With the usual half-hearted apologies for recycling my own chat, watching the delightful spectacle of the Murdoch clan and the Tories knocking chunks out of each other reminds me of this piece on the cultural contradictions of conservatism I wrote last summer, when Hackgate first exploded:
The greater significance of ‘hack-gate’ will lie in how it affects the character of British conservatism more generally. Conservatism, as a cultural and political movement, is intrinsically unwieldy and self-destructive, as hack-gate may now be demonstrating once more. From Edmund Burke’s critique of the French Revolution onwards, conservatism has achieved its identity through what it rejects and despises. It projects a pessimistic scepticism towards political deliberation as a basis for authority, insisting that modern societies are too complex, human beings too different, and language too frail, for us to reason our way towards a collective destination...
All modern conservatives have a love-hate relationship with the establishment, which ultimately is their undoing. They can never really make up their mind whether they want more government or less. Complaints about bureaucrats, ‘red tape’ and tax are matched by despair that the state has lost its nerve in various ways, until this ambivalence is eventually overwhelmed by events. Political leaders and parties that appeal to ‘traditional values’ are undermined by revelations of fraud and sexual intrigue; financial markets that are untouchable because ‘self-correcting’ end up costing the taxpayer a figure that is (according to the National Audit Office ↑ ) more than eight times the annual budget of the NHS; military efforts to impose democracy eventually retreat into actual negotiation. That News International profited fabulously from highlighting all of these hypocrisies and U-turns in the past does not mean that the public won’t take some glee in witnessing the latest contradiction of conservatism: Rupert Murdoch’s inner circle being investigated by the Metropolitan Police, cheered on by the families of murdered children, military charities and – no doubt – the vast majority of the ‘great British public’. How loudly the Conservative Prime Minister is prepared to cheer may be crucial to how this conflict plays out.
To paraphrase the old American political adage, we might now say: "watch two pigs mud-wrestling; they both get dirty, but you can enjoy it."