’re under immense financial pressure to the point where many are folding because they’re owned by the same corporations who own the big national papers, and their profits are being used to keep the national papers going.

Now many businesses are suffering because of the crisis and the necessary lockdown, especially small businesses like local shops and the self-employed. Many of these are seriously worried, because they don’t qualify for the government’s promised payment of 80 per cent of their income. Or if they do, it’ll come too late, as the first payment will come in June. But I have little sympathy for the Tory press because of their role in cheering on and propagandising for 40 years of Thatcherism and the poverty, unemployment, and now starvation they’ve caused. All for the profit of the rich few.

If Murdoch’s squalid empire went under tomorrow, it would just be too bad. Except that the people who’d suffer would be the junior writers, the production staff, printers and distributors. The big, star writers, editors and management, including Murdoch himself and his family, would all get generous payouts for their part in degrading British culture and its working paper for all these decades.

 

Rejoice! Murdoch Press Losing MILLIONS

February 23, 2020

Here’s a bit of good news amidst the horrors of this Tory government, the floods, deportations, rampant racism and the Coronavirus: the Murdoch press is losing money. Very big money. Zelo Street has just put up a very revealing piece about their accounts for the period ending June 2019. This reveals that the Murdoch empire has been hit with a charge of £26,721,000 for one-off payments for legal fees and damages paid to the claimants in the phone hacking scandal. They’ve also incurred other one-off costs for UK newspaper matters of £25,737,000. Other charges include £1, 549,000 for the Management and Standards Committee. This means that the total damage is £54,007,000. Mind you, the directors still remain handsomely rewarded. They have been paid £5,191,000. Of which Rebecca Wade got £2,787,000. Overall, the company lost a total of £67, 952,000. The total loss for the financial year is £67,952,000. Which means that even without the phone hacking scandal, the company would have lost £14 million.

Zelo Street comments

‘Will the Murdoch press make money again in the next few years? Given the claims keep on coming, and the potential downside for the Sun titles if there is serious blowback (as happened with the Screws over the Dowler hacking), it’s not such a daft question.

Or is Rupe just in it for the political leverage? There’s a $64,000 question for you.’

See: https://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2020/02/murdoch-press-still-losing-money.html

That’s a very good question. A little while ago Private Eye raised the same issue regarding the Times. The actual amount of income generated by the Thunderer is so small, and its losses correspondingly so high, that if it was any other paper it would have been closed down years ago. But because it’s the British paper of record, Murdoch keeps it going because it gives him a seat at the same table as the politicos.

The Sage of Crewe recognises how influential the Murdoch titles still are. Tim remarks that the Murdoch’s goons still exceed the other titles, even those of the Heil, in the hate they can lay on their targets. The rest of the press follows their lead, and knows better than to mess with them. But the costs of the phone hacking scandal show all this is catching up with Dirty Rupe and his empire of sleaze.

Tony Benn in his book, Arguments for Democracy, points out that the Daily Herald didn’t fold because it lacked a popular readership. It collapsed, and then was subsequently bought by Murdoch and transformed into the scabby rag it is now, because it lacked advertisers. At the time its readership was bigger than the Times, the Groaniad and the Financial Times added together. What killed it is that its working class readers were too poor to appeal to the advertisers.

I’ve no doubt the paper’s sales increased massively after it was transformed into the Scum. But I also think that it was kept afloat because it was a Tory paper. It was the first working class Conservative newspaper, and so companies that would have had second thoughts about advertising in a socialist paper were probably more prepared to place adverts with Rupe’s mighty organ.

The question is, will that continue. If the Murdoch papers continue to lose readers, will there come a point when the advertisers demand that they’re not getting enough exposure for the money they’re spending, and demand that his newspapers cut their advertising rates. Which will mean another financial hit for them. And what will happen if Murdoch doesn’t shake off his newspaper’s reputation for gross breaches of journalistic standards. Of course the Scum’s journalistic reputation always was low, but in the 1980s and ’90s there was also a tendency to laugh it off as a joke. One of the silly parties standing in Gloucestershire in either the 1983 or 1987 election was the ‘Have the Sun Redesignated as a Comic’ Party. This shows how seriously some people viewed it. Which is unfortunate, as while the Scum certainly deserved its mockery, the joke also created a kind of complacency. For the more intelligent, the Scum was dire and a joke, but it still was massively influential, and the policies it and its master promoted – rampant militarism, welfare cuts, privatisation and a culture of ruthless selfishness and greed – were anything but funny.

