Tag Archives: David Cameron

The Pig, The Prime Minister’s Prick And……..Ian Hislop!?!?

The story in Lord Ashcroft’s new book that David Cameron stuck his dick into a dead pig’s head as part of the initiation ceremony for membership of the super elite but disgustingly degenerate Piers Galveston Society at Oxford University, is completely credible.


We know that Cameron, as  the wealthy scion of a wealthy family, had already been inducted into the equally corrupt and venal Bullingdon Club, a collection of drunken upper class vandals whose favorite past-time was trashing expensive restaurants and puking through people’s windows after they had enjoyed their fill. Suffice it to say that the idiot lout, Boris Johnson was also a member.

Cameron, standing second from left, with his Bullingdon buddies at Oxford

Cameron, standing second from left, with his Bullingdon buddies at Oxford – Boris Johnson is seated, far right (appropriately)

It would thus be natural for an ambitious Cameron to graduate to the even more exclusive Piers Galveston Society – membership confined to a dozen – so-named after the allegedly gay lover cum confidante of the English King, Edward II, whose refusal, in 1312, to sack his corrupt and debauched inamorata cost Galveston his head at the hands of outraged aristocrats while Edward II, according to one account, was sent to an early death by the same angry barons some ten years later – but not before experiencing the sensation of a red hot poker exploring his rear passage.

Not surprisingly, the Piers Galveston Society or Dinner Club to give it its proper name, specialises in sexual and sybaritic excess.

Of such stuff are the English upper classes devised.

(Lord Sebastian, a member of the Bullingdon Club, pukes through Charles Ryder’s window at Oxford in Brideshead Revisited, the TV version of Evelyn Waugh’s celebrated novel)

So, as I wrote above, the revelation that David Cameron was a member of such an exclusive, debauched and lascivious group was hardly shocking to me. Nor even, the claim that he tried to get a blow job from a dead porker.

Ian Hislop was a member of the Piers Galveston Society - is nothing sacred?

Ian Hislop was a member of the Piers Galveston Society – is nothing sacred?

But what really shocked and, I have to say, disturbed me was the disclosure that among past members of this dissolute bunch was Private Eye editor Ian Hislop, a guy I have met, liked and admired for what I thought was a healthy distaste for all that was wrong with British society, not least the hypocrisy and dissolution of its ruling elite.

Never in a thousand years would I have imagined Ian Hislop sticking his member into a dead pig’s head as his toff mates laughed and jeered in encouragement.

But then life is a series of disappointments and disillusionments, one after the other.

Here is a piece, from 2001, in which Hislop admits his membership. As I said, disappointing and depressing:

Evening Standard: The Man Who Just Wants To Be Believed

Wednesday, November 7, 2001
MORE than 100 boxes of evidence line the right wall of Room 14 of the Royal Courts of Justice. On the other side, a matching number marches up to the witness stand.

We are in week five of Condliffe v Pressdram and Hislop, a libel action waged by a West Country accountant called Stuart Condliffe against Private Eye, which, back in March 1992, accused him of overcharging clients. It is a no win case for the Eye, which is resigned to paying huge legal costs even if the judge finds in its favour.

‘Excuse me,’ says Ian Hislop after he has greeted me. ‘I’d better sit at the front so I can nod at the judge.’ Given the magazine’s history before the libel courts, it is a dismally appropriate way for the Eye’s editor to be celebrating his organ’s 40th.

There are compensations, however.

This morning is Condliffe’s first on the stand and the crossexamination by the Eye’s QC, Ronald Thwaites, is brutal. It cheers Hislop up considerably and his mood further lightens when, emerging like a little blinking vole into the sunlight of the Strand at lunchtime, two passersby ask him to sign their birthday copies of the Eye. After 11 years as a team captain on the BBC’s Have I Got News For You, Hislop is not only wealthier than Richard Ingrams, whom he succeeded as the Eye’s editor in 1986, but much better known.

