There seems to be a feeling among some in the Westminster village that Tom Watson’s mafia comparison with News International (NI) and with James Murdoch in particular was very impolite. Also there’s a suggestion that Watson was grandstanding. On this latter point I’m sure he was, after all he is politician. As for the lack of politeness I wish the critics found a more worthy victim for this complaint. Many victims of NI have been treated with a contempt they did not deserve. I know we are a very polite nation as a rule and we are usually especially good with foreigners, but NI has behaved like an organized crime operation for a number of years and the comparison stands.
I have supported Tom Watson in his fight against the Murdochs from the beginning and I have enjoyed the scalps he has taken along the way. Will he get a Murdoch scalp? I certainly hope so. Tom’s campaign has done him good too, making him one of the most popular Labour MPs today and giving him a place in the shadow cabinet. I felt disgust as Tony Blair urged Brown to stop Tom’s attacks on the Murdochs, which to me sums up Blair both for what he has become and probably for what he was from the start.
At the same time I’m not prepared to hero worship Tom Watson as he certainly has his fair share of flaws. It is worth remembering that it started not by Tom declaring war on NI, but by Rebekah Brooks of the NI declaring war on him. His sin in her eyes was organizing the coup that removed her then favourite, Tony Blair. To Tom’s credit he didn’t fold in front of the NI juggernaut but took them on. We must not forget though that the real hero was the Guardian’s Nick Davies who almost makes reporting respectable again by dragging it out of the gutter. Probably we should add Alan Rusbridger to our list of heroes for supporting Davies from above.
So back to the mafia story and the hints that Watson didn’t do himself any favours by making the comparison. Now I do think he made a mistake in comparing James Murdoch to a mafia boss. The obvious comparison was to the son of a mafia boss. It’s not a question of politeness. Things do need to be said. Let’s be honest the rest of the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee are not going to create that much interest. The chairman has had a relationship with and NI and we can easily get more interested in Louise Mensch’s facelift than in her vapid sycophantic questions. There’s no doubt that Tom Watson is the star.
News International has behaved deplorably. For decades it has not worried about breaking the law because it considered it owned both the politicians and the police. They broke the law by hacking phones and then avoided prosecution by paying off the police. Their control of the police went right to the very top of the Met, Britain’s leading police force. They have threatened law makers with exposure of their personal foibles in a way that can only be called blackmail. They have used PI goons to follow and find information on those lawyers and politicians against them in order one has to suspect, to corrupt the law of this land. When it comes to, as one of the lawyers said, playing the man rather than the ball, then the Murdoch Empire is the expert.
Was Tom Watson impolite? I don’t think so. In fact it would be almost impossible to be impolite to James Murdoch or his father. These are creatures that belong living under stones rather than in human society. Andrew Neil describes the NI executives all trying to justify themselves by turning on each other as a ‘circular firing squad’. I certainly hope it is because we need to be rid of them. Hopefully this time unlike with the bankers, this lot will get to do some time in one HM’s prisons. After all they have certainly taken a strong law and order stand over the years.