Who's who on the Select Committee

Ten MPs will get the opportunity to grill the Murdochs and Rebekah Brooks later today. But who are t

Rupert Murdoch, Rebekah Brooks and James Murdoch will all face the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee from 2.30pm today. The trio are set to answer questions relating to the phone hacking that occurred at News International throughout the 2000s. Sitting opposite them will be ten MPs. Who are they?

John Whittingdale

Tory MP John Whittingdale heads up the Commons select committee in charge of handling the phone-hacking scandal. The chairman of the Culture, Media and Sport committee has stated that that in seeking to uncover the truth, he hopes that the committee will avoid behaving like a "lynch mob". Whittingdale is reported to be an old acquaintance of Les Hinton, recently resigned as CEO of Dow Jones and former News International chairman.

Tom Watson

The Labour MP has been a consistent thorn in the side of News International since re-joining the backbenches in 2009. Watson led what was at times a one-man crusade to keep the issue of phone-hacking alive in parliament. He is possibly the most forthright member of the Committee when it comes to the media in the UK. In 2010, Watson hit out at "the media barons", who he felt had undue influence in parliament. "They are untouchable. They laugh at the law. They sneer at Parliament. They have the power to hurt us, and they do, with gusto and precision, with joy and criminality." Suffice to say, Watson will enjoy his moment against the Murdochs.

Louise Mensch

The chick-lit author and Conservative MP for Corby was elected in 2010. Like John Whittingdale, although broadly loyal to the government, Mensch has willingly asked Jeremy Hunt awkward questions on phone-hacking.

Alan Keen

The relatively non-descript backbencher is a long-standing member of the committee. Alan Keen got into hot water over his expenses in 2009 and was made to repay £1,500. Many MPs felt hard done by the way the expenses scandal was reported; Keen will no doubt enjoy eviscerating the Murdochs over their scandal.

Dr Therese Coffey

Conservative MP for Suffolk Coastal, Dr Thérèse Coffey states on her official parliamentary website that the phone-hacking scandal is a matter of "huge importance" and that the Murdochs will face "some robust questioning". On her personal website, Coffey mentions very little of the scandal, simply commenting that "a week is a long time in politics".

Damian Collins

Damian Collins, MP for Folkestone and Hythe, writes plainly on his website that phone-hacking and the use of the information gathered for personal gain "is not only morally wrong but also illegal". While seemingly more accepting of the idea that hacking might be done to celebrities, he states that it is "disgusting" that such an act was carried out on victims of murder and terrorism.

Philip Davies

Referring to the inquiry into press standards, libel and privacy held two years ago, when News International came before the Commons Select Committee, Tory MP for Shipley Philip Davies has drawn a clear link with that case and the current "catastrophic" events taking place: "We put in our report then that it was 'inconceivable' that Clive Goodman was the only one involved but what we didnt' appreciate was the severity of what was allegedly going on."

Paul Farrelly

MP for Newcastle-under-Lyme Paul Farrelly gave a statement at the start of 2011 when the news came out that Paul Gascoigne was to sue the News of the World over phone-hacking allegations. Farrelly criticised the Met, arguing that changes in the way hacking is now dealt with makes it harder for suspected victims to have their case examined: "we found great fault with the police investigation and to that we can add the conduct of the Crown Prosecution Service, which simply rubber stamps the Met's totally inadequate handling of the affair".

Jim Sheridan

The Scot has been Labour MP for Paisley since 2001. Like Keen, Sheridan was derided in the Telegraph over his expenses. Sheridan summed up how he will approach how he will approach the committee in a radio interview this morning: "I like to know what kind of relationship [Murdoch has] had with senior politicians, what influence does he think he has had ... What it won't be today, as some of the leading commentators were suggesting that it will be, [is] some sort of witch-hunt of the MPs against the press. That is certainly not what it's about, we will be asking in a polite way, robust questions."

Adrian Sanders

Aside from Tom Watson, Adrian Sanders has been the most out-spoken committee member in recent days. On Brooks arrest, the MP for Torbay said: "It's convenient. In whose interest was it for this arrest to take place before Tuesday? Because if it does impede what we can ask, that's not going to go down well with my fellow committee members."

For instant analysis of the hearing, keep an eye on the Staggers and follow Samira Shackle and Duncan Robinson on Twitter.

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Nigel Farage's love for Dunkirk shows how Brexiteers learned the wrong lessons from WWII

Film has given Britain a dangerously skewed perspective on World War II

For months now it’s been hard to avoid the publicity for what seems like an epidemic of new World War Two films for 2017. June brought us Churchill (starring Brian Cox), which concerns Operation Overlord and the allied invasion of Normandy in 1944. A month later, in July we were pushed back four years, to Dunkirk, with Christopher Nolan’s film of the evacuation of Allied troops from French soil in the summer of 1940. April had already brought Their Finest, a comedy about making a - let us not let the irony go unacknowledged -  stirring film about the evacuation of Dunkirk in the event’s more or less immediate aftermath and November will bring us Darkest Hour, some events in which will predate all three earlier films, as Gary Oldman’s Churchill struggles through the earliest days of his war premiership.

This glut is peculiar. There are no significant round anniversaries to commemorate (e.g. Dunkirk is 77 years ago, the Normandy landings 73). More, we’re meant to be in the middle of a series of commemorations of the horror and waste of the Great War of 1914-18, but that seems to have slipped away from us in the political turmoil that’s engulfed this country since 2014. Instead, it’s to the Second World War we return yet again. To modern Britain’s founding myth.

It’s a coincidence, of course, that these films should come along together, and at a seemingly odd time. They were developed separately, and films takes so long to conceive and produce that no one could have anticipated them arriving together, let alone arriving in a toxic Brexit Britain where they seem like literally the least useful things for anyone in the UK to watch right now. As works that will inevitably, whatever their own creative intentions and merits, be hi-jacked by a press and political culture that is determined to gloss its opposition to the UK’s membership of the European Union, and its appalling mishandling of the process of exit with garbled references to, the conflict the films portray.

This is an impression that is not exactly dismissed by Nigel Farage posting to twitter of an image of himself standing next to the poster for Dunkirk, along with a statement in which he encourages all young people to see the film. For what reason, we’re entitled to wonder, does he make this encouragement? Does he admire the sound design? Or the aerial photography? Or is he just a big fan of Mark Rylance and Harry Styles? Or perhaps he is, inevitably, indulging in a behaviour that some might call "nostalgic"? Of pining for the past. Except, of course, nostalgia requires an element of pain. The suffix "algia" the same as employed when referring to chronic conditions. For Farage and his ilk there is no pain in this behaviour, just the most extraordinarily banal comfort.

Farage is asking us and asking the young who voted against his chosen cause by an overwhelming majority, and who are are sickened by where he and his ilk have brought us - to share in his indulgence. To enjoy, as he does, those fatuous analogies between the UK’s isolation between Dunkirk and Pearl Harbour with its imminent failures in European politics. To see that "escaping from Europe with nothing is at least better than not escaping at all". Or to believe, once again, in a "plucky little Britain, standing up against the might of a wicked mainland European tyranny, its back against the wall".

All this, confused, indeed nonsensical, as it is, is being invoked, as surely as the anti-EU right have always invoked Churchill. This is despite his own family recognising him, as the EU itself does, as the fervent pro-European he was. Indeed, he was one of the founding fathers of the whole post-war pan-European enterprise.

What Farage and his behaviour demonstrates, yet again, is that British culture, in many ways, learned not merely the wrong lessons from the war against Hitler, but exactly the wrong lessons. It’s a lesson that found its most enduring, poisonous expression in Margaret Thatcher’s breathtaking assertion that the European Union was a "third attempt" by Germany to take over the world.

In contrast to the rush of war films in cinemas, television has recently given us glimpses into theoretical worlds where Nazism did succeed in conquering the planet, in Amazon Prime’s The Man In The High Castle and BBC One’s SS-GB. There are lessons too, in these alternative histories, proper lessons that we have collectively failed to learn from the real one. Which is that fascism or authoritarianism are not diseases to which anglophone countries are somehow miraculously immune due to [insert misunderstood historical fetish of choice].

The Man in the High Castle, particularly in its more subtle first series, goes out of its way to show Americans that their lack of experience of collaboration with Nazi occupation is a result of circumstance, even luck. Not because collaboration is a peculiarly European tendency. SS-GB also worked hard to demonstrate the helplessness of occupation, and how that leads to the sheer ordinariness of collaboration. Both show the understanding that while fascism from the outside is funny accents and funny uniforms, fascism from the inside is your neighbours informing on you and the absence of the rule of law.

That experience of occupation, of subsequent complicity, and humiliation, felt by many other other European nations, is absent in Britain. Farage’s fellow Leaver Liam Fox, without anything resembling self-awareness, asserted that "the United Kingdom is one of the few countries in the European Union that does not need to bury its 20th century history". Fox’s remark summed up, again seemingly unintentionally, the oafishness of the principle Brexiteers. A group who exemplify a culture that boils a vast and unimaginably complex conflict down to the title sequence of Dad’s Army - an animation in which a Union Flag is forced off the European continent by a trio of Nazi triangles, and after returning home bobs around defiantly. A group who, in a strange and witless inversion, have fantasised themselves into a position where they see the Britain’s membership of the European Union as the occupation the country once avoided.

This is the UK’s postponed tragedy. At a timethat European countries experienced national humiliations which fundamentally reconfigured their understandings of their place in the world, the UK got yet another excuse to shout about how much better it was than everyone else.

I’m a child of the very late Seventies. I grew up in a world where (British) boys’ comics were dominated by war stories rather than science fiction or superheroes, where literally everyone knew several people who had fought in World War Two - and almost everyone someone who could remember World War One. That war was the ever-present past. I am, as a friend who teaches history neatly phrased it "Of the last post-war generation." After me, the generations are post-post-war. They are free. The moral clarity of the war against Hitler has, in the end, been a curse on British culture - a distorting mirror in which we can always see ourselves as heroes. 

But, not, of course, all other generations. The war generation collectively (I make no claim that there were not exceptions) understood what the war was. Which meant they understood that the European Union was, and is, its antonym, not an extension of it. Unlike their children and the eldest of their grandchildren, they had real experience of the conflict, they hadn’t just grown up surrounded by films about how great Britain was during it.

The Prime Minister who, or so he thought, had secured Britain’s European destiny had also, as he related in his autobiography, seen the devastation wrought by that conflict, including by shells he himself had given the order to be fired. Like Helmut Kohl, whose worshipped, conscripted older brother died pointlessly fighting for Hitler, and Francois Mitterrand, himself captured during the fall of France, his experience was real and lived, not second hand.

This can be seen even in the voting in 2016 referendum. That the young principally voted Remain and the old voted Leave has been often noted. But if you break that over-65 vote up further, there’s a substantial flip to back towards Remain amongst the oldest voters, the survivors of the survivors of World War Two. After all, someone who is 65 today was born nearly a decade after the war ended. It was their parents’ war, not their own. A war that has been appropriated, and for purposes of which those who fought in it would, collectively, not approve.

Let’s return to Dad’s Army, after all, BBC Two does often enough. Don’t Panic! The Dad’s Army Story (2000) a cheerful history of the sitcom great written and presented by Victoria Wood contains a telling juxtaposition of interviewees. The series' surprising continued popularity is discussed and Wendy Richard (born 1943) expresses a nostalgia for the war years, and how people banded together during them. This is a sentiment which Clive Dunn (born 1920) bluntly dismisses. “Like most people I had a foul war,” he says, and disgust and horror briefly pass across his face.

It’s the difference between those who remember war, and those who only remember war films.