But with the phone hacking scandal, some of that laughter has died, quite apart from the bitterness the good folk of Liverpool still feel about the paper’s gross libel of their fair city. How long before the paper’s reputation gets just that bit too toxic that the advertisers don’t want to risk their reputations by being associated with it. And if they go, the Scum goes too.

And hopefully, there’ll be a few more years where the Murdoch press makes such spectacular losses, that it won’t be too long in coming.

The History Book on the TUC from Its Beginnings to 1968

December 26, 2019

The History of the T.U.C. 1868-1968: A Pictorial Survey of a Social Revolution – Illustrated with Contemporary Prints and Documents (London: General Council of the Trades Union Congress 1968).

This is another book on working class history. It’s a profusely illustrated history of the Trades Union Congress from its origins in 1868 to 1968, and was undoubtedly published to celebrate its centenary.

Among the book’s first pages is this photograph show the TUC’s medal, below, which reads: Workingmen of Every Country Unite to Defend Your Rights.

There’s also these two illustrations on facing pages intended to show the TUC as it was then and now.

After the foreword by the-then head of the TUC, George Woodcock, and the list of General Council in 1967-8, the book is divided into four sections on the following periods

1868-1900, on the first Trades Union Congress and the men who brought it to birth.

1900-1928, in which the TUC was consulted by Ministers and began to take part in public administration.

1928-1940, which are described as the TUC’s formative years and the fight for the right to be heard.

and 1928-1940, in which wartime consultation set the pattern for peacetime planning.

These are followed by lists of trade unions affiliated to the TUC circa 1968 and the members of the parliamentary committee from 1868 and the General Council from 1921.

The text includes articles and illustrations on the Royal Commission of Inquiry into trade unions, including a photograph of Queen Victoria’s letter; from the beehive of 1867 to the TUC of 1967; the early leaders of the TUC and the political causes at home and abroad, for which they rallied trade union support; some of the events that led to the TUC’s foundation and the Royal Commission on Trade Unions; the TUC and the Criminal Law Amendment Act; working men voting during the dinner hour; working hours and conditions which the TUC wanted to reform, particularly of women and children; Punch cartoon of the sweated workers exploited for the products displayed at the Great Exhibition; Alexander McDonald, the man behind the miners’ unions; campaigns for compensation for industrial injury and safeguards for sailors; farm labourers’ unions, the public and the church; the advent of state education and the birth of white collar unions; mass unemployment and demonstrations in the Great Depression of the 1880; the trade union leaders of the unemployed and their political allies; squalor and misery in London; forging the first link with American unions; the TUC on the brink of the 20th century; the ‘new unionism’ and the matchgirls’ strike; the dockers’ strike of 1889; the birth of the Labour Party in 1906; passage into law of the TUC’s own trade union charter; the trade unions and the beginnings of the foundation of the welfare state by the Liberals; Women trade unionists, the Osborne Judgement; the introduction into Britain of French and American syndicalism; the great dock strike of 1911, and the great transport strike of 1912; the Daily Herald; Will Dyson’s cartoons; the TUC on the eve of World War I; the War; the wartime revolution in trade unions; the TUC’s contribution to the war effort; rise of shop stewards; the impact of the Russian Revolution on the British Labour movement; peace time defeat; the appearance of Ernest Bevin; the replacement of the Parliamentary Committee by the General Council in the TUC in 1921; the first proposal for the nationalisation of the coal mines; 1924, when Labour was in office but the trade unions were left out in the cold; the gold standard and the General Strike; the Strike’s defeat and punitive Tory legislation; the TUC’s examination of union structure after the Strike; TUC ballots the miners to defeat company unionism; Transport House in 1928; the Mond-Turner talks and consultations between workers’ and employers’ organisations; Walter Citrine and the IFTU; the 1929 Labour government; opposition to McDonald-Snowden economies; McDonald’s 1931 election victory; propaganda posters for the National Government; the 1930s; the state of industry and TUC plans for its control; union growth in the young industries; young workers fighting for a fair chance; the TUC and the British Commonwealth; the Nazi attack on the German unions; the TUC and the international general strike against the outbreak of war; the waning of pacifism inside the TUC; the Labour Movement and the Spanish Civil War; Neville Chamberlain and ‘Peace in our Time’; summer, 1939, and the outbreak of World War II; Churchill’s enlistment of the TUC and Labour Party in government; the coalition government and the unions; TUC organises aid to Russia after the Nazi invasion; plans for post-War reconstruction; the TUC, godfather to the Welfare State; the Cold War; the bleak beginning of public industries in 1947; David Low’s cartoons of the TUC; the drive for productivity; the Tories and the Korean War; TUC aid to Hungary and condemnation of Suez; the official opening of Congress House; TUC intervention in industrial disputes; trade union structure; from pay pause to planning; trade unionists given a role in industry; government pressure for a prices and incomes policy; TUC overseas contacts; and recent changes to the TUC.

