When Ed Miliband was first elected as the head of the United Kingdom’s major opposition party, Labour, it appeared that he would struggle to make an impact given his poor connections to major players in the media, specifically the Murdoch group.
Following what can only be described as a lackluster first year, one of Miliband’s greatest weaknesses has now turned out to be one of his greatest strengths since connections to media kingpin Rupert Murdoch are political suicide during the latest chapter in the phone hacking scandal.So while Miliband says he will “force a vote on BSkyB,” a broadcast company that’s for sale, Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron must tread a more carful path.
It is well documented that Cameron is a close friend with News International Chief Executive Officer Rebekah Brooks, who previously edited both The News of the World and The Sun for Murdoch.
Cameron and Brooks live in the same Oxfordshire town. The prime minister is also a close friend of Murdoch’s daughter Elizabeth. He also remains unapologetic about hiring another former editor of The News of the World, Andy Coulson, who was arrested recently for his role in the phone hacking scandal.
The Conservatives continue to resist calls for an immediate Judicial Inquest, a move that is not only hugely unpopular, but also raises questions about the amount of power News International hold over the government, to whom it lent its support in the last general election.
Last week, Cameron belatedly called for Brooks’ resignation but it seemed to many like too little too late.
It would be unfair to neglect the close ties that Murdoch has historically held with the Labour party.
While Miliband is not implicated, former Prime Minister Tony Blair, powerful Labour peer Lord Mandelson and even Miliband’s own brother and opponent in the 2010 leadership race, David Miliband, have been close friends with Brooks, Elizabeth Murdoch and James Murdoch, Rupert’s son.
Nonetheless, following the dramatic revelations about former Labour Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s victimization by News International that left the Labour MP in tears, it would be safe to say that the left-leaning Labour party is no longer so attached to the right-wing media magnate.
With the Conservatives facing further embarrassing revelations, they are coming under attack from all quarters, including their own coalition partners.
Nick Clegg’s Liberal Democrats, in particular, are well known for their anti-Murdoch vitriol. The man originally in charge of the BSkyB takeover was Liberal Democratic Business Secretary Vince Cable, though the portfolio was taken away from him after he was caught in a Daily Telegraph sting saying that he had “declared a war on Mr. Murdoch”.
With this in mind, some over optimistic (or pessimistic, since it depends who you are) commentators have claimed the unfolding scandal could lead to an early collapse of the government and the Murdoch Empire.
This seems unlikely.
Although Cameron’s approval rating has dropped since the start of the scandal, and Miliband’s has risen, Cameron remains the most popular of the three political party leaders.
Of course, in a scandal like this we don’t know which way it’s going to turn.
The role of the police in hiding its details as well as the possible involvement of further News International titles, especially The Times and The Sun are all ticking time bombs.
It now seems increasingly unsure that Brooks can hold onto her job.
Most likely, she is being kept on as a scapegoat, to sacrifice when the public’s anger is at its highest – and thus placate them from trying to go after Murdoch himself.
Or possibly she is being kept on in case Murdoch needs a scapegoat if The Sun or The Times is implicated.
Even now the Criminal Investigation Department is probing anyone who is connected with a known News of the World target, while the estimated cost of the related lawsuits has risen to over £250 million.
What is certain is that Cameron and Murdoch face a difficult few weeks as further allegations keep on coming out.