Will Rupert Murdoch be locked out of British politics?

“In so many ways, a vote for the Lib Dems is a vote against Murdoch and the media elite.”

Amid all the media hysteria about the prospects and consequences of a hung parliament, possibly the most noteworthy contribution was David Yelland’s surprisingly thoughtful piece in Monday’s Guardian. Yelland speculates that an unexpected by-product of no one party achieving a parliamentary majority would be that Rupert Murdoch’s lengthy and malign influence over British politics may be dealt an unlikely blow.

This might explain the ludicrous tone of the General Election coverage in Monday’s edition of Murdoch’s Sun newspaper. The paper’s YouGov election poll (which put the Lib Dems in the lead on 33%) clearly demonstrated that The Sun’s six month propaganda campaign on behalf of the Conservatives has had precious little effect on its own readership. Undaunted, they went for the Lib Dem jugular. Page after page attempted to whip the reader into a frenzy of terror at the prospect of life under “loony” Lib Dem overlords. Scrapping the Trident replacement would inevitably lead to the humiliation of Brittania before the enemies of the Empire, the country would prostrate itself at the feet of the evil European socialist conspiracy, and (worst of all) the place would be bloody well crawling in immigrants.

I suppose Nick Clegg should be flattered. If (arguably) the world’s most powerful man has unleashed his principle attack dog on them, then the Lib Dems must be doing something right. Moreover, NewsCorp must fear something unwelcome around the corner if Clegg has a hand in the next government. As we know, Murdoch’s operation is only concerned with one thing: continued business success. In the case of his British media interests, this has always been inextricably linked with being on the right side of the people who regulate the industry. The Sun’s opportunistic switch last year from Labour to the Tories was a classic example of this: NewsCorp judged that Cameron was going to win, so it was time to reignite the flame that burned so strongly during the union-filleting Thatcher years.

Perhaps their biggest fear, as David Yelland speculates, is having people in charge with whom they have no relationship. They’ve never bothered with Clegg and they’ve burned their bridges with Brown, and if Cameron fails to seal the deal on 6th May Murdoch won’t have anyone to play with. The news coverage would inevitably be spiteful and dishonest but, perhaps only for a short time, the government could go about its business without having to run things by the editor of The Sun. Perhaps as part of that process we might even end up having a sensible debate about the nature of media ownership in Britain.

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