The Blog

News Corp and the Nuclear Option

When it comes to News Corp., politicians face the nuclear dilemma: "If we strike, will they strike back?

"This is their expenses scandal" commented my partner over a cup of tea earlier, "only it's just beginning".

Quite what is beginning is still to be seen. Entrapment and similar tactics against politicians phones has been part of the game since time immemorial. And celebrities set themselves up for it. But nothing is going to upset the British public quite as much as the idea that they might have hacked into the voicemail of a murdered child.

Well, a missing photogenic white girl, anyway. Black or Asian boys from the wrong part of town... probably deserved it or something. (I note that the front cover of Wednesday's Metro, when discussing who else might have fallen prey to the scandal, featured photos of... yes, five pretty white girls.)

What remains? Many MPs rely on the press to get elected. Much of their "grass roots" support relies on the party doing well to hold on to posts in county and borough councils up and down the country. In this environment, MPs were hardly likely to act publicly. If any needed reminding, the attack on Vince Cable when it got out that he was against Murdoch served as a timely reminder.

(It would not surprise me to hear that Vince had been sighted roaming the corridors of power this week with a slightly smug grin at the latest news)

But it wasn't the politicians that fired the latest salvo in the War on Murdoch. It was the media. Sensing blood in the water, politicians were quick to close in.

An inquiry has been announced, but will it have teeth? Will the politicians go for the kill? They may not, fearing what other dirt the journalists may have or may dig up... Or, heaven forbid, simply fabricate. (With a get-out clause in paragraph nine that nobody will read of course. If that fails, they may face the Press Complaints Commission's ultimate sanction: A short apology a few months later buried on Page 13, sandwiched between a story on a lost dog and an advert for the latest designer plant pots.)

Politicians face the nuclear dilemma: "If we strike, will they strike back? Or will they hold what they have in reserve as a deterrent against future attacks?"

News Corp and it's journalists face a similar quandary. If they find themselves under fire, can they win? If they consider they are doomed anyway, perhaps better to hold on to that reserve. Should News Corp prove fatally wounded, the individual journalists might still be able to take their knowledge elsewhere and seek employment at other publications.

But if someone flinches and we see Mutually Assured Destruction, perhaps there is one group now able to reap the benefits: Vince Cable and his Liberal Democrat colleagues in cabinet.