There was a moment during the election campaign last year when many Liberal Democrats realised we had passed through the looking glass.
Nick Clegg’s performance in the first leaders’ debate broke the glass ceiling of British politics and, it seems, caused more than one Tory-supporting newspaper editor to wet themselves in fear.
Then, on the eve of the second debate, the right wing press let slip the dogs of war.
It wasn’t just the Murdoch papers that went for Nick, but they did and they did it viciously. The Sun ridiculed him, splashing outrageous and ridiculous headlines on their front page for days on end. All of a sudden he was a fool, a menace and a risk to the economy who wanted to let asylum seekers eat your children and paedophiles run wild.
Nick Clegg and the Lib Dems didn’t suck up to Rupert Murdoch. He wasn’t bosom buddies with Rebekah Brooks.
So when it looked like a politician who wasn’t in Murdoch’s pocket might rise to power, or at least hold the balance of power, Murdoch’s minions set out to destroy him.
Don’t take my word for it, this is former Sun editor David Yelland at the time:
I doubt if Rupert Murdoch watched the election debate last week…But if he did, there would have been one man totally unknown to him. One man utterly beyond the tentacles of any of his family, his editors or his advisers. That man is Nick Clegg.
Make no mistake, if the Liberal Democrats actually won the election – or held the balance of power – it would be the first time in decades that Murdoch was locked out of British politics. In so many ways, a vote for the Lib Dems is a vote against Murdoch and the media elite.
Or how about the Independent’s Steve Richards yesterday?
Look also what happened to Nick Clegg during the last election. Clegg had never engaged in wooing. In response to his surging popularity, the Tory-supporting newspapers, including most of those at News International, turned on him, again working closely with Coulson.
I don’t want to bore you for long with guff about values and principles and all that. But, just briefly, Liberals by their nature are inherently suspicious of entrenched power and vested interests – we think it inhibits freedom and social progress. Entrenched power and vested interests – that sums up Rupert Murdoch and his media empire pretty neatly.
And before anyone suggests we abandoned these principles on the doorstep of Number 10, remember that while David Cameron was quaffing champagne with Rebekah Brooks in the run up to Christmas, Vince Cable was secretly recorded admitting he had ‘declared war on Rupert Murdoch’.
It is a dreadful, dreadful shame for all of those who want to see Murdoch’s power curbed that the honey trap set for Vince by a non-Murdoch newspaper was so effective.