Murdoch’s takeover of the Times all those years ago and his intrusion as an outsider into British politics has worried many of us for a long time. The paper is good in parts, very good, but we have to be ever-watchful for the hand of Murdoch.
Its coverage of Copenhagen was one egregious occasion when it was visible in the Times’s inexpicable drift in its main reporting into the doubters’ camp. Nothing overt, just a predisposition, which meant we couldn’t trust what the paper said.
The US healthcare bill is another example. Obama gets it through Congress. There’s a very pro-bill Times leader, but on the news pages we find a commentary from an unreconstructed Republican, ex-leader of the Senate. Good to have some balance one might argue – but it was the only US-sourced commentary in the paper. The rest of the reporting was UK-originated. The Fox line in the USA we can be sure is virulently anti-bill.
And then there’s Tory education policy here in the UK.
There’s a basic contradiction between Michael Gove’s desire to impose a more traditional curriculum and the freedom he’s keen to give parents to set up and run their own schools. Parents are unlikely to be queuing up to launch new schools teaching a traditional curriculum. A few may, but most will go off in unpredictable directions. The Times in a recent leader belatedly realised this, but it feebly soft-pedalled the contradiction. ‘First traditional reform [curriculum]’, then ‘radical change [organisation]’: ‘If Mr Gove becomes Secretary of State …it seems an easy life is not on the agenda.’
What price a serious critique?
The Times set itself up as The Thunderer two centuries ago. I think ‘wimp’ or ‘toady’ might be better, as The Thunderer finds itself emasculated by its owner’s party preferences.