It would be a tragedy if his celebrity made him lose touch with his public, I say, once we have reached our restaurant in Chancery Lane. He orders a

medium-done steak and water and says he thinks this unlikely. ‘I was walking down Soho this morning and someone came up and said, ‘Love you on the show’.

So I was feeling very pleased with myself and a bloke in pinstripes walked past me and just said, ‘Not funny’. So I feel I haven’t quite got enough distance from the public. I commute, you see. There is no way out on a train.’

Court, he says, is hours of boredom and incomprehension and sudden moments of drama, such as this morning’s. He arrived as editor pledging to reduce the Eye’s legal bills, but it was not long before he was facing a Pounds 600,000 libel award to Sonia ‘Mrs Ripper’ Sutcliffe. If this was justice then he was a banana. He has ended one Ingrams tradition, however: printing gossip simply because it sounds true.

‘I don’t believe that ring of truth thing. I think it’s dangerous. What I always want of the item is for it to be believed. I can’t bear the thought of running all this journalism if everyone thinks, ‘Oh, take it with a pinch of salt.” Hislop wants the Eye to be believed partly because papers, generally, are not. He says when Private Eye was born (when he was one), its role was to print the true stories journalists couldn’t get into their own papers.

‘Nowadays it seems to be our job to point out that the ones that have been printed are not true.’

An under-reported difference between Ingrams and his protege is the contempt in which Hislop, who is basically a jokesmith, holds journalism.

‘It’s true,’ he says. ‘I’m not hugely impressed by journalists on the whole.

But I think that is a reasonable point of view for the editor of Private Eye to take.’

JOURNALISTS Peter McKay and Nigel Dempster were the first to leave under his editorship. With them went much of the paper’s coverage of what it used to call Ugandan Affairs. Conventionally one should praise the Eye’s restraint from sexual tittle-tattle these days. Yet, sex sometimes surely earns its place in even righteous gossip.

Let us imagine, I say, the obviously entirely imaginary case of a newspaper editor who campaigns for privacy rights and has a mistress himself.

Should his motives not be exposed? Ah, he says, this is an interesting case.

They had considered doing a ‘Hackwatch’ feature on just such an editor, but when they checked the cuttings they found that during his condemnation of the prurient coverage of Robin Cook’s divorce, he had admitted in his editorial that everyone on his paper had affairs all the time.

‘I don’t know how his wife felt about it but he made a good case.

But certainly most of the people who write for me are just looking for a loophole with which to get him.’

The other argument would be that tabloid editors who expose other people’s private lives should face similar humiliation themselves.

‘Yes, that is a very good point, and if there were a Piers Moron sexual legover story, that would be fine.’

The scarcity of boudoir gossip, which has removed all edge from an already weak Street of Shame column, has at least been compensated for by more coverage of other professions. Hislop has introduced insider columns on television, the railways, the NHS and even the advertising industry.

Its current pamphlet on the handling of the foot-and-mouth epidemic last week won praise from the Daily Telegraph. But it is, frankly, no longer a magazine the rich and powerful would bother trying to close down as Goldsmith and Maxwell wanted to. Whereas Ingrams’s Eye cost Cecil Parkinson his career, you can’t imagine Tony Blair caring less about what it says about his ministers.

He admits the paper lacks sources in Millbank: ‘Nobody’s actually handing us Jo Moore’s stuff, it’s true. They are not very leaky this lot, certainly not our way. The nationals have more of that stuff than we do. That’s probably an area that should be improved.’

But if the really big targets are left unmarked by the Eye, it does not mind duffing up easier ones.

In the current issue, the deeply troubled Michael Barrymore is given the line: ‘I want to put all this behind me and become the Queen of Television, the People’s Pooftah.’

On HIGNFY Hislop humiliated the highly strung Paula Yates and later called her a ‘slag’, a remark for which he sees no reason to apologise, even posthumously. It is not in the same league of cruelty – nor was he the ringleader – but Friday night’s debagging of Boris Johnson MP on HIGNFY was significant, too. Johnson, it should have been explained to viewers, had once revealed that contestants saw the questions before the recording. It was inevitable that Boris would eventually be cornered in the playground.

