Maybe even Murdoch isn't smart enough to solve this one

With every new revelation, you have question how much longer this can last without becoming real tro

Where do we go from here? The events of the past week have left many of us reeling, and it seems there is more to come. Every time I sit down to write something about the unfolding disaster for the Murdoch empire, there's a new development. The news is moving faster than ever before, it would seem, and the old rules of engagement have been cast aside: now the papers are openly taking shots at each other.

Time was you could rely on what Henry Kissinger might have called an "uneasy peace" in Fleet Street. We knew they all hated each other, and wanted to bring each other down, but they didn't declare open warfare. Now that's changed: the Mirror has piled on to the giant playground bundle on Rupert Murdoch and decided now is the time to make capital out of their rivals' misfortune (or misdeeds, whichever way you want to look at it). You can see the attraction, although I rather fear it will be the Daily Mail, as ever, which quietly goes about picking up the biggest share of disaffected Sun readers and former News of the World readers. It doesn't need to go for the jugular -- it just sits back and picks up the scraps.

It's a strange, bewildering scene, this News of the World-free Britain, a place where allegation and counter-allegation get fired out in rapid succession. When the biggest selling newspaper can disappear in the course of a week, it seems everything is built on sand, including the sureness of our Prime Minister's long-term future. The once automaton-smooth David Cameron has looked agitated, out of his depth, uneasy and uncertain when answering tough questions from the kind of journalists who don't do dirty digging. He even ended up repeating the same phrases over and over again ("second chance" re: Andy Coulson) in exactly the same way that made his counterpart Ed Miliband a laughing stock only a few days before. And then there is Miliband, a Dalek-like milquetoast one minute and a ferocious performer the next, seizing his opportunity to be more than a punctuation mark in Labour's history. What's going on?

Peering on from the sidelines, one feels like Harry Carpenter incredulously screaming "He's hurt Tyson!" as the massive underdog Frank Bruno landed a quality shot on the world heavyweight champion back in 1989. We all knew it wouldn't last, and Bruno was going to be splattered into a meaty pulp at some point during the evening, but there, just for a moment, the certainties were shaken to the core. Surely it will all be all right in the end for Rupert Murdoch; surely this is just a blip in his otherwise glittering career. "Say what you like about Murdoch, but he always gets it right." That was the received wisdom before this past crazy fortnight -- something we could all rely on, whatever happened. And surely that won't change. It can't change. Can it?

Perhaps it can. Maybe Murdoch's aura -- if it ever really existed -- is beginning to fade. For now, acts of desperation can be top-spun into shrewd little deals. Optimistic statements that everything is going to be all right can be portrayed as promises, rather than aspirations. But with every passing day, every passing moment of uncertainty and turmoil, every new revelation eagerly unearthed and devoured, you have to call into question how much longer this can last without it becoming real trouble. It was tempting to see the daft old billionaire grinning away with Rebekah Brooks in the street the other day and recall the outraged Sun headline "CRISIS -- WHAT CRISIS?" Which presaged the decline of "Sunny Jim" Callaghan. But maybe not. Maybe Murdoch will get out of this, like he's got out of fixes before.

We shouldn't underestimate him, of course. He's not that dumb; far from it. But maybe even he isn't smart enough to solve this one.

Patrolling the murkier waters of the mainstream media
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It's Gary Lineker 1, the Sun 0

The football hero has found himself at the heart of a Twitter storm over the refugee children debate.

The Mole wonders what sort of topsy-turvy universe we now live in where Gary Lineker is suddenly being called a “political activist” by a Conservative MP? Our favourite big-eared football pundit has found himself in a war of words with the Sun newspaper after wading into the controversy over the age of the refugee children granted entry into Britain from Calais.

Pictures published earlier this week in the right-wing press prompted speculation over the migrants' “true age”, and a Tory MP even went as far as suggesting that these children should have their age verified by dental X-rays. All of which leaves your poor Mole with a deeply furrowed brow. But luckily the British Dental Association was on hand to condemn the idea as unethical, inaccurate and inappropriate. Phew. Thank God for dentists.

Back to old Big Ears, sorry, Saint Gary, who on Wednesday tweeted his outrage over the Murdoch-owned newspaper’s scaremongering coverage of the story. He smacked down the ex-English Defence League leader, Tommy Robinson, in a single tweet, calling him a “racist idiot”, and went on to defend his right to express his opinions freely on his feed.

The Sun hit back in traditional form, calling for Lineker to be ousted from his job as host of the BBC’s Match of the Day. The headline they chose? “Out on his ears”, of course, referring to the sporting hero’s most notable assets. In the article, the tabloid lays into Lineker, branding him a “leftie luvvie” and “jug-eared”. The article attacked him for describing those querying the age of the young migrants as “hideously racist” and suggested he had breached BBC guidelines on impartiality.

All of which has prompted calls for a boycott of the Sun and an outpouring of support for Lineker on Twitter. His fellow football hero Stan Collymore waded in, tweeting that he was on “Team Lineker”. Leading the charge against the Murdoch-owned title was the close ally of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and former Channel 4 News economics editor, Paul Mason, who tweeted:

Lineker, who is not accustomed to finding himself at the centre of such highly politicised arguments on social media, responded with typical good humour, saying he had received a bit of a “spanking”.

All of which leaves the Mole with renewed respect for Lineker and an uncharacteristic desire to watch this weekend’s Match of the Day to see if any trace of his new activist persona might surface.


I'm a mole, innit.