The book’s an important popular document of the rise of the TUC from a time when unions were much more powerful than they were. They were given a role in government and industrial movement. Unfortunately, the continuing industrial discontent of the post-War years have been played on by nearly every government since Thatcher’s victory in 1979. The result is stagnant and falling wages, increasingly poor and exploitative conditions and mass poverty and misery. All justified through Zombie laissez-faire economics. Corbyn offered to reverse this completely, and give working people back prosperity and dignity. But 14 million people were gulled and frightened by the Tories and the mass media into rejecting this.

Strong trade unions are working people’s best method for expressing their economic and political demands along with a strong Labour party, one that works for working people, rather than solely in the interest of the employers and the financial sector. Which is why the Tories want to destroy them and are keen that books like these should be forgotten.

Let’s fight against them, and make sure that books like this continue to inspire and inform working class people in the future.

 

The Anti-Semitism Smears and the Tories’ Long History of Racism

March 29, 2018

On Monday, the Jonathan Goldstein of the Jewish Leadership Council and the President of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, Jonathan Arkush, wrote a letter complaining that Corbyn had done nothing to tackle what they claimed was the rampant anti-Semitism in the Labour party, and that Corbyn had consistently sided with anti-Semites against Jews. This was accompanied of a mass demonstration outside parliament organised by the two organisations.

Arkush and Goldstein’s claims are frankly lies. Jeremy Corbyn has consistently opposed all forms of racism, including anti-Semitism. He is the only MP, for example, who has been arrested for protesting against apartheid in South Africa. He also has the support of very many Jews, and Jewish organisations, who rallied to support him on social media.

The real issue here, which Arkush and Goldstein’s smears of anti-Semitism are meant to cover up, is Corbyn’s attitude towards Israel. They claim he’s anti-Israel and anti-Zionist. He isn’t, but he is pro-Palestinian. But this is too much for the Israel lobby, who smear anyone, who wants justice and dignity for the Palestinians as anti-Semite. Even if they are proud, self-respecting Jews, who have suffered real anti-Semitic assault and abuse. Or decent, anti-racist gentiles, who have also been the subject of vilification and assault by Nazis.

Arkush is a true-blue Tory, as well as a massive hypocrite. He himself has been very keen to meet racists and anti-Semites, when it suits his agenda. Tony Greenstein on his site has a picture of him enthusiastically greeting Donald Trump and Steve Bannon, one of the anti-Semitic fixtures of the White Supremacist Alt Right. As for the Board of Deputies of British Jews fighting anti-Semitism, Greenstein also points out that when Oswald Mosley was goose stepping about the East End of London with his Blackshirts, the Zionists were telling Jews to keep out of the way and stay indoors. I don’t blame them for it, as Fascism has always been violent and brutal, and they would no doubt have attacked and beaten Jews they found on the street. But Fascists won’t go away if you hide from them. They’ll simply carry on. Fortunately, a number of Jews, trade unionists, and Communists weren’t prepared to leave the streets to them, and fought them head on. The result was the ‘battle of Cable Street’, which ended with Mosley and his squadristi routed from the East End. I am not recommending violence. I don’t approve of it. But sometimes, it’s inevitable. And for all the claim that Mosley wasn’t originally anti-Semitic and was genuinely perplexed at Jewish opposition, he and his wretched party were. And if the Nazis had invaded, or the BUF somehow gained power, it’s very highly likely that he would have aided the Holocaust and the extermination of Jewish Brits.

