After a day of high drama in the Commons culture, media and sport committee (custard pies included) during which Murdochs Senior and Junior amusingly and inadvertently managed an uncanny resemblance to The Simpsons characters Mr Burns and his grovelling aide Smithers, Rupert Murdoch insisted on delivering a statement. And I couldn’t resist reproducing it in full here for you to ponder over. Or laugh at. Whichever you want, really:
My son and I have come here with great respect for all of you, for Parliament and for the people of Britain whom you represent.
This is the most humble day of my career.
After all that has happened, I know we need to be here today.
Before going further, James and I would like to say how sorry we are for what has happened – especially with regard to listening to the voicemail of victims of crime.
This is such a fast-moving and ridiculously complicated story that in all probability this post will be completely out of date the second it goes up – bear with me!
Unless you’ve been living in a cave for the last two weeks, you can’t fail to have noticed the distinctly disturbing rumblings emanating from the depths of the Wapping HQ of Rupert Murdoch’s News International media empire. Or at least that’s where the rumblings started. Despite an investigation into whether the News Of The World had hacked the phones of various celebrities and politicians that goes back almost a decade, it seems that News International assumed they could keep the worst of it well and truly hidden.
Hidden until now, that is.
Since Nick Davies and his team at The Guardian revealed at the beginning of July that the News Of The World had engaged in some truly repellent behaviour in the shape of hacking the mobile phones of the families of high-profile murder victims, these long-standing rumblings have turned into a massive and seemingly unstoppable shitstorm which has managed to drag not only News International but also the government and the Metropolitan Police into its increasingly unpleasant wake.
Keith Richards is shooting heroin into his eyeballs and still touring… I’m getting mixed signals. I picture nuclear war and two things surviving: Keith and cockroaches. “Where did everybody go-o? I saw a bright light and thought we were on …” – Bill Hicks.
As with many things in life, I’m with Bill Hicks on this one: Keith Richards is the ultimate rock ‘n’ roll survivor. Sex, drugs, rock ‘n’ roll and brushes with the law: he’s done it all and to flamboyantly spectacular excess over the years. Richards is, as described in a Guardian article earlier this year, quite simply
… a human shrine to bad behaviour; a living reminder there’s more to life than being healthy.
And now the man who probably would come through a nuclear holocaust alive, guitar and bottle of Jim Beam still in hand (of course), has finally written his autobiography, to be entitled simply Life. By any reckoning, that’s guaranteed to be some read, particularly if the typically outspoken quotes picked up on by some of today’s papers are representative of the published book as a whole.
This is all very interesting.
A reader* sent me this link to a recent article in the New York Post on the subject of Bono’s non-profit, the ONE Campaign. The idea behind this campaign sounds like an admirable and excellent one in theory – it aims to end poverty and the scourge of AIDS among the world’s poorest people.
But the campaign’s recent promotional campaign has left me puzzled. I’m not sure that if I worked at ONE I could justify sending out promo press packs which contained such expensive goodies as:
“a $15 bag of Starbucks coffee, a $15 Moleskine leather notebook, a $20 water bottle and a plastic ruler”
Which arrived on journalists’ desks at a crucial time for the campaign
“in four, oversized shoe boxes, delivered one at a time via expensive messenger. The boxes were timed to arrive for the UN ‘Summit on the Millennium Development Goals'”
Paid for by Amnesty International supporters, this ad was due to run in today’s Financial Times (basically the house paper of the City), to coincide with the Shell shareholders’ AGM in London. At the very last minute, the FT decided to pull the ad. Here’s what Amnesty International had to say:
Financial Times’ late call thwarts Amnesty’s campaign
Amnesty International UK expressed its immense disappointment today at the Financial Times’ decision to pull a new hard-hitting advertisement at the last possible moment. The ad was due to appear today as Shell held its London AGM.
The advertisement focused on the appalling human rights record of Shell in Nigeria. It compared the company’s $9.8bn profits with the consequences of pollution caused by the oil giant for the people of the Niger Delta.
Numerous oil spills, which have not been adequately cleaned up, have left local communities with little option but to drink polluted water, eat contaminated fish, farm on spoiled land, and breathe in air that stinks of oil and gas.
Tim Hancock, Amnesty International UK’s campaigns director, said:
“The decision by the Financial Times is extremely disappointing. We gave them written reassurances that we would take full responsibility for the comments and opinions stated in the advertisement.
“Both The Metro and The Evening Standard had no problems with running the ad.”
Tim Hancock added:
“The money to pay for the advertisements came entirely from more than 2,000 individuals online, who we’d asked to fund an ad campaign targeting Shell’s AGM – and it really caught their imagination. And I am sure these supporters will share with us our sense of deep disappointment.”
No FT, no comment?
They (whoever they are) say that a week is a long time in politics. And this last week or so has indeed been both long and eventful – as far as the general election campaign is concerned anyway. Thursday night saw the second of three televised leaders’ debates, this time on foreign policy issues. To this observer at least, the debate seemed to be more fiery and bad-tempered than that of the week before.
