An extremely funny -- and alarming -- piece by the actor Hugh Grant has been posted at the New Statesman, which tells the story of how he secretly taped a conversation with a tabloid journalist about ... phone-hacking. Read 'The bugger, bugged' in all its glory here.
The joy of the piece is that the journalist involved is is a former News of the World reporter, Paul McMullan, who has become well known here in the UK since he decided to expose the culture of phone hacking at the tabloid. When he worked there, the editor was Andy Coulson, whom the prime minister, David Cameron, took on as his press officer, but who later had to resign when it became clear that knowledge of the practice went all the way to the top.
The News of the World, having first tried, like Coulson, to say that the hacking was done by a few "rogue reporters", has since been forced to apologize and offer compensation to politicians and celebrities whose privacy was invaded by the practice, which is illegal in the UK. But it hasn't stopped calls for a major public enquiry.
McMullan -- without realising he is being taped -- cheerily tries to justify the practice to Hugh Grant, and gives one reason why a police enquiry has so far been stalled. "Twenty per cent of the Met" -- that's London's Metropolitan Police -- "has taken backhanders from tabloid hacks," McMullan tells Grant. "So why would they want to open up that can of worms?"
The piece also gives an insight into the many interlocking worlds of Rupert Murdoch, who owns both the News of the World (aka 'The Screws') as well as Fox films. At one point in the exchange the conversation turns both to Murdoch and the time that Grant was caught in flagrantewith a prostitute called Divine Brown.
Me Do you think Murdoch knew about phone-hacking?
Him Errr, possibly not. He's a funny bloke given that he owns the Sun and the Screws . . . quite puritanical. Sorry to talk about Divine Brown, but when that came out . . . Murdoch was furious: "What are you putting that on our front page for? You're bringing down the tone of our papers." [Indicating himself] That's what we do over here.
Me Well, it's also because it was his film I was about to come out in.
Him Oh. I see.
Me Yeah. It was a Fox film.
Edifying, this is not. But all hail to Hugh Grant for dishing out a little of what he, and many others, have suffered for too long at the hands of the UK's feral press.