I ask if Hislop had been a bully during his decade boarding at Ardingly College in Sussex. He looks surprised. ‘Usually interviewers say, ‘Were you bullied at school?’ But it’s a better question, I think, for humorists to be asked, ‘Were you a bully?’ I certainly made jokes about people in order to prevent being bullied, not in order to amuse but in order to fire a warning shot.

‘Yes, I have memories of being unpleasant to some people at school, which I would find very sort of worrying now. Will Boyd wrote a play called Good And Bad At Games which I think to anyone who’s been to public school is a real shock because you just have an awful thought: ‘Did I behave like that or were there characters who were that badly treated? You know, misfits, people who didn’t fit in’.’

HISLOP, who is 5ft 6in – Dempster called him a ‘pushy midget’ at the time of his elevation – had his height to worry about. Then one day, aged 12, his headmaster called him out of class to tell him his mother had arrived from abroad with bad news: his father was dead.

‘I knew he was ill. But like all children you just assume, ‘Damn, he’s annoyingly not going to be around for a bit’. I was very worried that he wouldn’t be playing in the fathers’ cricket match because I was in the team.

Sadly, he wasn’t going to be doing anything at all.

So no, it was pretty miserable, but, in some senses, school was a saviour.’

The camaraderie of boys? ‘Yes. It was an alternative family in a way.’

Hislop went on to have a wonderful time at Ardingly, taking on the school magazine from his friend Nick Newman and appearing in revues that managed to both offend masters and amuse the head. He ended up head boy.

After a gap year spent on a kibbutz, he followed his mentors Newman and Simon Park, now a parish priest in Crouch End, to Oxford, where he drank plenty, joined the mock-decadent Piers Gaveston dining club and met his wife Victoria Hamson (who had been deputy head girl of her school). He started a funny little magazine called Passing Wind, which provided his excuse for interviewing Ingrams.

He made Lord Gnome laugh and within a few years the little Buddha had emerged as his anointed one.

I suggest that joining the male, public school-dominated world of Private Eye must have been like returning to the cosiness of Ardingly.

‘It was,’ he agrees, ‘like running the school mag again.’

I pass him a 1976 passage from Kenneth Tynan’s diaries, in which the priapic critic defined the Eye’s idiom – ‘the appalling Rees-Mogg’, ‘the wretched Wilson’ as schoolmaster English. Tynan wrote that the Eye’s contributors ‘develop from inky schoolboys into middle-aged schoolmasters without any intervening period of young manhood’. Was Hislop ever young? ‘Yes, I think I was probably young. I didn’t like punk but I liked Two-Tone quite a lot. I think I had a porkpie hat. Actually, I am sounding like the witness today. I did have a porkpie hat.’

At 41 he is indisputably middleaged now, and prosperous with it. He is rich not so much from the Eye (which pays its staff appallingly) but from personal appearances, the highly lucrative runs of HIGNFY and script writing for Dawn French and other TV stars.

Having sold his houses in Wandsworth and Somerset, he now lives quietly with Vicky and their son and daughter in a Kent village – the equivalent, one assumes, of Ingrams’s retreat to a cottage in Berkshire during his editorship (except for the cottage bit). He does not actually play the parish church organ as Ingrams did, but the God he ‘got’ at 15 during an evangelist revival at Ardingly, still sticks. His Anglicanism explains the accuracy of the Eye’s regular attack on Blair’s piety in St Albion Parish News.

A university friend, the publisher Mike Fishwick, says that despite his success Hislop is more than loyal to old friends. ‘He’s the gang leader, organises the get-togethers.

I find him very reassuring company because he is so consistent.

He has always known what he thinks about things. He is a grownup and, in a sense, always has been.’

He adds that he is good at compartmentalising his life. When Hislop talks of a period in 1994 when Victoria miscarried and his mother, Helen, was in a hospice, dying from leukaemia, his eyes begin to fill. Yet at the time Eye staff had no idea anything was wrong. ‘I felt,’ he says, ‘it was something I had to deal with and that it wouldn’t really help to share it.’

