Pent-up resentment, a growing social divide, mistrust of the police? At the start, certainly. Riots follow Tory governments like, well like effect follows cause. But now something else has happened. Something new.
Consider the circumstances. The Metropolitan Police, tasked with keeping order in London, are demoralised and ill-prepared. They’ve had a 20% funding cutback even though, as always in a recession, crime rates are soaring. They’ve just lost their Commissioner and Deputy Commissioner in the phone hacking scandal, under a pall of suspected corruption. And the man who is ultimately in charge is Boris Johnson.
What we are seeing is an extraordinary historic opportunity. Social media and fancy phones were not really necessary, it almost crystallised out of the air. A truly vast number of petty thieves, shoplifters, and many who until now have never been tempted by crime had one single thought. If they all did it at once, they could steal… they could steal… They could steal London.
James Murdoch apologises. He’s not addressing the committee, he’s addressing the shareholders.
“This is the most humble day of my life” – Rupert Murdoch. Yes, but what’s the scale?
By saying he cannot say who was involved in the phone hacking because of ongoing investigations, James Murdoch seems to implicate Rebekah Brooks.
Monosyllabic answers from Murdoch Senior. He denies knowing who lied to him. This may still be true if no one lied to him. But he is denying any knowledge of anything awkward in his UK operation – indeed, virtually any knowledge of how News International was run. Either you don’t believe that – and it is hard to believe – or you have to accept that the guy in charge is no longer really in control.
I can actually hear News Corporation’s share price falling.
I have to admit, the resignation of the head of London’s police was not the next move I expected. He accepted no responsibility for the stunningly suspicious web of relations between papers and police however, but only claimed that media coverage around these events would be too distracting while he was trying to oversee policing for the Olympics.
The Olympics. A world-class excuse for a world-class scandal. Does he think the media will be less curious about his successor? His own second in command was more deeply implicated than himself.
Rebekah Brooks’ arrest of course comes as less of a surprise, though one hopes she is not made the scapegoat for a what appears to be a long-established cosiness between News International and the Metropolitan Police. You can easily imagine how they’ve grown close over the years; maybe Scotland Yard giving Wapping the odd tip-off, maybe the papers spiking the odd story that didn’t reflect well on the Boys in Blue. Such a relationship must be nearly inevitable when people work side-by-side, investigating the same events in the same city. They may even be useful in the solving of crime at times. But the risk of corruption is obvious and enormous.