Today a former jailbird takes the British government to task over its culpability in the News hacking scandal. Cue Conrad Black, bylined in The Financial Times as: “The former chairman of the Telegraph Newspapers and of many other newspapers … convicted on four counts of fraud and obstruction of justice in 2007 … served 29 months in prison until the Supreme Court vacated the convictions … appeal court restored two counts … will return to prison for 7 and a half months. He continues to assert his innocence.”

Quite the caption. But that doesn’t stop Black from rightly calling out the willful blindness of the British establishment, who, he says, for decades “…professed to despise Mr Murdoch but appeased and grovelled to him, (‘I thoroughly disapprove of Rupert, but I quite like him,’ was the tedious refrain)”:

“There must be a reckoning with decades of establishment cowardice towards someone whose nature has been well known throughout that time. The fault is the British establishment’s and it must not be seduced and intimidated, so profoundly and durably, again.”

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It’s time the British parliament, busy taking credit for finally cracking down on News International’s behaviour — and only because of intense public pressure — held its own culture of cowardice up to the light. A first step is British Prime Minister David Cameron’s announcement that he’ll be rewriting the ministerial code so ministers, permanent secretaries and special advisers will be required quarterly to record meetings with senior media executives, including social meetings.

Australians are familiar with the unseemly sight of a procession of prime ministers fronting up to visit Rupert whenever they’re in the US, an appointment that comes second only to tea at the White House. A bit of transparency over their conversations wouldn’t go astray in a bid to prove our own politicians aren’t similarly cowed by the might of the Murdoch press.

Every Thursday, Crikey Editor Sophie Black and Crikey‘s Canberra correspondent Bernard Keane will talk the week’s events in the national capital.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
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