In another compartment, we should also remember, there is the Hislop who outfoxed his older rivals to take Lord Gnome’s seat and who is quite capable of sacking members of staff. People claim he never forgives. Did he invite Dempster or McKay to the Eye’s birthday boat party? ‘Er no, they seemed to slip off the guest list.

Funny that, isn’t it?’

That’s the essence of him and Ingrams, I say: Christians editing an unforgiving magazine. ‘Ah, we’re sinners, you see.’

BUT minor ones. On occasions like Diana’s death and the World Trade Center attack, when the Press’s nerve collectively fails, the Eye’s cynicism twinkles amid the sentimentality, almost virtuously. ‘There are things to say and comedy is the way we say them,’ as he puts it.

His father was 45 when he died from cancer and his mother barely over 60.

‘Genetically it doesn’t look too hot, does it?’ he admits.

Do their premature deaths affect his personality? ‘I think they must do. I haven’t done a lot of Anthony Clare or invited Raj (Persaud) to give me his views. But, yes, there must be a feeling of the clock ticking.’

But before the school-bell tolls, Hislop is around to ensure Private Eye never ages, let alone grows up.

Each fortnight the Eye emerges in its childishly middle-aged prime.

May it, and its editor, continue. On to age 94, at least.

Boris Johnson, Sinn Fein, & The Labour Leadership Contest

A front-page story today in the British Army and MI5’s favourite morning read, The Daily Telegraph, has Boris Johnson, public school buffoon, London Lord Mayor and Bullingdon Club vandal (along with David Cameron and his finance chief, George Osborne), attacking left-wing(‘ish) Labour Party leader candidate, Jeremy Corbyn for his sympathies for Sinn Fein (I say ‘ish because a real leftie surely would have quit the moment Tony Blair took the crown!)

This is what the Telegraph article headline looks like:

The Bold Boris labels Corbyn ‘Sinn Fein-loving’, which is probably not inaccurate. As for being ‘monarchy-baiting’, that sounds like a pretty good reason to vote for him.

But on the question of this all being unbelievably good luck for the Tories, I just have one question.

When it comes to Sinn Fein-loving Labour leaders, there is something in my memory banks that tells me that as far as that activity was concerned, no-one could hold a candle to one Anthony Charles Lynton Blair, formerly known as the leader of the British Labour Party and one-time prime minister of Britain.

The Bullingdon Bullies at Oxford. Boris is seated far right (where else?) and Cameron is back row

The Bullingdon Bullies at Oxford. Boris is seated far right (where else?) and Cameron is back row, second from left

In the business of indulging Sinn Fein and the IRA, turning a blind eye to DAAD killings, Northern Bank robberies, bar stabbings, grudge shootings and so many breaches of ceasefire conditions along with concession after concession – so numerous and generous that it took the White House to call an end to the giveaways – surely Tony Blair and not Jeremy Corbyn is the real Sinn Fein-lover here?

So, why no fuss from Boris and his buddies when Tony Blair was giving Sinn Fein not just the shop but the key to the shop? Why no reminder now of the real truth about all this?

But there’s the rub. Tony was then Tory-lite, virtually indistinguishable from the Conservatives, and now is the spokesman for the Labour Party’s neo-liberal opposition to Jeremy Corbyn, the only thing standing between civilization and barbarity.

And so a curtain shall be drawn over that extraordinary chapter in British politics, no mention of how Blair’s purchase of Sinn Fein laid the basis for his post prime ministerial career, and fortune-making, as the world’s great peace-maker.

Instead a new version has been forged, with the powerless, but possibly naive, Mr Corbyn cast in the role of the true villain regarding the indulging of Sinn Fein, and Tony Blair written out of the story.

How convenient.

So, Was The IRA Defeated, Or Not?


For understandable reasons, Gerry Adams chose the 10th anniversary of the end of the IRA’s campaign against Britain – on July 28th, 2005 – to repeat a claim that the IRA was never defeated.

Adams was also responding, according to press reports, to recent remarks by British premier, David Cameron that, “British resolve saw off the IRA’s assaults on our way of life”, i.e that Britain defeated the IRA.

So, who is right?

In one sense, both men are right.

When a war ends with victory for one or other side, the event is usually marked by a formal surrender ceremony and the signing of a surrender document in which the defeated side concedes their military failure.

No such ceremony happened in 1994, 1997, 1998 or 2005. There is no piece of paper on which P O’Neill concedes with his or her signature the IRA’s defeat.

So, in that sense, Adams is correct.

But that doesn’t mean that Cameron is wrong either.

Defeat or victory at the end of a conflict is also measured in other ways.

For example, if one party to a conflict surrenders its weapons, that is, disarms itself at the insistence of its opponent while that opponent holds on to their weapons, then there is no doubt that the former lost and the latter won. IRA decommissioning happened at the insistence of the British and by agreeing to it signaled that it would no longer defy the British with force or arms. It may have taken a long time to happen but happen it did.

Then there is the question of war aims. The Provisional IRA set out to enforce the Irish people’s right to national self-determination, last expressed on an all-island basis in 1919 with a vote in favour of Sinn Fein, a party that advocated complete Irish independence. In other words the IRA’s war aim was to reverse and destroy the affront to this democratic principle inherent in the existence of Northern Ireland, an entity that came into being within two years of that vote in 1919.

In Unionist and British eyes, Northern Ireland existed and was a legitimate entity because the people of Northern Ireland had the right to consent, or not to consent to a united Ireland. The IRA disputed this right on the grounds that it offended the larger principle of national self-determination and through its war set out to overthrow this principle.

So, how did this pan out? Well not only did the IRA not succeed in overthrowing the principle of consent, its political leadership has accepted the principle and agreed to participate in political institutions based upon that principle and given its support to state institutions like the police force also created upon that basis.

It is rather as if the US and Europe ended up not only accepting the right of ISIS to exist but went on to embrace Islam as their state religion.

The other clue about how a war or conflict ended up can be seen in the treatment of the losing side’s leaders.

In May 2014, the PSNI arrested Gerry Adams and held him, like a common criminal suspect, in a holding centre for four days and questioned him repeatedly about his alleged part in a murder committed by the IRA during the course of its war against the British. It is clear that if they could have, the PSNI would have charged Mr Adams, put him on trial and see him sentenced to a jail term.

In the end, how one side treats the leader or leaders of the other side after a conflict has ended carries the real clue as to who won and who lost.

Sinn Fein Threaten Collapse of Assembly. Honestly!

SFA little bird told me that the following was the highlight of today’s exchange between Gerry Adams and David Cameron at 10 Downing Street:

GA: “We’re dead serious, prime minister! If we don’t get the budget we want, if you don’t soften your austerity policies then we’ll have no choice. The Assembly will collapse!”

DC: (Swirling his forefinger in a wide circle) “There are people in offices all around us, Gerry, who are laughing their legs off as they listen in to this conversation.”

Beware! Michael Gove, King Of The Neocons, Is Back

I can’t now remember the precise date but it would have been some time after the Good Friday deal had been struck when the phone rang in my Belfast home cum office and Michael Gove was at the other end.

A few years later Gove would become an MP and then a member of the set that congregated around Tory party leader David Cameron, but back then he was a leader writer for The Times newspaper, charged with writing editorials about issues of topical concern.


Michael Gove – an idiot with power is a dangerous thing!

The matter he wanted to talk to me about was the peace process in Northern Ireland and specifically Gerry Adams, the Sinn Fein leader and principal republican architect of the peace strategy. What I didn’t know at the time was that Gove was not looking for background for a Times‘ editorial but material for ‘The Price of Peace’, a pamphlet he was writing denouncing the peace process as a sell out of Unionism and a surrender to the IRA.

This extract from his conclusion, outlining his alternative to the GFA, will give you a taster of his views in this regard:

Therefore, the best guarantee for stability is the assertion by the Westminster Government that it will defend, with all vigour, the right of the democratic majority in Northern Ireland to remain in the United Kingdom. Ulster could then be governed with an Assembly elected on the same basis as Wales, and an administration constituted in the same way. Minority rights should be protected by the same legal apparatus which exists across the UK. The legislative framework which has guaranteed the rights and freedoms of Roman Catholics and ethnic minorities in Liverpool and London should apply equally in Belfast and Belleek.

To say that there was no meeting of minds on either the nature of the peace process or Gerry Adams would be a gross under-measurement of the gulf exposed by our rather bad-tempered exchange.

To Gove, the peace process was a Trojan horse, a piece of trickery and sleight of hand by republicans to achieve what the use of violence could not.

For me, already well into researching what would become, ‘A Secret History of the IRA’, the peace process was what it appeared to be, a massive ideological compromise by Provisional leaders which would, inevitably, lead to IRA decommissioning, the end of armed struggle and the transformation of Sinn Fein into a constitutional Nationalist party, not terribly different from the SDLP.

Not only did we not see the world in the same way but it soon became clear that we detested each other. As far as I was concerned, he was a complete idiot, and I don’t think I hid my view very well. So, unsurprisingly but very thankfully, I didn’t rate a mention in Gove’s pamphlet.

You can’t get a real flavour of how badly wrong, in almost all respects, Gove was about the peace process and even the nature of the Northern Ireland problem unless you read the full pamphlet but one striking aspect of his modus operandi is worth a comment.

That was his habit of forcing facts to fit his political world view even when eminently sensible and fairly obvious alternative explanations were at hand; for instance the IRA’s failure to start arms decommissioning by 2000 could only be explained by terrorist guile, bad faith and deceit because that is how all terrorists behaved. The idea that Adams was taking his followers down a road they would not ordinarily choose and had to step slowly and carefully, didn’t and couldn’t enter his mind, so completely closed was it to other possibilities.

I did not know until the Iraq war three or more years later that forcing the facts to fit the theory was a classic trait of neo-conservative reasoning. In Iraq the same thought process went like this: the Iraqi people were ruled by a dictator; most people dislike dictators, therefore US tanks would travel along rose-petal strewn streets lined with cheering crowds when they invaded.

Nor did I know until later that Gove was a leading light in the British version of the neo-conservative movement, in fact the leading light in the view of some. British neo-cons congregate under the banner of something called the Henry Jackson Society, so named after a right-wing, fiercely hawkish, Cold War-era US Democratic Senator.

Mostly composed of Tories, a smattering of Labour, LibDem and UKIP politicians have also signed up to the society. The former Unionist leader David Trimble is a prominent supporter.

While neo-conservatism is usually associated with American politics, thanks mostly to the role such people played in staging the Iraq war, its British manifestation is thriving and that is no accident. Neo-conservatism is just another word for imperialism and to that form of rule the British have not a little affection.

I reproduce below an excellent review of the influence of neo-conservatism in the Tory party from a Guardian article written by Richard Seymour at the time of the NATO-led invasion of Libya in 2011, a disaster in no small measure encouraged by Cameron and the neo-conservatives in his Cabinet.

Michael Gove was, needless to say, a vocal advocate of the Libyan adventure but not long afterwards lost his post as Education Minister and was dispatched to the Whips office. A less than charismatic figure with a pomposity that often alienates, Gove was seen as an electoral liability by some and it seemed his political career might be over.

But not so. Cameron has just made Gove the Justice Minister in his new cabinet where he will wield a predictably malign influence over human rights – he plans to scrap the Human Rights Act for example – sentencing policy and criminal justice. It is unlikely that he will directly influence affairs in Northern Ireland but influence can be exercised in all sorts of ways.

If I was a policy maker in Sinn Fein and I saw this man regain power and influence with the ability, perhaps, to put in place even a fraction of the attitudes and thoughts present in ‘The Price of Peace’, I would be very worried. If I was in the same position in the DUP, I would be greatly cheered.