The Tories have, of course, taken all this as an opportunity to claim that Labour is riddle with anti-Semitism, unlike them. This covers up the fact that the Tory party has a very long history of racism and anti-Semitism going right back to the Die-Hards of the First World War. One of the other left-wing bloggers put up a very extensive list of Tory racist and anti-Semitic organisations, or racist organisations, whose membership was drawn from the Tories.

Like the British Fascists. They were a bunch of right-wingers, founded by a middle-class lady, who’d been emancipated by the Women’s Suffrage Act but had a hatred of organised labour. They modus operandi was to supply blackleg labour during strikes, disrupt socialist meetings and attack left-wingers and trade unionists. They once attacked a van belonging to the Daily Herald. They weren’t really Fascists, but Conservatives, and Mosley called them what they were. He declared they were ‘Conservatives with knobs on’. He asked their leaderene what she thought of the corporate state. Faced with the notion of an industrial parliament which included trade unionists as well as management and capital, she vehemently rejected it as ‘socialism’. Which confirms how little she knew about either Fascism or socialism.

The there’s the various Tory pro-Nazi groups founded in the 1930s – the Anglo-German Fellowship, the Link and a number of others, and on and on. One of the nutters involved in these groups wanted to found a group to purge the Tories of Jews. The Monday Club was riddled with anti-Semites until there was purge in 1970. But as the blogger showed, the anti-Semites were still there, still active.

And while we’re on the subject of racism, why didn’t Arkush and his fellows on the Board protest against the appointment of Toby Young to May’s universities watchdog. I am not accusing Young of anti-Semitism. But he is a eugenics fanatic, and attended a eugenics conference at University College London, which certainly did include real racists and White Supremacists. Eugenics was an integral part of Nazi ideology. Quite often when Nazis and other racists talked about the ‘biologically unfit’ as well as the poor and disabled in general, they also meant non-whites and Jews. But I don’t recall Arkush and the Board making any letters of complaint or raising any natural concerns about Young’s appointment.

And then there’s this election poster from 1902.

Okay, so the foreign master sacking his British worker to make way for his fellow foreigner isn’t explicitly described as a Jew. But the anti-Semitism is very definitely there. It was put up at a time when the Conservatives were worried about the mass immigration of eastern European Jews. They spoke Yiddish, a language descended from the medieval German middle Franconian dialect. Hence the foreign master speaks with a very middle-European accent. And while the term ‘alien’ simply means ‘foreigner’, in the language of the 19th and early 20th centuries it was very often used to mean Jews. The anti-Semitic nature of the poster is very blatant.

As you’d probably expect it to be. This was the era of the British Brothers’ League and other Conservative anti-immigrant, anti-Semitic organisations.

But the Tories want people to forget all this, and just see Labour as a hotbed of anti-Semitism. Despite many Jews in the party having said and written that they have personally never experienced it in the Labour party.

But it’s a good smear against Labour, and Corbyn, and everything he has done for Jewish Brits as well as his desire for a just treatment of the Palestinians. And that’s what Arkush, Goldstein and their friends in the Tories are really afraid of.

Vox Political on Gloria de Piero’s Article in the Scum

July 4, 2016

Mike over at Vox Political has also put up an article critiquing an article today in the Scum by yet another Blairite, Gloria de Piero. De Piero has decided to put pen to paper, or fingers to keyboard, to encourage good supporters of Tony Blair to join the Labour party and vote to get Jeremy Corbyn out of office as the party’s leader.

Mike quotes her as saying

By signing up you can help choose a leader who recognises that the Labour Party was founded to be a Party of Government and implement policies to improve the lives of working people. A party of protest doesn’t help a single person.

The country needs a Labour Party that can deal with the reality of our exit from the EU and ensure Labour values are at the heart of talks about our departure.

He points out that despite her talk of ‘Labour values’, she doesn’t define what they are. See his post: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/07/03/labour-mutineer-reduced-to-appearance-in-the-sun-in-bid-to-flood-labour-with-right-wing-entryists/

And I honestly don’t think she reasonably can. Labour used to stand for state intervention, the public ownership of the means of production, and the welfare state. Until Tony Blair turned up, threw out Clause 4, which commits the party to public ownership, and threatened to cut ties with the trade unions and then set about privatising anything which wasn’t nailed down.

