Crisis at the top out of hand
A full-blown constitutional crisis is emerging within the British state, with the country’s top policeman challenging the authority of the prime minister who himself is connected to phone hacking through his former press secretary.
For Cameron to rush back from South Africa, while asking Parliament to meet on Wednesday – it was due to go into recess tomorrow – indicates the ever-increasing scale and scope of events precipitated by the Murdoch news empire’s meltdown.
The latest casualty is deep in the heart of the state – Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Paul Stephenson. Although Home Secretary Teresa May poured oil on troubled waters in an unctuous statement, thanking the commissioner for his splendid work, knives are out big time between the police chief and the government.
The Commissioner claims there was nothing untoward in his relationship with ex-News International deputy editor Neil Wallis, But, as the Guardian points out: “The Metropolitan Police chose to hire the former second-in-command of an organisation while that organisation was being publicly accused of criminal activity”. Worse still, it failed to inform Downing Street about its close relationship with Wallis.
The real bombshell in Stephenson’s statement is his thinly-disguised challenge to Cameron. By comparing the PM’s hiring of former News of the World editor Andy Coulson to Scotland Yard’s hiring of Wallis, Stephenson has made a direct challenge to Cameron. Coming from Britain’s top police officer, who has only been in the job since 2009, this has the makings of a constitutional crisis.
The truth is that the media, the police and politicians (including of course New Labour) are all part of the system of governance. They have formed a social glue over a half-century as Murdoch’s media web stretched its tentacles around the world.
From the standpoint of logic, Stephenson is right. Cameron, like his New Labour predecessors, is absolutely tainted – and with him, Blair and Brown who repeatedly turned down opportunities to re-open hacking inquiries. Ed Miliband has also courted Murdoch and hired a former News International hack with question marks hanging over him as his own press advisor.
Stephenson’s resignation reveals a crisis of the state, intensified by the globalisation process and its subsequent crash. Deputy prime minister Nick Clegg yesterday warned of the dangers of another meltdown. A new report out today shows the UK economy is faltering – so badly that some suggest the Murdoch crisis is a convenient deflection from the real crisis.
The departure of the Met chief, under pressure from London mayor Boris Johnson, leaves a leadership gap at Scotland Yard which will grow if – as seems likely – counter-terrorism chief John Yates also resigns. It’s becoming blindingly clear that the Met is like that because the state as a whole is rotten and undemocratic and confidence in politicians as well as the media – and the police – continues to plummet. Now no one believes what they say – even if they are right!
The political turmoil is exacerbated by the plotting of right-wing Tories who see Cameron as too soft. The Telegraph and the Daily Mail are gunning for the Tory leader, believing they can get a more “traditional” one in his place.
So, while we can be pleased that the Pandora’s Box (more like a three-way sewer between Scotland Yard, Downing Street and Media-ville) is open, its secrets out and many involved tearing each other apart, there are many dangers behind the scenes.
Not least is the threat of a national government as the political crisis meets a worsening economic situation. Such a government would undoubtedly introduce emergency measures in “the national interest”.
The whole political structure and its disgruntled counterparts in the police and security services are irretrievably tainted and compromised. We should take up the call from the Spanish Real Democracy Now activists: Don’t vote for them! Build People’s Assemblies instead!
A World to Win secretary
18 July 2011