For a few fleeting years between the Suez debacle and the rise of Margaret Thatcher, there seemed a genuine chance that the declining British state might reform itself. Mainly by a pragmatic recognition of its new place in the world and adapting to it. A wave of middle-class reformers, newly emancipated from National Service and by attendance at university seemed poised to take control of society. In science, social policy, economics, journalism and TV, they meant to sweep aside the old elites of money and land, and create a new more egalitarian society, able to take its place alongside the modernising nations of Europe.
Their flagship journal was The Sunday Times under the leadership of its young, working class editor Harold Evans and his teams of mightily serious and hard working investigative reporters, who set out to shed Truth on all aspects of this transforming zeitgeist. They did good; only a a churl would deny their achievements on matters as diverse as thalidomide, Kim Philby the Death Penalty, and much besides.
But they forgot one inescapable truth, which someone else had grasped intuitively. They were middle class, educated, and therefore few in number. The mass of the population, lost in their ancient preoccupations of sport, sex and shiny toys, are mainly indifferent to the efforts of reformers. And when the Old Powers of the British State felt themselves threatened by the industrial militancy of the 1970s they turned to Rupert Murdoch. He sacked Evans (who had disparaged Thatcher, a key Murdoch ally) and delivered over the allegiance of the working classes via the Sun. British Rulers have never been seriously inconvenienced ever since.
Today a large meeting-no, a summit– of those surviving reformers will take place in London. It will be filled with some of the brightest and the best-Woodward, Bernstein, Maitless, Tina Brown to name but a few. Their courage and intelligence are beyond doubt. All will intone solemnly on the need for truth, open information and honest reporting.  And they will be right.
But their connection to the lives and preoccupations of ordinary people is at best exiguous. Magnates like Murdoch, and many like him around the world, have made the deep and necessary connections with the masses which are essential for political and economic power. And until the middle classes find a way of breaking that link, in many countries, our present plight will continue. Indefinitely.
#journalism #free speech #fake news #tribalism #education #reform