Voices were raised, impatient interruptions were made, very little of any actual substance was said, and there was much less agreeing with Nick this time – David Cameron publicly accused a sneery Gordon Brown of scaremongering and being an out-and-out liar, and they both laid into Nick Clegg in a seemingly pointless effort to flatten ‘Cleggmania’ before it can become truly politically dangerous.
It is interesting to see Brown and Cameron (as well as certain parts of the media) so obviously threatened by a man previously as politically anonymous as Nick Clegg. Both Labour and the Tories always knew that this was going to be a close-run election campaign, but the (perhaps not entirely unexpected) emergence of the Liberal Democrats has got them rattled now – the fact that the old two-party system is now being blown wide open can easily be read as further proof that the electorate is heartily sick and tired of the current, broken political system.
Well, that’s ninety minutes of my life I’ll never get back. Actually, it wasn’t as bad as I expected, and in some ways the perceived outcome was surprising (to me – a bit – anyway). This, the first televised debate of its kind in the UK, appears to have been some sort of attempt to engage the electorate in their own homes, but I wouldn’t be at all surprised if a large proportion of the ITV-watching population simply reached for the remote at 8.30pm. I didn’t – for my sins – and this is what I thought…
Gordon Brown fared better than I expected, although I thought he looked worried and old – and his attempts at joking his way out of a hole fell a little flat to my ears. He handled the question on the economy with more knowledge and grace than David Cameron (all those years in the Treasury waiting for Tony Blair to begone are paying off now, eh Gordon?), but his weird little attempts at deferring to Nick Clegg were noticeable and rather amusing – “I agree with Nick” being the catchphrase of the night from Gordy. I get the impression that Downing Street may well be preparing for a hung parliament and are thus rather clumsily grooming Clegg because they suspect that he may end up in an important position in any resulting coalition government.
I’m surprisingly saddened to hear that Malcolm McLaren died this morning in New York at the age of only 64. I’d had no idea that he’d been fighting cancer for some time – it seems he took a sudden turn for the worse over the last few days. His family are naturally said to be devastated, and I send my sympathies to them.
They, and we, have lost a man who was always one of a kind, whatever you thought of him – and most people either loved him or hated him. Or both. Whatever your reaction, he was unique.
Despite the fact that he quite clearly wrote his own myth from day one and then arguably pinched much of Vivienne Westwood’s limelight for many years, as well as the basic truth that his self-importance often outweighed his actual importance to British music, I have always had a sneaking admiration for the old iconoclast and I believe that British music and culture will be lessened by his death.
As with so many people, music is central to my life and I love the energy and anger and fire and inspiration of punk – the genre with which McLaren was always most associated. However, and despite what Malcolm always used to say/think about his role in the process, that whole thing was evolving independently and would have exploded anyway – the first British punk single was, in fact, New Rose by The Damned, who had nothing to do with McLaren.
So it’s May 6th then. Now there’s a surprise.
In exactly a month’s time, the polling booths will be open and the British people will be casting their vote for a new/old government, but, finally, today Her Madge gave her consent to Gordon Brown dissolving Parliament – which means the election campaign really, actually, finally, officially starts now (despite the fact that some candidates have been at it for months already).
And what an exciting morning it’s been for all us armchair election followers!
I’m not entirely sure what was most (least?) thrilling about this morning’s frankly mindless media coverage. Forced by Freeview to choose between Sky or the BBC, the telly ended up being muted when my brain started dripping out of my ears. I did catch Gordon Brown’s thoroughly tedious speech – although I was slightly distracted by the phrase ‘as dull as ditchwater’ bouncing round what little brain I had left by this point.
Other media lowlights included David Cameron’s unpleasantly smug speech to the rapt party faithful, complete with its mysterious (hmm) omission of the same two words (“gay” and “straight”) which were so heavily emphasised in the draft version revealed yesterday.
With the election now widely assumed to be on May 6th, the campaign for Britain’s hearts and minds has really begun in earnest, although said campaign doesn’t seem to be working very well – that’ll be on all sides, but particularly on that of the current New Labour government – even before Tony Blair weighed in with his dubious backing of Brown.
For example, the recent budget (which may not even ever be fully implemented at this rate) can only be described as a prime example of New Labour desperation and a rather pathetic attempt at saving the government’s electoral skin. In fact, this governmental desperation is already at such levels that this year’s Guardian April Fool on Labour’s alleged new hard-man-vote-Labour-or-else election strategy actually came very close to being convincing. Scary.
And it’s only going to get worse. I had already received my first batch of election propaganda back in late February, and now, in early April, even more of this rubbish has started coming through my letter box at a steady rate – and the quality of it has got so bad that it would actually be hilarious if this election wasn’t so damn important.
Just like last time, the Tory propaganda was the first to arrive, complete with exactly the same set of slightly sinister photos of that identikit Tory blonde candidate we saw before. However, instead of their previous desperate attempts at politely begging the reader to vote Conservative, this time their desperation just seeps through the paper: