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A salute to the young man who took on the
‘Al-Guardian’ and its Evil Empire
7 November 1998
There is plenty of physical courage in this country, shown by the citations in the list of honours — I mean, of course, those awarded for valour and not because their recipients bribed a political party. But there is a growing lack of moral courage, not least in the media, among those whose duty is to tell the truth about why our country is becoming so corrupt. Journalists are now reluctant to take on Mr Big.
There are no-go areas, as there are with the police too. Needless to say, the media moguls them selves are spared criticism, an old practice now exercised more cynically than ever. Rupert Murdoch’s fish-and-chip papers often ruin the lives of individuals for alleged moral turpitude, and in the case of my own saintly parish priest they hunted an innocent man to death. But when Murdoch’s own divorce came up, shortly after he had been awarded a papal knighthood for financial services to the Los Angeles archdiocese, he had only to lift up the phone to speak to his fellow proprietors for a total silence to descend.
Even worse is the failure to tackle real evil. There are colossal rogues around today, and their size as much as their venom is feared. When Peter Preston, then editor of the Guardian, got into bed with Mohammed Fayed to pursue a hate-campaign against Tory MPs, he began something which has done more damage to the honour of British journalism than anything in its history. He also brought together a formidable combination. The joint resources of the Fayed machine and the enormously rich Scott Trust, which owns the Guardian and the Observer, are well into the multi-billion-pound league. They employ thousands of people. Fayed alone has scores of ‘security men’, some of them surveillance agents and ex-police with excellent contacts, all extremely well paid, to do his bidding. And the Guardian, under its present editor, Alan Rusbridger, the most vindictive man I have ever come across, employs some of the most poisonous journalists around, as well as a formidable legal army. There has never been anything like the Fayed-Guardian combination in British public life. So far, it has managed to destroy most of those on its enemies list, and I suppose I am lucky to be still on my feet.
Hence it took both moral and physical courage for Tom Bower and Jonathan Hunt to investigate the Al-Guardian. I beg anyone who cares for decency in our national life to buy and read Bower’s Fayed: the Unauthorised Biography (Macmillan £18.99) and Hunt’s Trial by Conspiracy: the Lies, Cover-Ups and Injustices Behind the Neil Hamilton Affair (Greenzone £15.99). Bower has a high reputation as an exposer of evil men like Maxwell, and he has powerful friends to protect him. So I will concentrate on Jonathan Hunt, who has no money, no job, no friends in high places, and has been viciously informed by aparatchiks both of the AI-Guardian and its jackal, Granada TV, that he will never get another job in media.
He has nothing in fact but a burning passion for justice. He is a Lancashire man with an old-fashioned sense of right and wrong, an innocent belief that virtue will prevail and truth will triumph in the end. He is exactly the sort of person who used to work for the Guardian when it was the world’s greatest liberal newspaper, before it cut itself off from its northern roots, came south in search of fleshpots, freebies and sleaze, and made a gossip columnist its editor.
Hunt was in business before becoming a television journalist. He is that rarity, a genuine idealist. He got interested in the Hamilton case entirely by accident, felt something was wrong, looked into it and came to the conclusion that Hamilton was innocent of the more serious charges against him, including the crucial one that he took cash from Fayed. He then started to look at the methods used by the Al-Guardian to ‘get’ Hamilton. Tireless and wholly fearless, he has been at it ever since, and his investigation is still incomplete. But what he has already published is devastating for the newspaper’s reputation.
So why doesn’t the Guardian sue Hunt? Rusbridger’s reply is to deny the charges and say Hunt is not worth suing, hoping that Hunt will be dismissed as a crackpot. In the meantime, the paper’s hacks have gone to work. Vast sums of money have been spent trying to assassinate Hunt’s character. After prodigious efforts, including a trawl through Brazil of all places, all they came up with was a routine dispute Hunt once had with VAT. The Guardian also portrays Hunt as a madman but they do that to all their critics.
The reason Rusbridger does not sue is clear to me. Hunt would fight the case and means would be found to enable him to do it. Rusbridger, in a moment of vindictive rage, insisted that the police prosecute Jonathan Aitken for perjury over sworn statements made in his libel action against the Guardian. Thereby Rusbridger raised the stakes and the risks. Others can play at that game. If he now sues, the case will come to court and will be defended to the bitter end. Rusbridger and his underlings, and Fayed and his underlings, will all have to give evidence under oath and be subject to cross-examination before an impartial jury. What if a jury were then to decide Hunt was right? Might the police not then be under irresistible pressure to conduct another perjury inquiry, this time against those who would have given evidence for the Guardian?
Many people with no axe to grind now believe Hamilton rather than Fayed, who has been proved a liar again and again, on virtually every page of Bower’s book, for instance. I believe Hamilton is innocent. and by now even Rusbridger may be beginning to suspect this. So why can’t he, at long last, do the decent thing, and admit that Fayed, rather than Hamilton, may be the liar? Why can’t he break the odious chains which link his paper to Fayed, and start to make the Guardian respectable again?
The scandal will not disappear. Hunt’s findings are now in print, on the record, and will be read, and studied, and followed up. The truth will continue to smoulder beneath the surface, as it did in the Dreyfus case, and will one day burst into fearsome flames which will engulf all those who tried to bank them down. Think of that, Rusbridger, as you lie awake at night.
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