Iain Macwhirter launches coruscating attack on Alex Salmond and Rupert Murdoch
One of Scotland most high-profile political journalists, Iain Macwhirter, has launched a coruscating attack on Scotland First Minister’s Alex Salmond and media mogul Rupert Murdoch.
Writing in the Sunday Herald, Macwhirter asked; “Why do they do it? Why do political leaders, even in Scotland, worship at the tawdry court of The Sun king Rupert Murdoch? What do they think they'll gain?
“Murdoch is the most toxic brand in British public life, his crude right-wing publications a byword for bent news and illegal practices such as phone hacking.
“Yet there he was, the ‘Dirty Digger’ as Private Eye calls the boss of News International, calling into Bute House on Wednesday for a tete-a-tete with Alex Salmond, even as claims of a network of police corruption linked to The Sun were reverberating across the Leveson inquiry. And on the very day that James Murdoch resigned in disgrace from his post as chairman of NI. How many votes does Alex Salmond want to lose?”
Macwhirter points out that Salmond insists Murdoch was just there to talk about jobs as one of Scotland's leading employers.
“But if he thinks Scottish voters will believe that then he is out to lunch. Salmond also says that he made his views clear about Leveson and newspaper ethics. But this came rather hollow from a politician who had just leaked the date of the Scottish independence referendum – October 18 – to give the super soaraway Sunday Sun a front-page splash for its first edition.
“Is that really the kind of behaviour we expect from our First Minister? That he sells his referendum for a sycophantic tweet from Rupert Murdoch, who called him Britain's ‘most brilliant politician’ on Twitter.
“It's not even as if the Sunday Sun actually supported independence. It won't unless and until Murdoch becomes convinced that the referendum is a certainty. The Sun doesn't lead opinion – it follows it. Why don't politicians understand that?”
Macwhirter claims: “An entire generation of politicians has been corrupted – yes, corrupted – by association with this sinister oligarch, who should never have been allowed to acquire such monopolistic influence over the UK media. Murdoch owned The Sun, The News of the World, The Times, Sky News and had his finger in other media pies.
“Such cross-media ownership by a foreign national would never have been allowed in America, where they take press freedom rather more seriously than we do. Or France, or any other country with any concern for public ethics.
“Murdoch was, is, a cancer in British public life. He's a malignant presence at election time and at moments of national emergency.”
Macwhirter refers to the “astonishing revelations from the Met’s Deputy Assistant Commissioner Sue Akers at the Leveson Inquiry. Akers spoke candidly about what she called the ‘culture of illegal payments to senior police officers and officials by The Sun.
“The Leveson inquiry has inadvertently uncovered one of the biggest scandals in police history. The public will conclude that this explains why the police were so reluctant to investigate the phone-hacking scandal in the first place. They didn't want to bite the hand that fed them.
“But why did the police feel they could act this way? It was reckless beyond belief, and apparently sanctioned, or condoned, at the highest level. Perhaps because the police saw that politicians were already hand in glove with the Murdoch empire and believed that this was just how things were in the ‘real world’.
“They believed that Murdoch was indeed above the law, a sponsor of government, confidant of prime ministers, immunised from prosecution by virtue of his constitutional role as the man who decides who is suitable to win British general elections. Truly, we live in the Murdoch State.
“And now we even have our own Scottish First Minister worming his way into Rupert Murdoch's unsavoury inner circle, sending him cosy notes and free tickets, meeting his agents 26 times since 2007. Trying to win favours from Murdoch's disreputable rags.
“Politicians always excuse this kind of ingratiating behaviour on the grounds that they have to keep the press on side; it's just how things are.
“Well, the First Minister of Scotland needs to be reminded that this is not how things are here. Salmond should disown Rupert Murdoch if he doesn't want to hear Scottish voters saying: ‘Ach, politicians. They're all the same’."