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In Praise of Jonnie Marbles

By Tim Hardy

Pieman Jonnie Marbles

(Screengrab via latentexistence )

Perhaps those who fell over themselves to condemn Jonnie Marbles’ stunt with a foam pie this afternoon, might want to pause and reflect on the bad news the coalition managed to slip out while they were all distracted: distracted by the select committee itself, not the pie that disrupted it.

Cameron’s team recognised that a first step towards the privatisation of the NHS might prove unpopular, especially as it included opening up for competitive tender the supply of wheelchair services for children – so they slipped out the announcement while two generations of Murdoch, patiently coached by public relations experts, were feigning contrition and claiming ignorance about their own companies’ operations. Never ones to waste a good crisis, the press office also took the opportunity to slip out a few more items of bad news.

Doesn’t that make you think, if just for a moment, that the Conservatives aren’t quite as scared of the select committee as one might expect them to be? Or that we are in danger of seeing systemic corruption being ritualistically condemned but with no lasting consequences for those involved?

Billy Bragg summed up the feelings of many on the left when he tweeted:

On the worse day in News Corp history Jonnie Marbles has given The Sun and Fox News the chance to make Rupert Murdoch look like the victim

I understand the frustration and the fear that the left might lose some degree of moral advantage over this – but how can anyone honestly think the Sun and Fox News would ever have taken any other stance?

Murdoch spent the afternoon pretending to be a man on the brink of dotage, baffled and puzzled like an old Mafia Don in the dock hoping to be judged too senile to stand trial.

This is how the Express covered the news that the Met – a body over whom the stench of corruption grows stronger by the day – were dropping charges against many of the Fortnum & Mason 145: Toff Yobs Walk Free Over £5 Million Fortnum Mason Riot.

Do we really need any proof that the right-wing press doesn’t need a foam pie as an excuse to distort the news, defend their interests and smear their enemies?

All Jonnie has done is given the subs desk a pun – but in doing so he has also exposed as a manipulative ruse the “humble pie” the Murdochs were briefed to eat. The role of the clown is to show the ridiculousness of power. This man to whom politicians have frantically paid court for decades has been shown as a fool.

Most people on the right are not as self-importantly pompous as Telegraph bloggers who open breathlessly: “I write this with shaving foam still spattered on my face and shirt.” If they are angry about the phone hacking, then they are extremely unlikely to feel that a splat of soap washes the Murdoch empire clean of all sins.

Within hours of Jonnie’s arrest, Brooks was running rings around the committee, playing them round her fingers as she kept up the News International party line that combines outrage with denial, always pretending that nobody in charge had any idea what was going on, avoiding the tricky questions as her partners in crime did before her by hiding behind legality when it suits them.

When questioned by Nick Robinson, Jonnie responded by echoing this strategy drawing attention to just how ludicrous it is:

When I asked him what he said and why he’d done it, he said he was now the subject of a police investigation and therefore could not talk to me.

The corruption story is an avalanche that is only gathering momentum. The latest news is that Neil Wallis advised Andy Coulson while the latter was employed by the PM – bringing the allegations closer and closer to the Prime Minister himself. Hundred of jobs have been sacrificed, the names getting closer and closer to the heart of power with Ed Llewellyn lined up as the next sacrifice to protect Cameron but the avalanche just continues. A foam pie won’t stop it.

Day by day, the rotten heart of the police force, of the media and of parliament is becoming more and more apparent. How did this state of affairs continue for so long? Because everything is hidden under a veneer of pomp and decency, creating a climate where supposed political opponents are quite happy to spend their free time sipping champagne together at exclusive private parties; because whatever cat calls ministers might make across the floor when the House is in session, when it comes to the crunch they’re all in it together – and not with us.

Even the PR agency briefing the Murdochs turns out to be intimately connected to the political establishment:

The Edelman team will be run by Alex Bigg, its managing director for corporate affairs, and James Lundie, its managing director of public affairs. Lundie is the long-term partner of David Laws, the former chief secretary to the treasury.

Those rushing to condemn Jonnie Marbles perhaps have more faith in the willingness of the powerful to regulate themselves than I do. What Jonnie did was crude and disrespectful and childish and silly. It mocked that veneer of pomp and decency behind which crimes are hidden daily – which is exactly why it was needed.

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11 thoughts on “In Praise of Jonnie Marbles

  1. “The role of the clown is to show the ridiculousness of power. This man to whom politicians have frantically paid court for decades has been shown as a fool.”

    That’s not even remotely what happened. This stunt didn’t show the ridiculousness of power, and it certainly didn’t show Murdoch as a fool. Why anyone would want to show Murdoch to be a fool is completely beyond me as practically the entire planet already thinks he is evil.

    “It mocked that veneer of pomp and decency behind which crimes are hidden daily – which is exactly why it was needed.”

    Uh no, that’s not at all what it did.

    All this did was make people feel a twinge of empathy for him, and it completely changed the tone of the rest of the questioning and overwhelmed the news coverage that followed. This stunt was a total fiasco, and this comes from someone who made a documentary 7 years ago called Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch’s War on Journalism.

    • Ekcol says:

      “Why anyone would want to show Murdoch to be a fool is completely beyond me as practically the entire planet already thinks he is evil.”

      And yet not only is he rewarded by being one of the richest people alive, who has never been and will never be punished for anything he’s done, but also lucky enough that all these people who claim to think him evil are brainwashed idiots who will leap to his defence at the hint of the most minor humiliation.

    • Jim, thanks for your comments.

      I disagree that it has overwhelmed the news coverage. I also don’t believe that a “twinge of empathy” is going to change the course of these events.

      I’ll make a point of watching your documentary – it sounds interesting.

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  3. Gawd sake!!

    Why are people enraged by the so-called stupidity of Jonnie Marbles?! I think Tim’s post says it all. What Jonnie M. did was to liven up the proceedings as Smithers and Burns had been coached by their legal team (“I have no knowledge of that” spoke Junior who was in charge of the company…. It either makes him a fool or a liar). Murdoch seemed to nod off which actually inspired me to the same as many on that Select Committee are ‘ickle mice who don’t want to dig too deep (possible exception of Tom Watson). And trust me I nod off during Piegate! It seems it was all bated breath, people sitting on the edge of their seats waiting for the …. well, waiting for some massive bit of information that incriminates the establishment. But it was an anti-climax because nothing of massive importance didn’t come out and wouldn’t come out. So comrade Marbles did us all a favour and improved the sterile atmosphere of the Committee by adding some slap-stick Laurel & Hardy-esque humour to the proceedings, highlighting the farce and fakeness of the day. Though I will say Mrs Murdoch is quick on the reflexes and knows how to slap (she was quicker than Junior)

    And yesterday the NHS is on the road to privatisation. Now that’s scary as it’s vile an act by a corrupt coalition desperate for class warfare.

    PS: the fact that the LP have suspended comrade Marbles also shows a knee-jerk reaction (“jerk” being the operative word when considering LP’s actions over the incident). He should be re-instated. Pie throwing gets you suspended while war crimes doesn’t.

    • This stunt will give the HOC authorities a perfect excuse to restrict people being allowed into select committees. Nice one Jonnie.

    • Anna-Rose Phipps says:

      Here Here! Thank God i’m not alone in thinking along those lines. Fools and madmen sometimes act more sensibly then the so called ‘normal’. Shakespeare would have approved i’m sure

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