Which includes the NHS.

He furthermore introduced the odious Work Capability Test, with the support of American health insurance fraudsters, Unum. As a result, millions of people have been the victims of benefit sanctions. About 590 people have died in misery and starvation because of this, and 290,000 people with mental health problems, have seen the conditions get worse. In some case, very seriously worse.

All this, of course, was to demonstrate to the ruling class that Labour could manage the economy as effectively as the Tories, and appeal to those swing voters in marginal constituencies, who could vote for the Tories. In doing so, Blair, Broon and the others showed their complete contempt for the party they led, and the working people of this great nation.

And instrumental in getting support for Bliar was the Dirty Digger and his media empire. Former cabinet ministers have stated that Murdoch was always an invisible presence at cabinet meetings, with the Dear Leader fretting over how a policy would go with Murdoch.

Mike in his article above responds to a critic, who claims he was making a ‘no true Scotsman’ fallacy when attacking the Scum’s anti-Labour record. Mike reminds us all that at certain periods, a majority of the paper’s readers were probably Labour supporters, determined to laugh and get angry at it. That certainly did happen. A friend once told me he knew somebody, who did read the Scum in order to get angry. No, I don’t understand the psychology either. But clearly it existed.

Unfortunately, there were also people who really did think it was a Socialist paper. It had, after all, originally been the Daily Herald, a Labour newspaper, and for a brief period after the Chunder from Down Under had bought it, it continued with a pro-Labour bias, before it became the bug-eyed, rabidly Thatcherite rag it is today.

After supporting the Tories, Murdoch in the mid-90s switched from them, and the-then Tory prime minister, John Major, and began plugging Blair. About that time there were interviews with Australia’s Goebbels, in which he told various TV journos that he had started out as a Socialist, and made it sound like he had gone back to his roots.

He hadn’t. And had no intention to. And I have to say, I’m doubtful he was ever a Socialist in the first place. Biographies of Murdoch have made it plain that the man responsible for bring down cultural standards across at least four continents has always remained consistent in his political beliefs. They are pro-privatisation, anti-trade union, and include the privatisation of the NHS.

These are apparently the same ‘Labour values’ Gloria de Piero stands for. She obviously approves of seeing further people thrown off benefit, and denied state medical aid for the corporate profit of BUPA, Circle Health, Virgin Healthcare and co.

As for her statement Labour needs to be a party of government not a party of protest, it’s a questionable statement and the unspoken assumptions underneath it are toxic. She assumes that Labour can only become a party of government by accepting the neoliberal, Thatcherite economic system. But this is nonsense. Labour lost 4 million votes when it was in power, because to too many people it had become indistinguishable from the Tories.

And even when Labour was out of office, as it was in the 1980s and much of the 1990s, it still did sterling work stopping the Tories from going too far. They have said that they were afraid to go too far with privatising the NHS, as they knew this would be seized upon and they’d lose the election to Labour. But once New Labour was in power under Bliar, they noted angrily that Labour went further with the privatisation of the NHS than they dared. And hence the Tories have gone even further with Andrew Lansley’s disgusting Health and Social Care Bill.

But Murdoch’s smiling, ’cause he counts on winning, no matter who’s in power. And de Piero’s happy, as she thinks she’ll keep her seat in parliament. Who knows? She might even get a place in cabinet and a nice, juicy directorship when she retires.

While others starve and wonder how they’re going to pay their medical bills.

Murdoch’s Editorial Interference and Right-Wing Bias

June 7, 2016

The phone hacking scandal has been rumbling on for what seems like forever now. For a moment it looked like Murdoch himself was going to end up in court, because of allegations that he personally interferes in editing his newspapers. According to Private Eye, he almost appeared before the beak a few years ago on a libel charge, after Michael Foot sued the Times for claiming that he was a KGB agent, based on the unlikely word of Oleg Gordievsky. Gordievsky was a former KGB agent, and self-confessed liar. From what I recall, a number of the Times’ staff were highly sceptical of the allegations, with the exception of the editor, David Leppard. And so the paper printed the story that Foot, a principled democratic socialist, whose loyalty to his country should never have been in doubt, was a KGB agent codenamed ‘Comrade Boot’.

