This morning I awoke in a Seattle hotel room, still wrestling with the jetlag that has plagued me for the week I have been in the US. Grabbing a coffee, I wanted to catch up on what was happening back in the UK. As I detailed a couple of weeks ago on these fetid pages, the News International story was breaking, and breaking fast.
And, showing my doomsday reading skills like Gareth Southgate summarizing a playground football match, it was always going to go one way: down. I was genuinely surprised at the speed in which the sheer furore that the News of the World (NOTW) was engulfed in – a nightmarish situation it had spent years creating for its readers. The decision to close the best-selling newspaper of 168 years was possibly inevitable given the untenable circumstances, but still came as a shock. And, for the hand-wringing journalists supporting their writer brothers, I can appreciate that no innocent bystanders should lose their livelihood through the actions of some. However they were, as eloquently described by @doctor_six on twitter, as “construction workers on the Death Star” of Wapping. If the ambition was to be remembered for being a journalist of many words, you wouldn’t go to The Sun or NOTW if you wanted your pieces compiled and published in book format, with the words falling of the page like champagne into a flute glass. No, it would be stuffed in a small-format book of quotes you’d put next to the toilet in an enemy’s house.
The situation had fast become a real life season of The Wire: Police Commissioner’s resigning for errors in judgment; politicians being dragged into the scandal, with David Cameron employing Andy Coulson having been told not to by colleagues, and then being told to by Rebekah Brooks, if he wanted an easier ride from their papers. Also, they had a friendship revolving around the quaintly named Chipping Norton, in the heart of the Tory leader’s constituency. It now sounds like Sleepy Hollow. They spent time with each other at Christmas, and were/are firm family friends. She was in charge at the time of the most serious hacking offences and tendered her resignation – possibly the only time she has been tender about anything. It was rejected by Rupert Murdoch and he stood by her. One can only assume that she must know where the bodies of several stories are buried for that not to have happened. However, Rupert the Bear(stard) was flying in to London to sort it all out.
There were then arrests of Coulson and Brooks for questioning. Then she resigned again, this time accepted. And then, as the web of intrigue and potential scandal grew deeper still, Rupert Murdoch, his son James – a man that could easily be cast as C3PO, with one of his six million forms of communication set to ‘Mid-Atlantic Bullshitslime’ – and Ross Kemp’s ex agreeing to go before a Parliament Select Committee for a ‘grilling’.
And so, with coffee in hand, I decided to catch up on the overnight incoming work and had the live stream running in the background. After all, it could have been our Frost/Nixon moment. It was live news, on one of the deepest, dirtiest, multi-layered and incredulous stories of our time. Only one of the committee, Tom Watson, asked pertinent, accurate and short questions worthy of the committee. The rest, including a man in a safari jacket, another a Scottish version of that bald thing in Harry Potter, and other non-descript MPs (Mumbling Puppies) fannied and faffed around the issues, getting nowhere.
After two hours of the Murdoch’s being ‘quizzed’ together, and actually feeling some respect for Murdoch Snr’s prostate and bladder control for a man of his age, there was a commotion. A skuffle. An “oi!….” and some shuffling sounds and the screen went blank. WHAT THE FUCK?! This is our Kennedy moment! He’s been shot? Or collapsed with a heart attack? Or he’s crapped himself and my short-held respect for him had been shot. Quick. Over to Twitter. The news gets there first. And so it began to unfold, like another centre page spread in the NOTW, it was truly unbelievable.
A ‘comedian’ in the public gallery by the name of Jonnie Marbles had attacked Murdoch Snr! This was LIVE NEWS. Jesus. Hitting the f5 button to refresh, it took a very surreal turn. What had he used? HIs fist? A balloon with paint? An egg? No. A foam/custard pie. I beg your pardon? I rubbed my eyes, checked the time, and made sure I re-read it over again. Then Channel4 news confirmed it. A. Custard. Pie. He had been attacked by Lee Harvey Obo.
And so, history showed us Jackie O diving to catch her husband’s brain and skull as it was dislodged by a bullet like Andrew Strauss in the slips at Headingley. In 2011, Murdoch’s wife showed that like all good Bond Villains, she was a dab hand at self-defence, by lunging over the top and slapping Marbles with a right that would have knocked down Auldley Harrison. It had gone from serious to slapstick in an instant, and then a keystone cop comes trundling around the corner. This is, presumably, the same sharp-eyed cop responsible for security. @theboygilbert expertly summarized the security conversation:
“What’s the shaving foam for?”
“Just been to Boots…..”
“And the plate?”
“In you go…”
This prick has completely undermined the process, by handing the initiative back to News Corp, and therefore The Sun and Fox news, etc by giving them their story. The real story being, of course, that the three most senior people involved, did not know what was going on at their newspapers. We will not know more until the police investigations are completed – potentially by policemen that were on News International’s payroll at one time or another – whether or not they did know.
But my word, it is going to be fun watching this spiral out of control, like a car with wobbly wheels.
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