Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Knaves and fools: edifying acquittals and convictions in Britain

“My client's a moron,” says Tom Cruise, “that's not against the law.” 

As well as being an unforgettable line in an outstanding film, 
A few good men, the statement makes an important point, not just on legal issues, but on society generally and the people we inexplicably choose to run it for us. 

For instance, ever since he appeared on the scene, I’ve wondered whether David Cameron was a knave or a fool. In the last couple of years, it’s a question I’ve asked myself repeatedly about Rebekah Brooks, to whom Cameron used to send text messages which he signed off “lol”. Like a teenager, except that no teenager would think that “lol” meant “lots of love”.

I also had my doubts about Andy Coulson, sometime lover of Ms Brooks, and her successor as editor of the News of the World when Rupert Murdoch, its proprietor, promoted her to be Chief Executive of his European operations. That was before David “lol” Cameron appointed Coulson his spinmeister in Downing Street.

Brooks seemed so bright and acute – the first female editor of the Sun, the youngest editor of a national newspaper in this country, Chief Executive of a significant element of the Murdoch empire – that I couldn’t believe she could possibly be a fool. So when she went on trial for allowing phone hacking by her journalists while she was editor, I thought she could only be a knave: after all, the trial made clear that the practice was widespread and some of the papers’ most significant stories were obtained by hacking, so how could she not know about it?

How wrong I was. The court has now pronounced her no more than a simple fool. Her acquittal means one can only conclude that, as she claimed, she really had no idea of what was happening at the papers she headed. Being a moron is legal, as we’ve seen, so she walks free.

Rebekah Brooks:
all the relief of being found a fool and not a knave
Andy Coulson, on the other hand, has been convicted and therefore officially found a knave. Which takes us back to our fine “lol” Prime Minister. He appointed Coulson to a key position, in Downing Street, privy to all kinds of information and channels of influence. He did it against the advice of many, but on the recommendation of his Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne. So it has to be said that the jury’s still out as to whether they’re fools or knaves. They can’t be anything else. 

Actually, the jury’s only out on Cameron if you ignore other evidence. For instance, take the latest Euro-spat Britain has become embroiled in. There’s been most noise about the far right
s wins in the recent elections: UKIP in Britain, the Front National in France. But when the dust settled, what emerged was a clear victory for the Centre-Right grouping, the European People’s Party. Now I didn’t vote for them, but I can count, and it’s clear to me that 221seats are more than 192, the number of seats won by the second strongest grouping, and by the kind of logic that has become traditional in these circumstances, that makes the EPP what is technically known as “the winners.” 

Now it’s not unusual for the leader of the winning party in a parliamentary election to become the leader of the organisation to which the parliament belongs. It’s annoying when the party in question hasn’t actually won an overall majority, but is just the single biggest party, and has to line up with others, as the EPP leader, Jean-Claude Juncker has done. But none of that should be unknown territory for David Cameron, who emerged from the last British General Election as the leader of the biggest single party but with no overall majority in parliament. He came to an agreement with the Liberal Democrats, a pact with the devil some on each side might say, and as a result he became Prime Minister.

I suspect he’s noticed.

Despite the similarity of their positions, he has decided to go out on a limb to oppose Juncker’s becoming the next Commission President. And he’s done so on the grounds of democracy: it would be much better to decide the next President in a meeting of Ministers. Because as we all know, meetings in back rooms are much more transparent than elections for a Parliament.

To get his way, he’s threatened to call an early referendum in Britain on EU membership, which would probably go against staying in. Given how much we all love a blackmailer, you can imagine how his stance has won him friends and influence in the EU.

Why, even the Polish leadership has called him stupid, as we discovered yesterday from secretly taped conversations.

No, the jury’s back in on him, as it is on Brooks and Coulson. We know where we stand on all three now, with official confirmation: Cameron and Books are legal and morons; Coulson’s the knave and about to be jailed.

All three are part of a pretty vile crew. The trick now is to make sure none of them ever gets anywhere near the levers of power again.


Anonymous said...

How does Rebekah do it? No one, but no one can believe that she had no idea of what was happening. So how did the Jury arrive at a unanimous verdict. Is she that charismatic? I suppose I could answer my own question with a resounding YES. Blair was in thrall to her, as was Murdoch, among others. It was nice to see her trembling on TV though.

David Beeson said...

I suppose the most expensive lawyers open the door to the best justice money can buy. Certainly, as I said in the post, she had to be either complicit or incompetent, and nothing about what I've seen of her suggests incompetent...