Well now – the brown stuff surely has hit the turning blades in our little island. What will they all – the politicians, the journalists, the police, and the populace (not necessarily in that order) make of Murdochgate? What has been going on under our noses is pretty shameful, not to say utterly disgraceful. Will there be serious moves to probe this to the bottom and to point the finger publicly at those, of however high a station, have had their finger in this toxic pie? I profoundly hope so. It has been my opinion for years now that the UK is in serious danger of losing any reliable moral compass.
There is a deep mistrust of authority generally. And for good reason. Authority in virtually all its forms in this country has tumbled from the pedestal it once occupied – and maybe occupied undeservingly even then. But at almost every level – local government, business, politics, education etc., the philosophy (or should I say ‘ethos’, that word which is used so often to add gravitas to that which has none) behind every enterprise seems to be one of, ‘the system, right or wrong.’
Will we raise our voices, in this instance, in outraged protest? It takes a lot to stir the British people into action against their chosen (sort of) leaders.We have a long and undistinguished history of doing what we’re told. We were told to support the invasion of the Falklands. Grown people, suffering from mass hysteria, waved their Union flags in Portsmouth dockyard and wished ‘our boys’ well as they sent them off to war (shades of 1914), many of them to be killed, maimed and/or to have their lives forever haunted by the barbaric acts they were to witness and in which they themselves were to take part. And we capped it all by sending to their deaths in one dire moment, over three hundred husbands, fathers, uncles, sons on a battleship which was, at the time, actually steaming away from us. ‘Gotcha!’ said The Sun. Just one of the reasons why the whole Murdoch juggernaut needs to be dismantled and dismissed.
And do we think the Falklands will remain forever British? Of course not. They will one day inevitably revert to Argentina. Some English politician, some time in the future, will see some overwhelming advantage to the UK in handing them back and the appropriate case will be made. At which point the Falklanders will cease to have those islands by the divine right governments here have so insistently claimed. What then, the justification of the pain suffered – and still suffered – by so many as a result of that maverick incursion?
And even on those few occasions when we are stirred from our armchairs – viz one million on the streets protesting about the proposed war in Iraq – little notice is taken of our concerns by those leaders. And as those concerns are dismissed and kicked into the long grass, we settle back into our armchairs once again. And the opening salvos of that appalling conflict, legitimized by untruths, were fired and up to a million subsequently died.
So maybe this one will be different. There are signs it may be. Politicians in this country are most afraid of two sets of people – the Murdoch empire, and its own voters. It begins to look like the former is now out of the equation. Which leaves us, the voters. And if the mood I detect all around is anything to go by, this could well be a defining moment. We seem, right here and now, to have the power. There is such a wave of disgust washing around these islands that it’s hard to see this severely rocked government doing anything other than making a serious attempt to get to the root of it and to put it as right as they can.
So let’s be optimistic; let’s hope that’s how it’s going to be. But if it is, then there’s another great danger – we’ll go back to our armchairs – ‘Job done. Panic over.’ To return to what I said earlier about moral compasses, Murdochgate is, to my mind, but one manifestation – albeit it a huge one – of a slow poison seeping into the bones of UK society. Our school children quite regularly stab one another to death in the streets of our cities; the elderly are treated with systemic disdain and lack of care; we have the highest rates of teenage pregnancy in Europe and the highest rates of binge-drinking; cameras – one for every fourteen inhabitants – watch us day and night; bankers and chief executives increase shamelessly their own already huge salaries while the pay of those without whom their businesses would be dead – i.e. their employees – are cut, frozen in these dire economic times. And even employers are scathing about the lack of basic education skills in so many of the young British people who come to them for jobs, and – which is even more concerning – their reluctance to devote themselves to working. All they want is the money with which to party and ‘have fun’. With the Eastern Europeans, who are here in droves, there is no such problem. You can see that for yourself any day of the week. If there’s an Eastern European working in a retail outlet, you can almost rest assured that in his/her hands you will be greeted, looked after and served with attention and politeness. Sadly, that same assurance does not apply with the Brits.
This situation, in all its depth, needs addressing. The prognosis for our society, if that is not done and done soon in preference to building aircraft carriers, nuclear submarines, fighting wars we cannot possibly win and generally parading around the world like the big man which we now most certainly are not is, I believe, unenviable. I hope Murdochgate will be the key that opens that door. But I’m not holding my breath.