Murdoch’s managed to escape these scrapes with the law, and wriggle out of them when he has been forced to appear before public enquiries and parliamentary committees, by claiming that he doesn’t interfere with his papers’ editorial policies. Mark Hollingworth, in his book The Press and Political Dissent: A Question of Censorship, points out that Murdoch largely doesn’t need to. He appoints editors he knows will follow his political line, like Andrew ‘Brillo Pad’ Neil, who before he became editor of the Sunset Times was one of the editors on the Economist. Neil told his staff at a meeting of the Gay Hussar pub in London that he fully supported Thatcher’s policies on monetarism and privatisation, although on macroeconomic policy he claimed he was further to the left, and more like David Owen. (p. 18).

The News of the World

But Hollingworth makes clear that the Dirty Digger does interfere with the editor’s running of his newspapers, and certainly did so when he took over the News of the World at the end of the 1960s. Hollingsworth writes

However, when Murdoch was faced with an editor who didn’t share his political views and wanted a semblance of independence, the situation changed dramatically. when he took of the News of the World in 1969, Murdoch told the incumbent editor, Stafford Somerfield: I didn’t come all this way not to interfere.’ According to Somerfield, the new proprietor ‘wanted to read proofs, write a leader if he felt like it, change the paper about and give instructions to the staff’. As the paper’s long-serving editor, Somerfield was used to a fair amount of independence and he tried to resist Murdoch’s interference. In 1970 Somerfield was dismissed by Murdoch.

A similar fate befell another News of the World editor a decade later. Barry Askew had been appointed by Murdoch in April 1981 after a successful career as the crusading editor of the Lancashire Evening Post during which he published a series of stories about corruption among local public officials and institutions. However, when Askew and the News of the World declined, like the Times under Harold Evans during the same period to give the Conservative government unequivocal support, Murdoch took action. ‘He [Murdoch] would come into the office,’ said Askew, ‘and literally rewrite leaders which were not supporting the hard Thatcher monetarist line. That were not, in fact, supporting – slavishly supporting – the Tory government.’

Askew believes the big clash came over an exclusive story about John DeLorean, the car tycoon. A freelance journalist, John Lisners, had persuaded DeLorean’s former secretary, Marian Gibson, to reveal details about her boss’ business practices and alleged irregularities. It was a superb story, backed up by other sources and also cleared by Gibson’s lawyer-Clarence Jones.

However, just after noon on Saturday 3 October 1981, Murdoch telephoned Askew, as he invariably did every week, to discuss the main stories. Askew told him about the DeLorean scoop and Murdoch appeared initially to be enthusiastic. Later that afternoon Murdoch arrived at the office in Bouverie Street and went straight to the ‘back-bench’ to read the DeLorean material. One of the key sources was William Haddad, who had worked for Murdoch on the New York Post. On learning of Haddad’s involvement, Murdoch said: ‘He’s a leftwing troublemaker’, although he later denied saying this. ‘I may have referred to Bill’s love of conspiracy theories.’

Murdoch then consulted his legal advisors and they decided the story was legally unsafe. The story was killed. The next day the Daily Mirror published the same story on its front page and the rest of the media followed it up. Interestingly, according to Ivan Fallon and James Srodes’ book DeLorean, it was Murdoch who arranged for Lord Goodman to act as DeLorean’s lawyer to discourage the rest of Fleet Street from pursuing the story. Within a year DeLorean’s car firm was bankrupt. Within two months, in December 1981, Askew was dismissed and he returned to Lancashire a bitter man. ‘I don’t think Fleet Street gives a damn about ethics, morality or anything else. It gives a damn about attracting a readership that will attract an advertising situation which will make a profit which will make the press barons powerful politically.
(pp.18-20).

The Times

This editorial interference did not stop with the News of the World. It also extended to the Times, when that august paper was under the editorship of the highly respected journalist, Harold Evans. Hollingworth continues

But by far the most revealing example of Murdoch’s desire to set the political line of his papers also came during 1981 when the Conservative government was very unpopular because of high unemployment. when Harold Evans was appointed editor of the Times in March 1981, he was given official guarantees by Murdoch about editorial freedom. On 23 January 1981, the new owner of Times Newspapers had given formal undertakings that ‘In accordance with the traditions of the papers, their editors will not be subject to instruction from either the proprietor of the management on the selection and balance of news and opinion.’

