Thursday, 29 March 2012

Don't panic! Don't panic!

The greater the extent to which people have fuel in their vehicles, with maybe a little bit in the garage as well in a jerry can, the longer we will be able to keep things going.

It's easy to see what Francis Maude was trying to do here:

1. Seize the news agenda and quash unfavourable headlines by branding tanker drivers, who might potentially go on strike, as The Enemy Within.

2. Imply that ordinary citizens and the Coalition are all in this together, standing shoulder to shoulder against the common enemy.

Unfortunately his attempt to summon up the totemic spirit of Winston Churchill succeeded only in channelling Corporal Jones from Dad's Army. Entertaining stuff, but not particularly significant in itself. What's more interesting is that News International, no great friends of the union movement themselves, have chosen to give the government a kicking, rather than just uncritically cheering their doughty stand against "union wreckers". This is what The Sun had to say:

Cameron plans to beat fuel strike .. but fury as it backfires ... David Cameron was accused of being a pie plonker and a fuel fool yesterday over his handling of the Pasty Tax storm and the threatened tanker drivers' strike ... No10 sparked petrol panic across Britain by urging motorists to fill up fast. 

Coming after the Sunday Times'embarrassing probe into the sleazy world of lobbying and donations, it looks, for the moment, as if the Coalition and News International are no longer playing for the same team.

I think it's a lovers' tiff rather than a divorce; after all, Murdoch and the British political elite share too many common interests to become entirely estranged (union-bashing, public sector worker-bashing, getting rid of any pesky regulations that might protect ordinary people from the laxity, greed or malice of the rich and powerful, helping the very wealthy to keep as much of their loot as humanly possible and preserving the whole post-Thatcher-Reagan-era political and economic consensus that has suited the political and media overclass so very well for the last generation or so).

Still, the government's face-saving rush to publicly distance itself from the discredited Murdoch Empire must have set off some furious tantrums in the NewsCorpse bunker. Last year, Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt, seemed quite happy to let NewsCorpse gobble up the whole of BSkyB without a quibble. Now that there seems to be a possibility that he might not nod the deal through, should Ofcom decide that James Murdoch isn't a "fit and proper" person to run BSkyB. This must be intolerable to the Murdochs, and it's probably no coincidence that they're now giving the Coalition a taste of the sort of headlines they can expect if they don't find a way to make the cherished deal happen.

Conspiracy theory? Possibly, but I'll stick my neck out and predict that the Coalition will continue to get a rough ride in the Murdoch press over the medium term, with a spell of more favourable headlines to follow, if some way is found to make the NewsCorpse takeover of BSkyB happen.

Mind you, that Francis Maude might have a point, after all. With the catastrophic failure of the post-Reagan-Thatcher consensus to carry on delivering just enough prosperity to keep the lower orders compliant and happy and no workable alternative in sight, we may be sitting on an unexploded political and economic time bomb. In times like these, maybe it makes sense to have a shed full of petrol cans.

After all, come the revolution, all those Molotov cocktails aren't going to make themselves, you know.