The News International scandal seems to be running its course. Rather like a potato, the main tuber seems to be dying, and the sprouting tubers look more interesting. This will not be a story about phone hacking much longer, perhaps, but a series of stories about other less shocking matters.
First up is Rebekah’s hair, which has an impressive 1.8 million results when searched for on Google. But what about Wendi and her fabulous punch? Funnily enough, the “slap-down sister” and her right hook are not quite up there with Rebekah’s mane, scoring a mere 91,000 Google mentions.
The male members of the Murdoch cast should surely be more important than these walk-on female roles, one would have thought. Rupert Murdoch gets over 29 million mentions but his son James weighs in with a mere 2.3 million.
This is not mere silliness. This cast of characters, and the visceral dislike that they have aroused in certain breasts, tells us something about contemporary Britain. Rebekah Brooks is talented (she must be to have risen so high so young), rich and good-looking. She is someone who has made her own way in life – and do we admire her for it? Not a bit of it! One has the impression that the general public would love to see her humiliated, and that does them little credit.
I am not trying to defend criminal behaviour here. If Ms Brooks is guilty of a crime, she must pay the price – but the process of law is meant to be neutral and impartial, please note. And if she is guilty, how should we feel? Surely the correct response would be regret – that a meteoric career has been tarnished in this way. Instead those watching the downfall of Rebekah to my mind resemble the tricoteuses at the foot of the guillotine: they are not sorry for her, but rejoicing in her suffering.
Perhaps the British do not like meteoric careers, and they do not like the rich and powerful such as Mr Murdoch and his son, simply because they dislike success. How different from America, where the rich and powerful – the Vanderbilts, the Pierpont Morgans, the Mellons – are regarded in a heroic light as the people who built America and made it great. We by contrast see Mr Murdoch as a villain, overlooking his other qualities. But isn’t part of our problem that we need more people of his vision and drive?
Outside Grand Central Terminal, New York City, there is a statue of Cornelius Vanderbilt, the man who built the original railway and who become stratospherically rich as a result.
Imagine if there were a statue of Rupert Murdoch anywhere in London – the pie-throwers would have to form an orderly queue.
And if you think I am saying “Why can’t Britain be a bit more like America?” – yes, you are perfectly right. That is exactly what I am saying.