A few days ago, a friend sent me a link to a comment on European Tribune about the upcoming UK elections. Before you head over there in blissful ignorance to find out what’s going on, like I did, here’s some background:
On Wednesday afternoon, Mr Murdoch walked into The Independent’s newsroom in Kensington, central London, carrying a copy of the newspaper. He was accompanied by Rebekah Brooks, chief executive of News International, which publishes The Times and The Sun among others.
The newspaper he was carrying was one of 300,000 Independents being distributed for free in the UK that day with a special wraparound front page advertising The Independent’s claim to freedom from proprietorial interference.
The advert stated: “Rupert Murdoch won’t decide this election – you will.”
The younger Mr Murdoch reached the busy editorial desk where The Independent’s editor-in-chief, Simon Kelner, was planning the following day’s edition with colleagues, and brandished the newspaper in his hand.
“What are you fucking playing at?” Mr Murdoch asked Mr Kelner in a loud voice and in front of dozens of bemused journalists.
At that point, Mr Kelner invited Mr Murdoch and Ms Brooks into his office where there was a heated conversation lasting about 15 minutes, one of those present told the Financial Times.
The Independent boss later told colleagues Mr Murdoch had complained, with the use of further expletives, that the advertisement besmirched his father’s reputation.[…]
“If Rupert Murdoch’s private life had been under attack, I could understand why it would excite so much anger, but to suggest that by saying he tried to influence elections you were damaging his reputation does seem quite extraordinary,” said Steve Barnett, professor of media at the University of Westminster.
He said: “[Rupert] Murdoch himself told a House of Lords committee [in 2007] that he influenced what was in the editorial comment sections of his tabloid newspapers and in 1992 The Sun claimed that it had won the election on behalf of John Major.”
In this election campaign, The Sun and News of the World have come out in favour the Conservative party. In the past week, both papers have reacted very strongly against a surge in support for the Liberal Democrats, which could see David Cameron’s Conservative party failing to win a majority in parliament.
Last month, The Independent papers were bought by Alexander Lebedev, the Russian multimillionaire who also owns the London Evening Standard.
… for one pound sterling, no less. According to ceebs at ET, who lives on the small island and would know, the Independent has been supporting the Lib Dems and Murdoch has been backing the Tories. Should you have forgotten the sway Murdoch’s media empire has in elections, here is some dude on a cannabis forum to remind you.
Ceebs also reposted the following Twitter updates:
@MichaelWolffNYC I’m hearing details of the threats made by James Murdoch against the Lebedevs–bare knuckle tabloid stuff.
@MichaelWolffNYC Here’s what I hear… James Murdoch, in the lingo of Sun newsdesk, called Simon Kelner a “fucking fuckwit”
@MichaelWolffNYC Also… Murdoch, Jr. , snarling at Kelner, said the Independent, recently bought by Alexander Lebedev was “funded by Putin’s money”
Is the paper backing the Lib Dems funded by Putin’s money? All one pound sterling of it? For all I know, this is the kind of insult all monied Russians in London get. After all, it’s not like the Murdoch media is famous for relying on facts. But I was still curious to know what kind of relationship Alexander with an x has with his fellow former KGB agent, Vladimir Putin. (No, Vova, I’m not insinuating anything carnal….) To my knowledge it’s not all wine and roses, unlike the relationship between the premier and Lebedev’s fellow emigre tycoon, Roman Abramovich, who has multiple photos of Vova in his office, including a portrait of the premier wearing a kimono!
For one, Lebedev also owns a significant stake in Novaya Gazeta. Not exactly a paper one associates with the promotion of Putinism. I’ve also heard Lebedev be quite critical of the less-than-free market atmosphere in Russia, which lead me to believe he was one of those folks who lecture about democracy when they’re thinking of capitalism. The kind of person who’d … vote Tory. However, Wikipedia informs me that he is also a member of the political party “Just (Fair) Russia,” which is either an impotent opposition party, a tool of the Kremlin or a cabal of schemers waiting for word from Dima to exert their independence. So, that’s unhelpful.
Who knows what -if any- influence Lebedev has on the Independent’s political persuasion? I’m not even certain the man’s officially taken charge of the paper yet. And if he did have a hand in the challenge to Murdoch’s electioneering propaganda, to what degree is it a marketing rather than political ploy? For all I know, pistols drawn at Murdoch are just another indicator of Alexander’s impeccable cool, in case the hipster specs didn’t get that message across. Meh, seriously, kids, this is about as nonstory as nonstories get.
The fact that the world’s most powerful media baron(‘s son) and his Latynina-esque (wow, that’s spooky…) partner flipped out when a well-connected former Russian spy bought the town’s biggest paper, and then another, which is now promoting the rival political party which was not even the rival party until a few days ago, when it went from being a meek 3rd party with questionable viability to leading the polls over both Labour and theTories, and just happens to be headed by a … er … kids, I am not making this up, Russian aristocrat, it’s a tempest in a teapot.
Move along, folks. Nothing to see here. Go on now. Surely you have something better to do than read this tabloid gossip.
Especially you Brits, who should be busy busting out your slovars and learning to sing “God Save the Queen” in Russian!