Here is Richard Seymour’s March 2011 Guardian piece on the Tory neo-cons:

David Cameron’s recent offer to intervene in Libya, arming insurgents and enforcing a no-fly zone, was withdrawn almost as quickly as it was articulated. Objections from the US and France sank the idea. But it seems that the idea had enjoyed support from the cabinet, most of all from the hawkish faction around the education secretary Michael Gove – who is a signatory to the neoconservative Henry Jackson Society‘s statement of principles. Cameron, though no neocon, is a traditional Atlanticist, and has energetically promoted a small fraternity of foreign policy hawks since gaining the Tory leadership in 2005.

They first emerged in defence of Tony Blair and his unpopular foreign policies. Cameron himself, though he only reluctantly voted for the Iraq war, greatly admired Blair’s stance in the debacle. Even he, though, could hardly match Gove’s gushing praise for Blair in the runup to the Iraq war, in a column for the Times entitled “I can’t fight my feelings any more: I love Tony”. This passion for Blair was not restricted to his stance on foreign policy – it included Blair’s position on the firefighters’ strike, asylum seekers and tuition fees – but it was on Iraq that Gove maintained Blair was “behaving like a true Thatcherite”. Indeed, for many Tories , Blair is neocon rex.

Gove is the author of a number of neoconservative tracts. These include Celsius 7/7, which argues that Islamists are waging “total war” against the west, not because of imperialism but because of their root-and-branch rejection of “western values”. A more pointed intervention, though, was the essay “The Very British Roots of Neoconservatism and Its Lessons for British Conservatives”. In it, Gove was trying to persuade Tory allies sceptical of the adventurism of Rumsfeld and Bush that their policies were ones that the great patriarchs of conservatism would approve of. He argued that neoconservatism had strongly British roots that could be traced back to the statecraft of the Anglo-Irish Tory leader George Canning, whose pre-emptive battles with Bonapartism helped “advance the cause of freedom”. Palmerston and Churchill were also given their due as precursors to modern neoconservatism. Significantly, Gove’s trinity was entirely composed of Tories with some connections to Liberalism – if a neoconservative is a liberal who has been “mugged by reality”, many Tory luminaries from Burke onward have been instinctive Whigs turned counter-revolutionary.

Alongside Gove in the neoconservative faction are Ed Vaizey, the under-secretary of state who is, like Gove, has also signed up to the Henry Jackson Society’s principles. Similarly, George Osborne, the chancellor, is a “signed up, card-carrying Bush fan“, persuaded of the “excellent neoconservative case” for war with Iraq. His PPS, Greg Hands MP, is also a signatory to the Henry Jackson Society. Neoconservative ideas are also propagated in a number of thinktanks such as Policy Exchange whose director, Nicholas Boles MP, is another Henry Jackson Society signatory. The magazine Standpoint provides monthly ballast to this tendency.

Despite often crucial tactical differences, such as those which have emerged over Libya, there is a shared vocabulary between neoconservatives and those, like William Hague, who articulate a “liberal conservative” foreign policy. Hague has vocally supported “humanitarian intervention”, and was reluctant to criticise even the more controversial stances of Blair, such as his support for the 2006 Israeli invasion of Lebanon. This gave the Tories few opportunities to land any damaging blows against New Labour. Indeed, the “liberal interventionist” stance devised by Hague and Cameron amounts to reheated Blairism.

The neoconservative agenda is not restricted to foreign policy, but includes a securitarian drive to contain Islamism and propagate “British values”. Cameron’s recent speech announcing the failure of multiculturalism can be seen as a tilt toward the neoconservatives in his cabinet. Yet the neoconservative temptation is a dangerous one for Cameron to succumb to. It offers moral and intellectual definition to an aggressive but vacillating government lacking legitimacy. If Cameron is a poorly defined leader, neoconservative belligerence can provide a far more robust political direction than the “big society”. But Cameron still needs his Liberal allies, and the electoral base for neoconservatism is smaller even than for the aggressive Thatcherism he jettisoned in opposition. If Cameron were to openly embrace the neoconservative agenda, it would be a retreat from the electoral coalition-building that has temporarily saved the Tories from irrelevance.

