I’ve spent most of the last six years attempting to expose the phone-hacking scandal at the News of the World and, for most of that time, I’ve also been trying to explain that the scandal isn’t really about phone-hacking at all…
For sure, the hacking is important. It’s a crime and it was being committed casually and routinely by a newspaper which was otherwise happy to beat the drum for law and order. A grotesque invasion of privacy, seasoned with plenty of hypocrisy.
But what makes the whole saga worth exposing is what lies behind it. Put simply: the power of Rupert Murdoch. Why did Scotland Yard spend years telling press, public and parliament false stories about the hacking? Why did the feeble press regulator join in? Why did David Cameron hire the editor who had been responsible?
In the end, it is that last question which really matters. Cameron wanted Murdoch’s man in his office but, more than that, he wanted Murdoch’s blessing on his attempt to become Prime Minister. Sometimes, it’s good to be naive – to stand back and remember that sweet old idea about democracy being government of the people for the people, and to recognise just how much we have lost, just how fundamentally wrong it is that one man who has no vote wields so much more power than the rest of us.
I spent a lot of time in the corridors of power, following the footsteps of Murdoch and of his executives and senior journalists, tracing their impact on big decisions like the invasion of Iraq or the decision not to join the euro; unpicking their bullying campaign to win approval for their bid to take over BSkyB; and following their influence to a point of absurdity when two government officials separately described how Gordon Brown had ordered a review of the race-horse levy because Rebekah Wade’s new boyfriend, Charlie Brooks, who trained race horses, thought the tax was a bad thing. That’s power.
I wrote a book about it, Hack Attack. Others may find better ways to make their feelings known.