The Godfather Part 6½

Mafia boss?

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.

  • John

    Just when I think I can’t loathe Blair any more, I learn something new and vile about him!

    • Anonymous

      Look Politics took a turn for the worse with Thatcher but at least she was a real politician, Blair came to power with a plan and that plan was to make himself rich, then brown who is a blithering idiot , he is now trying to do a Blair, then you have Miliband god help us if he gets in, or Balls.

      I do not know the answer to labour, voting them back in I know for sure is not the aanswer

  • swatantra

    Its a fair point, NI have behaved appallingly because they thought they were above the Law and nobody could touch them.
    And there won’t be many tears shed if and when all the Press titles in the UK are sold off and go under. The SUN is an absolute disgrace, and plays to the lowest common denominator. Watson will have done his bit to bring about its downfall.
    Huge sums of money in cash were changing hands, and that should have raised some questions.
    Maybe a few of the Chief Executives should be jailed just as a example to the rest of the Press.

    • David Awallace

      The thing is, Labour will go back to kissing Murdoch’s arse again as soon as this phone hacking thing is over.

      • treborc

        Well the News of the world has gone, and i suspect NI will not be as powerful as before for the simple reason one more mistake and the share holders will respond.

    • Andy Williams

      Swat you are a Blairite. How do you square the circle of Blair prostrating himself before the Murdoch throne and basking in the priase Murdoch showered on him.

      • swatantra

        II probably was in the early days ‘as Labour’ simply wasn’t working and, we had to introduce and rebrand Labour to a new generation. Its no good speaking to the converted, Labour has to reach out and be meaningful to the ordinary man and woman on the street.
        But even I was aware that Blair didn’t have all the answers; but he was an important step on the journey back into govt.
        There were good contitutonal changes like devolution and societal changes like diversity and equalities, and Europe. But Blair didn’t have a clue about foreign affairs and was too easily led by America.
        There was also an attempt to understand the changes industry and industrial relations; but you are right in saying that he pandered a great deal to the News and Media and that was because of insecurity.
        Now after 13 years Labour is to drop the ‘new’ addage in its email address and go back to being just Labour. As I’ve said time and again there is only one Party and thats the Labour Party, but it needs rebranding every now and again.

  • swatantra

    … but its more than likely that James and Rebekah will be cleared of wrongdoing.

  • David Awallace

    Labour are Murdoch’s friends, their longest serving PM was even at Murdoch’s sons baptism, dressed in white where John the baptist was said to have baptised Jesus on the banks of the river Jordan. He’s a very religious man is Tony…

    There is a great article on Yahoo about him now actually

    It doesn’t matter what Labour say in opposition, if they get back in power they’ll resort back to type and just be Tories again.

  • swatantra

    Its the job of all ‘progressives’ to reclaim the Party back.

    • David Awallace

      “Its the job of all ‘progressives’ to reclaim the Party back. ” Why bother, they’ll never be seen as a credible social democrat party in much of their heartlands again, I don’t think the Scots want them in again and with a bit of luck the SNP will win all their seats at the next general election.

      Even if they tell you they will change things the moment they’re in power they will revert back to being Thatcherites.

      I saw a towerblock flat up for private rent today in Aberdeen for £725 per month, obviously it’s an ex-council house. Labour allowed things like this to happen, they allowed council housing to find it’s way into the hands of grubby buy to let landlords as they didn’t want to provide it. Labour, not the Tories introduced tuition fees and introduced light tough regulation in the city and gave billionaire ‘non-doms’ the right to live here for 7 years tax free.

      If you trust a party like that for a 2nd time you’re just being a mug.

      • LesAbbey

        So David that leaves us with a problem. Do we try to change the Labour Party, create a new social democrat party, move to another already existent party or join the revolutionaries?

        For me the first answer seems the only way forward, but I would be interested in your answer.

        • David Awallace

          Well I’ve given up trying, I don’t even vote now (although I’m tempted to switch to the SNP).

          I don’t believe you can change the Labour Party, and I’ll tell you why…

          The Labour Party is already very different to the Tory Party, the members of those two parties have very different views. But the party members views don’t count for anything.

          The reality is a party only matters when it’s in government and when a party is in government only those who are ministers seem to have any real say. And when in government, those at the top of the Labour Party behave exactly like those at the top of the Conservative Party.

          We would get council housing sales, massive tax avoidance, the gap between rich and poor widening, more and more privatisation, benefit cuts, tuition fees etc, etc and greedy ministers milking the expenses system (within the rules of course) regardless of which Party was in power.

          If you help Labour you’re giving your time and money to effectively replace the Tories with a small elite group that will do exactly the same as the Tories are doing. When Labour came to power in 1997 they actually even followed the Tories budget for the first two years.

          • LesAbbey

            David you have given yourself even less choices than I offered. For you it’s either supporting the SNP or doing nothing. I would suggest the first is better than the second;-)

        • Anonymous

          Sadly David is correct labour did little in fact nothing to end the social housing racket and even now Labour says the days of social housing are over the answer is cheaper to buy houses, which are not cheap and dam well as hard to get a mortgage for.

          Miliband is not the answer nor his brother, then you have Burnham, Balls or Johnson, forgive me for being daft what a bloody choice.

