The revelations of the past week have laid bare some pretty depressing aspects of British political life. The revelations of murder victims' phones hacked, police officers bribed, and senior politicians meek or complicit, have shocked even hardened cynics. Faith in the political establishment, already low, has taken another battering. Yet many of us are feeling strangely positive.
In my conversations with 38 Degrees members over the past week, I've sensed growing optimism rather than creeping cynicism or impotent rage. Many of us see real glimmers of hope for the future. And with Rupert Murdoch's bid for BSkyB finally defeated, that hope is now burning even brighter.
We've seen journalism at its very worst, its most cynical, unethical and criminal, exposed on a scale few imagined. But we've also had our faith restored in the power of courageous, independent and quality journalism. Nick Davies and his colleagues at the Guardian have proved to us that old-fashioned, world-changing investigative journalism is far from dead. And I don't think I've ever seen a Telegraph article get quite such an enthusiastic reception from 38 Degrees members as Peter Oborne's blistering pieces of the past few days.
Independent and outspoken campaigning MPs, often considered a thing of the past, are suddenly back in fashion. It's not that common for thousands of 38 Degrees members to write at length in praise of politicians. But countless 38 Degrees members have expressed admiration for the way MPs like Tom Watson and Chris Bryant kept this issue on the agenda. They braved the threats and the ridicule and have now been proved spot-on.
Above all though, it feels like an optimistic week because it has been a week where the general public has really asserted itself. Campaigning groups such as 38 Degrees and our friends at Avaaz, the "Hacked Off" Campaign, Mumsnet, the bloggers and tweeters behind the boycott twitter storm, the NUJ and celebrities such as Hugh Grant, have all played crucial roles in channelling the public anger. But we've all been vehicles for something far bigger than any of us. The British public have simply had enough, and that meant the campaigning organisations were riding a wave.
It feels like the public is finding its voice during this crisis. We've responded differently to how we did during the banking crisis or the MP expenses scandal. The mood has somehow felt different. There has been less resignation, less hopeless cynicism, and more appetite for action. Faced with the ultimate example of our politics and police working for media barons rather than voters, we've said enough is enough.
People power is making sure this scandal changes the media and political landscape. Consumer action pushed advertisers to drop the News of the World, forcing Murdoch to relinquish (at least for now) his share of the Sunday tabloid market. It's hard to imagine the government yesterday calling on Murdoch to drop his BSkyB takeover without the hundreds of thousands of citizens who e-mailed their MP through the 38 Degrees website, or signed the Avaaz petition. Just a couple of days earlier the political consensus had been that phone hacking and the BSkyB deal could not be linked - yesterday politicians realised that the public was no longer going to settle for that.
It's obviously way too early to say what the long-term consequences of News Corporation dropping the BSkyB bid will be. But I don't think the British public are up for a gradual return to business as usual. We've glimpsed what it feels like for politicians to listen less to media barons and more to their voters. If we keep working together, maybe we've got a chance to make that a lasting state of affairs.
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