Quango - Getting to the Heart of Murdoch's Grudge
What's eating you, Rupes?
First Fox, now Hunt. At newspaper editorial conferences the breadth of the land, sub-editors are pissing themselves as they dream up one rum pun after another. Hunt Has Become The Hunted! It's A Witch Hunt! They're Hunting High And Low! All that needs to happen next is for someone called Mike to become involved in the shitshow presently drowning the Culture Secretary, and the whole thing will cause some poor headline writer serious internal injury. Profumo didn't have to put up with this. His name didn't mean anything. It didn't even rhyme with anything, except maybe "I'll Sue Mo"... and there wasn't anyone called Mo, Maureen, Maurice or even Morris involved in his indiscretions anyway, and no one in Britain had heard of the black American slang abbreviation of "more" in 1962.
While the editors he pays have been busting a gut trying to top the puns they invented last year for poor Doctor (Liam) Fox, Rupert Murdoch spent his time at the Leveson Inquiry straining himself not to remember. Conversations, deals, places, faces, cheese-based snacks: nothing was coming from the empty toothpaste-tube of Rupe's mind, yet Robert Jay, Leveson's chief questioner, still tried as best as he could to take the mogul on a trip down memory lane. Had he, Jay wondered, any recollection of a particular dinner with Tony Blair in 1994? But no – like the drummer from Earl Brutus, the 90s were all a bit of a blur. Murdoch simply couldn't recall. It was just one long, white line off the bar of the Good Mixer. One long party at Supernova Heights. One exultant but temporally displaced chorus of "Things Can Only Get Better".
So Jay gave him a battered paperback, yellowed, the sort you buy for 1p on Amazon, of Andrew Neil's memoirs. In it, Neil describes a dinner shared by the future-PM and Murdoch. Blair left the room, then Murdoch turned to his mates and said: “Well, he says all the right things, but let's not let our pants down just yet.”
There were titters. Did he, Jay wondered, actually say that? “A little colourful,” Murdoch winked, twinkled, blinked and gurned in his best Dopey Uncle Rupe pose, “But it's possible I could have said that, yes.”
And a few months later, at an NI shareholders meeting, did he ever say to Blair: “If our flirtation is ever consummated Tony, I suspect we will end up making love like porcupines: very, very carefully...”? At this, everyone started laughing. Even wee Wendi Deng up in the gallery – who knows only too well Rupert's lovemaking style – was having a giggle.
As Wendi could point out, while in the real world her husband makes love like an 81-year-old – very slowly, with the aid of a vacuum pump – politically, he has always made love like a cat. That is: with a barbed penis that sits clawed inside his victim's innards, precluding any escape and allowing him to pump litres of his rapey sperm into them without any fear of disavowal. She might've added that he does pillow-talk like a female preying mantis – he is at his most intimate when he has slathered your guts in ketchup and is chewing them down while telling you about how the Euro is doomed and corporation tax should be slashed and what you're going to say to the TUC in your speech next Thursday.
But of course Rupert, who with his sharp wit could've lasered these epigrams onto tomorrow's headlines, couldn't say what he really meant to say, because of course he spent the entire show playing a cross between King Lear and the drummer from Earl Brutus – a dopey old soap who'd seen better days and couldn't really remember much beyond what soup Nursey had fed him for lunch. He stonewalled for a few more hours, then went home.
We couldn't see the flash of Rupert's deep personal vulgarity in person. But it was at least instructive to see it read back to him. It showed how, despite being the son of a Sir Keith, Rupert still sees himself as an eternal outsider, and uses his vocabulary to underline that. Ever since he turned up at Oxford aged 19 and discovered that his Colonial accent and manners made him not the right sort of chap for his Etonian college-mates, Rupe has nursed his big chip against those whom he sees as the establishment.
Even now, no matter how many billions he's amassed, he's always seen the political classes as looking down their slightly more well-bred noses at him. He has never felt part of the club, and so, as much as he has cosied up to elites, at the same time, he has deliberately played-up to this image of the interloper: this coarseness of sentiment, this rebellious bluntness, simply in order to fuck with them. That's what must really wound him about Leveson: he's being tried as though he was the establishment.
Follow Gavin on Twitter: @hurtgavinhaynes
Ilustration by Sam Taylor
Previously: Quango - Let's Fix British Politics!