          • Andy Williams

            Is the correct answer treborc. I think Labour’s best chance in the future is probably Jim Murphy. Balls, Mrs Balls, Milliband minor and major et all are weak and project weak. Cameron is no heavyweight and he regulalrly trounces all of them sometimes more than one at a time.

          • swatantra

            Burnham would be a better choice. Balls and Johnson, no chance, Balls no likeability factor and Johnson ruled himself out long ago.

        • David Awallace

          For me, I’m tempted to start voting SNP and I plan to vote yes to independence. I wouldn’t have dreamed of doing that 5 years ago but now I am more likely to vote for independence than not. For the rest of the country I really don’t know what the solution is…

          But I can tell you what the solution is not, the solution is not Labour. Labour are NOT the answer, get that idea right out of your head if you don’t want more conservative policies.

          Maybe just not voting at all for the next few general elections is the answer? That sounds daft but in the long-term it’s not. Once of the reasons Labour could do what they did was they believed (rightly) that they could take their core voters for granted. They believed they could piss on hard working low paid people, students, the unemployed and those dependent on benefits and still count on their votes. When your vote can be taken for granted your views become worthless and the politicians will treat you with the contempt that you almost deserve.

          Labour are only interested in the super rich, people who want to buy peerages and legislation favours, and of course the ‘swing voters’. If their core voter were also swing voters swinging between Labour and note voting at all they’d have never taken them for granted and piss on them like they did.

          Maybe things can’t improve until the Labour Party believe their core support can’t be taken for granted and maybe to make that happens requires that their bases don’t vote for them for the next few elections, better in the long-term and in all likelihood no worse in the short-term either.

          One of the reasons the Republican Party in America became so right wing over the last decade was the amount of people on the religious right who were prepared to withhold their votes if they didn’t get what they wanted, shame Democratic voters didn’t do the same. I remember reading a comment during the US debt ceiling stand off where one person wrote: “when one party does not compromise and one party does nothing but compromise the outcome is assured”. And the commenter was right, Obama didn’t get to put up taxes, left corporate tax breaks untouched and axed public spending.

        • swatantra

          Les, we change the Party from within, not depart in a sulk because we can’t get our own way like the Gang of Four did.
          Basicically the Party has the ethos values and principles we hold so dear, and is fighting for a better deal and social progress; and it does so democratically, unlike the revolutionaries and anarchists abd facists on the extremes.

      • Andy Williams


      • swatantra

        Good point, But its Labour that gave Scotland devolution and the right to determine its own affairs.
        I’s like to see even more powers going o Scotland; we haven’t finished the journey just yet.
        But independence as the SNP proposeis a mistake. 300 years of history and ties cannot be that easily severed.

    • Andy Williams

      Define what you mean by progressive.

      • swatantra

        Its a good point the simplest answer would be ‘a member of Progress’. But there is a lot in Progress and its people and policies I’d disagree with, for eg its packed with lots of advisors young interns and basically career politicians who’ve no experience of the real world at all, led by too much media savvy guys.
        But it is coming o grips with the problem of how to move the Party forward. And thats my main point we can’t go back; we have to work in the country we have at present the economy we have at present the global markets we have at present the competitionwe face from Asia etc. the emerging democracies and economies in Africa. We can’t go back to ‘old Labour, because the world has moved on, and we must adjust to it.
        Thats my main gripe with the traditionalists, its a policy that will end in failure.
        SoI’m also a member of Compass which also has some good things to say about business and CSR.

  • Andy Williams

    I give Labour a little image of the future. Change and change sharpish – you are losing all relevance.

    Stop pandering to middle England and the middle class. Listen to some of the bilge you come out with and then imagine how insulting and patronising it is to your core vote – people earning 18K or less – the majority of the workforce.

    Take graduate unemployment – Labour makes for more noise over that than it does over unemployment amongst non-graduates even though their natural vote lies proportionally and numerically more in the latter. Insulting. When you mention it to them (as I have) they then come out with BLX that graduates are occupying non-graduate vacancies and if they can get them in to graduate positions it will free-up the jobs for non-graduates. Patronising.

    Labour should be streets ahead in the polls. They are the opposition, the government is deeply unpopular and the LibDems are dead in the water. It isn’t streets ahead though – it’s marginally ahead and has picked up barely half of the LibDem disaffected and shortly the inbuilt Labour advantage in coonstituency size and make up will be removed. In all probability they will be looking at a minority government or a coalition with anything but the LibDems – should they actually win in 2015. Ordinary people – the sort working in shops and offices doing normal mundane low paid jobs (ie the majority) will then give you that 5 year term to produce a massive change – better spending power, tens of thousands more units of social housing built (built not ‘planned’), better working conditions, more workers rights enshrined by law and if you don’t provide that at the very least you will deservedly be out on your arse in 2020 for a generation at least by which time Scotland will – at the very least , be autonomous and you will then be looking at eternal opposition.

    Get a grip. Start pitching at your natural core vote. Say exactly what you are going to do, how much it will cost, where the money will come from and don’t say ‘try’ – people have had enough of ‘try’ and ‘aim to’, people have learnt it invariably means ‘fail’, ‘cancel’. ‘postpone’.

    And if you aren’t prepared to do this and more then sling your hooks – you don’t serve any purpose.