Within a year, however, Evans had been dismissed, claiming he had been forced to resign over constant pressure by Murdoch to move the paper to the Right. Evans’ added: ‘The Times was not notably hostile to the [Conservative] government but it wanted to be independent. But that was not good enough for Rupert Murdoch. He wanted it to be a cheerleader for monetarism and Mrs Thatcher.’ Murdoch denied the charge: ‘Rubbish! Harry used to come and see me and say, “Rupert, it’s wonderful to have you in town. What do you want me to say, what do you want me to do, just let me know.”‘ On this crucial point, Evans told me: ‘Lie plus macho sneer with a useful ambiguity. It is a lie that I ever asked him what to say… It is true that I asked his view from time to time on developments of the paper. The truth is that far from asking Murdoch “what to say”, I followed an editorial policy often in opinion at variance with his own Thatcher-right-or-wrong view.’

The evidence certainly gives credence to Evans’ interpretation of events, although he also fell out with some of the staff. According to leader writer Bernard Donoghue, features editor Anthony Holden and executive editor Brian Macarthur, there was political pressure on Evans because of what Mrs Thatcher called ‘the Times centrist drift’. When unemployment had reached three million in the summer of 1981 Murdoch and Gerald Long, Managing Director of Times Newspapers, wanted the Times to emphasize the number of people in work. Evans declined and Murdoch snapped at him: ‘You’re always getting at her [Mrs Thatcher].’ The Times editor and his proprietor continually argued over economic policy and on one occasion Evans received an extraordinary memorandum from Gerald Long: ‘The Chancellor of the Exchequer says the recession has ended. Why are you have the effrontery in the Times to say that it has not.’

Evans believes the Times was simply taking a more detached, independent editorial position. But by early 1982, Murdoch was clearly losing patience. According to Bernard (now Lord Donoghue, a leader writer and now a stockbroker at Grieveson & Grant, Murdoch had promised Mrs Thatcher that the Times would be back in the Conservative camp by the Easter of that year. But the editor refused to submit to what he later called ‘political intimidation and harassment’. On 12 March 1982, Evans wrote the following editorial: ‘ Unemployment is a social scandal… We favour a more competitive society as against one which is subject to the monopoly power of capital or the trade unions. Three days later Evans was dismissed.

Such lack of sovereignty and independence by the editor has been prevalent throughout the Murdoch empire. ‘I give instructions to me editors all round the world, why shouldn’t I in London,’ he told Fred Emery, home affairs editor of the Times, on 4 March 1982. However, since 1983 all four of Murdoch’s London papers have taken a consistently pro-Conservative government line and so there has been no need to interfere. According to a report on the Sunday Times’ ‘Insight’ team, this is how the system works: ‘Murdoch appoints people who are sympathetic to him. Thus most of the senior staff like Hugo Young have left or been completely emasculated or replaced… To survive you have to self-censor. You approach a story in a different way than if you’d run it in the way you wanted to.’ (pp. 20-1).

The Sun

Hollingsworth concludes that Murdoch actually rarely interfered with the Sun, as under its editor Larry Lamb, who was knighted by Thatcher in 1980, it had already moved to the Tory right, a policy that was continued by the succeeding editor, Kelvin MacKenzie. (p. 21).

So while Murdoch may not interfere in the day-to-day editorial matters of his newspapers any more, they do reflect his personal political opinions and his own personal style of journalism, as carried out by compliant, sympathetic editors.
There was an outcry when he tried to buy the News of the World in 1969. The paper’s then-management were worried about how he would change the paper. And the same fears were raised again when he went off and bought the Times in the late ’70s or first years of the ’80s. There were indeed plans to refer his proposed purchase to the monopolies and mergers commission, though that might have been when he bought the Daily Herald and turned it into the Scum.

And his critics were right. He is not a fit and proper person to own a paper, and he should never have been allowed to buy them. It says much about Thatcher’s grubby, domineering leadership that he was.