David Cameron’s Murdoch Problem
As more and more details emerge from the phone hacking scandal in the UK, we are seeing a clearer picture of just how deeply intertwined the Murdoch media and political establishment have been.
Jeff Jarvis writes:
What was exposed in Parliament during the Murdochs' testimony wasn't necessarily News Corp. — we shall see what happens to it — but instead the cozy, closed ties between institutional journalism and institutional government. The corruption of their close links was what was most shocking about today: news executives and politicians at lunch and spas and sporting events; news executives hired by politicians and police to give advice and spin their ex-colleagues; news reporters paying police; news executives sneaking through the back door to the seat of power; government officials being protected from hearing too much about the dirty work of news…
This presents an absolute PR nightmare for David Cameron, who had been doing well before the scandal broke. Cameron routinely kept Labour on the back foot, never allowing Ed Miliband to control the narrative or score effective points against him. Miliband was seen as a weak leader without the necessary artillery to take on a polished shark like Cameron.
All that has now changed – partly due to Miliband seizing the moment, but mostly because Cameron wedded himself to Rupert Murdoch and is now paying the price.
Like every successful politician in the UK over the past 30 years, Cameron realized that without Murdoch's support, his chances of beating the opposition in the general election would be dramatically reduced. Andrew Sullivan writes:
Cameron started out as the kind of Tory who would try not to become too enmeshed with the Murdoch press. But when it duly turned on him, and Gordon Brown looked as if he might win a snap election, Cameron caved to chancellor George Osborne's darker instincts and fatefully hired former NOTW hack, Andy Coulson, implicated in the phone hacking scandal, to be his press spokesman. He famously said he wanted to give Coulson a second chance. But what he effectively did was signal that he would sign up for a compromising Blair-type deal with Murdoch to win favorable coverage and thereby votes. And it worked! Murdoch's mass market tabloid, The Sun, shifted from Labour to Tory overnight. Cameron won. And since the election, Cameron has had more social and business meetings with the Murdoch tribe than with the rest of the British newspaper world combined. He has also had the worst week – deservedly – since he came to office.
Cameron is a brilliant PR man (largely as a result of his time in the industry), but he is having a very difficult time controlling public opinion as his name is dragged through the mud. His party's ties to Murdoch are threatening to unravel his government, and Cameron is now engaged in the fight for his political life.
In an ironic twist of fate, the man who helped him win the general election may now be the man to help him lose the next one.