A Fish Rots from the Head Down

“…I call my cancer, the main one [in] the pancreas, ‘Rupert’, so I can get close to it because that man Murdoch….there is no one person more responsible for the pollution of what was already a fairly polluted press. And the pollution of the British press is an important part of the pollution of British political life and it’s an important part of the cynicism and misperception of our own realities that is destroying so much of our political discourse. And that is what is happening. Look at what is happening at the BBC. Look at what is happening to television in general. Look who owns it…”  –British playwright Dennis Potter interviewed by Melvyn Bragg in April 1994, a few weeks before his death.

“…moneyed propagandists have taken advantage of that to create a demonology in which it is the left, the Democratic left, that is the source of many of our troubles. And this is the most frightening development, rather than the kind of nutty death threats that you read a couple of. It’s a very alarming development, because it raises the question of whether a democracy can survive and reemerge with any kind of health in the face of these enormous propaganda capacities. And in that sense, it is Murdoch, not Beck, who is the more important target.”  –American academic Frances Fox Piven interviewed on Democracy Now about violent rhetorical attacks on her by Fox News host Glenn Beck on January 14th, 2011

The news that British premier David Cameron’s spokesman, Andy Coulson, has been forced to resign in the face of a growing scandal over, and widening police investigations into, allegations that journalists at the News of the World hacked into celebrity telephone calls while he was the paper’s editor is welcome for a number of reasons.

Along with the deplorably double-dealing Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg, Tory party boss Cameron is about to fulfill that Thatcherite pipe dream and begin dismantling the National Health Service. Anything that casts doubts on Cameron’s judgement and in the process hampers that nefarious plan (hatched, coincidentally, at the same time that Obama is contemplating a similar fate for Social Security) can only be a good thing.

The other bit of good news is that the embarrassing but hardly surprising revelation that News of the World journalists have the same ethical standards as sewer rats may seriously upend plans by the paper’s publisher and News International* supremo, Rupert Murdoch to tighten his grip on non-terrestrial television in Britain.

Cameron’s coalition government has yet to decide whether to let News International’s $12 billion takeover bid for the satellite television operator, BSkyB to go ahead or refer it to competition authorities. Given the recent history of British prime ministerial deference to Murdoch (Thatcher, Blair, Brown and now Cameron) the decision was previously regarded as a slam dunk. Not so straightforward now. Maybe.

As the Guardian reports, News International has been trying desperately to ‘close down’ the hacking scandal, spreading bucket loads of money around in confidential settlements to soothe angry celebrities and movie stars but now the floodgates have burst. An anxious Murdoch is due in London next week. His journey from New York was supposed to be a triumphant celebration of a successful BSkyB deal (and an opportunity to let the world know he had yet another British prime minister safely tucked in his back pocket) but instead he faces a full-blown crisis over low standards at one of his media ventures that may, just may, underline the reality that low standards and News International are more often than not Siamese twins.

In this regard the Guardian highlights a long disregarded truism about the company’s founder:  “…in the end no decision of significance can be taken without him at the company he has built over half a century.”

A truism it may be but it is more often ignored than heeded, especially here in the United States where liberal and progressive critics of Fox News too often concentrate their fire on Roger Ailes, Glenn Beck, Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity while ignoring the reality that they all get their cue from Murdoch, notwithstanding efforts in some quarters to distance him from their worst excessess.

Where in the post-Tucson outrage was there even a hint of recognition that the guy who signs the checks for Ailes, Beck & Co. also calls their tune? None of that hate-filled rhetoric, none of Glenn Beck’s lunatic ravings would happen without his approval.

* A word of disclosure. Like many Irish and British journalists, I have had occasion to take Murdoch’s shilling. It is a measure of the man’s reach that it’s almost impossible to work in the media and not be on the payroll of a Murdoch outfit at some stage. And we are all slaves in the kingdom of necessity after all.