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The hacking trials go on, but corrupt power of Murdoch media remains untouched

The Brooks-Coulson trial was very narrowly focused on the hacking issue. It did not include the earlier police inquiries into the News of the World’s (NoW) involvement in blagging confidential records and bribing corrupt police for information in the late 1980s and 1990s. The jury was not shown Brooks’ evidence (no doubt a slip on her part, telling the truth) to the parliamentary media committee in March 2003 that her journalists had paid police for information in the past, which is of course a criminal offence. Ironically Select committee evidence is not admissible in court because of the rules protecting parliamentary privilege. Above all, the trial excluded the illicit and ruthless use of power by which the Murdoch press, and especially Brooks, destroyed individuals and suborned governments.

The Sun, in particular, spied on and then publicly exposed anyone who dared to be gay or to have an affair, especially but not only those figures who were in the public limelight. Nor was it only their enemies they attacked, but also their friends, including David Blunkett with whom Brooks had shared drinks and private chats and then mercilessly exposed his private life, and Sara Payne whom Brooks befriended about her campaign for publishing the home addresses of sex offenders and then had her investigated on the false suspicion of her having an affair with a detective. Painful human stories were packaged up and sold for profit as commodities for sexual titillation.

But it was their enemies for whom the Sun reserved its bitterest vitriol. Among politicians exposed, it was overwhelmingly left-wingers, and in particular those who dared to challenge News International, including Chris Huhne on whom Brooks’ NoW took her revenge later by revealing his affair which destroyed his marriage, and Tom Watson on whom the NoW put a private investigator hoping to catch him having an affair. This is all squalid and nasty enough, but there is also the breathkeeping hypocrisy that, as we now know, Brooks and Coulson were themselves having an affair and using every means to keep it very private.

This unrestrained poison to trap and expose public figures gave News International, and Brooks as its chief executive, unlimited power to threaten government and to silence politicians or if necessary destroy them. Fear of Brooks led to her being courted by ministers to keep on the right side of her newspapers. At the Leveson inquiry Brooks admitted 185 meetings with prime ministers, ministers and party leaders. She used her power for personal reasons too, contacting a minister, according to a former official, if she needed a visa at the last minute which was then quickly supplied, and demanding and getting information on British soldiers killed and maimed by roadside bombs in Afghanistan which MoD had been told not to release for operational security reasons.

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