This week dashing actor, Hugh Grant decided to take a break from the red carpet and stepped instead onto the green grass of Collage Green. Seeing Hugh Grant talking politics, suited up for the BBC cameras is not a regular occurrence to those of us who are more used to thinking of Vince Cable and Boris Johnson as a Westminster celeb. So this certainly added a touch of excitement to a rather depressing, shocking and quite frankly disgusting set of revelations regarding the phone hacking of innocent citizens; victims of horrific events who’s right to privacy was exploited by organisations who are meant to be models for truth and fairness around the world.
So as the guy sat there last night in the Question Time studio, charming Baroness Shirley Williams, smirking at Jon Gaunt’s comment that ‘the Sun is a great newspaper’ and flaunting his surprisingly insightful opinions to the audience; I began to realise how odd this situation was. Actors do not trudge all the way to Basingstoke to discuss politics on a tv show where a film or album plug would be more out place than, oh say, an actor like Hugh Grant. Despite this, he made a fair few quality comments that left the Conservative Employment Minister, Chris Grayling sounding more like an Ed Miliband-esq broken record. Grayling simply didn’t have the answers to Hugh’s to-the-point questions, all he could do was repeat that ‘there is going to be a public enquiry’, and his lack of ability to provide any real insight or detail was a disappointment. Basically, for all Grayling contributed, he may as well have not been there. Worrying, considering that he was the only representative on the panel of the government’s stance.
Clearly Hugh Grant’s involvement in this issue is more a result of his own experience with his personal life being hacked and reported on rather than a genuine interest in the morals and problems of Rupert Murdoch’s empire. It is certainly unlikely that the actor would have involved himself had his own personal life not been exploited by the media. Despite this, it was clear that Hugh had spent time researching the subject and had developed a genuine interest and passion over not just bringing the victims to justice and ensuring it cannot happen again; but also in the politics surrounding the issue, including the power Rupert Murdoch has in the governing and direction the country takes. He spoke out against the Labour and Conservative MPs who had previously sucked up to the Murdoch empire, something which everyone seemed to agree that the LibDems were not guilty of.
For once the LibDems are not getting the hack from the media – certainly makes a change! Hopefully, following this scandal the wider public will begin to realise that they have been taken for a ride by the Murdoch machine and driven into believing that the LibDems are to blame for everything bad in the country. This story has brought back memories of the #NickCleggsFault hashtag, where immediately after Nick Clegg’s popularity shone thorough in the televised leaders debates, Murdoch seeing that this could loose him his hold on the government spiralled his empire into an anti-Nick Clegg attack that continues to feature in his newspapers throughout 2011. LibDems are struggling to shake off the bad name that has been forced upon them by the media, when in fact the LibDem ministers and MPs in government have been trying their best to soften Conservative policy and negotiate other alternatives – something that is extremely difficult to do when it is the LibDems who are a clear minority.
If any good can come out of this horrific scandal it will be the opportunity to give the British public a broader and fairer set of opinions contained in our newspapers. Whether or not this will happen, however, is in the hands of how much hold the Murdoch empire still has over the Conservative Party. As Hugh said last night, Cameron is ‘squirming on the edge of that dilemma right now’. So until he has made his decision, all we can do is sit back and think of a world where Hugh Grant is Prime Minister. Or we could just watch Love Actually (2003).