Anyone who grew up, as I did, in Britain in the 1960s, well remembers the arrival into our cultural midst of Rupert Murdoch. Like a cross between Barry McKenzie and Les Patterson - but without their charm and intellect. First he took over the News Of The World. Then he very craftily acquired The Sun - which at that point was a reasonably respected, center-left paper of middlebrow nature. Sort of Daily Mail for people with brains and a heart. For example it had been commended for its reporting on the Biafran war.
Murdoch's smarts told him that he could profit mightily if only there was a permanent Conservative government in power in the UK. But how to do that when working class people selfishly insisted on voting for their own economic interests rather than those of Rupert? BINGO! It suddenly hit Rupert. Find a way to seduce working class people away from their natural instincts.
He decided to do that by creating a newspaper that would play to the inner Alf Garnett that he reasoned was inside every working class person. Especially the men. Lure them in with tits (cue: Page Three Girls) and then feed them a steady drip-drip diet of poison against progressive causes, women, unions, teachers, minorities, gays, students, idealists, peace-lovers, nuclear-protesters. Cynical reactionary stuff. And it worked.
By the time of the 1979 General Election the Sun had a vast working class readership (partly lured in by lust) that had surpassed the Daily Mirror. And its readers had had a decade of vitriol drip-poured into their brains. They followed Thatcher blindly. Just as Murdoch wanted. Welcome to 18 years of Conservative mis-rule. And golden days for the Murdoch News International empire.
It was reprehensible, but entirely understandable, that Tony Blair made his accommodation with Murdoch in the late 90s. Blair wanted power for New Labour and he felt that it was essential to neutralize Murdoch's traditional support for the Conservatives. Murdoch was open to switching because Blair was going to win anyway - and Rupert was - in the brilliant words of Tom Lehrer - "a man whose allegiance is ruled by expedience..."
But Murdoch has always been a piece of ordure. A slime of the lowest order. The revelations of the last few days are no surprise to those who have followed the adventures of a Rupert bare of scruples. This is the law of the jungle. The only rule is that Rupert wins.
And who has been laughing most at the recent plight - and dare we pray perhaps even the downfall - of this venal buccaneer? From whence do these golden shafts of revelation emanate that illuminate Murdoch most foul?
Why from heaven of course! They are glorious Pennies From Heaven.
That would be the heaven resided in by the late and supremely wonderful Dennis Potter.
In his famous last interview in April 1994, just months before he died from pancreatic cancer, he told Melvyn Bragg this:
"As a writer you will know that one of the favourite fantasy plots is where a character's told you've got three months to live, and who would you kill? I call my cancer Rupert. Because that man Murdoch is the one who, if I had the time (I've got too much writing to do)... I would shoot the bugger if I could. There is no one person more responsible for the pollution of what was already a fairly polluted press. And the pollution of the press is an important part of the pollution of British political life, and it's an important part of the cynicism and misperception of our own realities that is destroying so much of our political discourse."
It was Potter who really understood exactly what Rupert Murdoch was. A cancer on the body politic.
So when it came time to put a title to this little discourse on the Machiavellian Murdoch - I thought it would be fun to cast it rather like one of those many clues in the final crossword in the News of the World - that struck back at the direly maned and spelled Rebekah (what WERE her parents thinking?!) Wade-Kemp-Brooks - the jumped-up, ethics-free secretary who wormed and squirmed her way into the editor's chair at The Sun and News of the World. Many of the clues in that last crossword were directed at her. Now - in my very own cross words - it's the turn of the Dirty Digger and his obnoxious spawn.
2 Down: Potter Rains Pennies From Heaven On Cancerous Rupert's Parade. ------ ------- -- - -------- ---- (6 words)
3 Across: Rupert: more than just a bit of a ----. (4 letters)
17 Down: Sigmund's grandson's Elisabethan wife's husband. Also a bit of a ---- (4 letters)
52 Across: Rupert's Babies - All Of Them Witches (anag.)
347 Down: Tricky-Dicky Murdoch? That would make him a ---- (4 letters)
523 Across: Rupert bare cupboard? If the money goes - will Wendi? --- (3 letters)
617 Sideways: Cherry-popped by Jake, Ding-donged by Wolf, then snared a Rupret (sic) with Grace. (sounds like something from the Isle of Wight ferry?) ---- (4 letters)
792 Down: The Son shines out of his Oz. ------- (7 letters)
For the record, Martin Lewis is delighted to place on record that he has never worked for Rupert Murdoch, never sought or wanted to work for Rupert Murdoch, never will work for Rupert Murdoch. This column is dedicated to the great Dennis Potter RIP.Suggest a correction