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Autumn 2011 • 25 year anniversary special

MacKenzie rant

As we were saying … 2011 – unemployment, cuts, housing crisis, riots, police violence, Tory government. Hard to believe it’s 25 years since Murdoch got rid of his production and admin workforce and lost some of his best journalists. This special edition of the Wapping Post pays tribute to that historic 1980s struggle for jobs and union rights, but we’re also bringing the story right up to date. We analyse the various strands of News Corp corruption and poison which have disfigured the UK media and British society in general. Murdoch is even now digging a tunnel into education and schools! We said all those years ago that any man or organisation that was prepared to

He blasts ‘fat mums with ugly babies’ page 10

The Workers’ story


Pictures from an Who’s investigating who exhibition page 6 Special Post guide page 11


Staff sacked again as Murdoch empire’s true face is revealed

THE NEWS Of The World is dead and its offices are a crime scene.

do what they did at Wapping was capable of anything. Press and media revelations show how right we were. But he may be about to get his comeuppance. Read about the inquiries, select committees and investigations that have had to be set up to deal with it all. Don’t bank on an early result though – Murdoch has bought and sold so many politicians. And there’s some tough talking needed with MPs to secure trade union rights too. And remember Hillsborough. Murdoch and The Sun are dirty words on Merseyside – read about the latest moves in the campaign for justice.

Two former editors of what was the most popular newspaper in Britain have been arrested on suspicion of conspiracy and corruption. At least eight other senior journalists from the paper have been arrested. The head and assistant head of Scotland Yard resigned after their links to the newspaper were revealed. The Scotland Yard officer who first investigated wrongdoing at the paper was given a job by the paper’s owners.

PHONE HACKING The scandal erupted in 2007 when royal reporter Clive Goodman was jailed for hacking into royal phones. It has involved three police operations and two committees of MPs probing allegations of phone hacking and police corruption. It reached the Prime Minister’s office. Andy Coulson, Goodman’s editor at the News Of


Twenty five ago – Wapping protesters ask today’s question



Humbled and rumbled FROM PAGE 1

The World, resigned when Goodman was jailed. But he said he knew nothing about the phone hacking. Tory Party leader David Cameron then hired Coulson as his top spin doctor. Coulson resigned from that job in 2011. Private eye Glen Mulcaire was jailed along with Goodman. The News Of The World paid Mulcaire more than £100,000 a year. Goodman paid him a further £12,500 in cash, using a codename in his expenses claim. Senior Scotland Yard officer Sue Akers told MPs in 2011 that 3,870 people were named in Mulcaire’s files. There were 11,000 pages of the evidence with 5,000 landline phone numbers and 4,000 mobile numbers in them.


CORRUPT PAYMENTS Brooks, who has consistently denied any knowledge of phone hacking, told a committee of MPs in 2003 that the News Of The World had paid police for information. She resigned as News International boss on July 14, 2011. She is on bail on suspicion of conspiring to intercept voicemails and conspiracy to make corrupt payments. The same day Les Hinton, boss of News International from 1997 to 2005, resigned as head of a Murdoch company in New York. In 2009 he told MPs that phone hacking was confined to Clive Goodman. Yet, after Goodman had been jailed in 2007, he protested to News International about being sacked by the paper. He said everything he had done had been carried out with “full knowledge and support” and that phone hacking “was widely discussed in the daily editorial conference.” On July 18, Murdoch’s News Corporation withdrew its controversial bid to take control of UK broadcaster BSkyB. On July 19 Brooks, and James and Rupert Murdoch, told MPs they had no knowledge of phone hacking at the News Of The World. The News Of The World was first published on October 1, 1843. Two hundred editorial workers lost their jobs when it closed.

Questions that go to the heart of our democracy THEY’RE CALLING it Britain’s Watergate – a slowly emerging crisis that has shaken the political establishment to its core.

The scandal blew up over a move which would have given Rupert Murdoch’s global media group an even more dominant position in the UK. Public opposition to the complete takeover of BSkyB satellite TV by News Corporation led to 150,000 people bombarding media regulator Ofcom with protests. Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt had ignored Ofcom’s advice to refer the BSkyB bid to the Competition Commission for a full investigation. Instead, he spent months in secret negotiations with News Corporation to stitch up a cynical deal. All sorts of other formal and informal contacts with News Corporation were going on at the same time. In the 15 months after David Cameron assumed office he met Rupert Murdoch or his executives 26 times. He and his ministers had official meetings with them on more than 60 occasions. If you add in social events there were at least 107 contact – one every four days. Such has been the level of power and influence wielded by News Corporation over the UK government.

DARK SIDE Meanwhile the phone hacking scandal at The News of the World was being pursued by the Guardian. The scandal revealed the dark side of Rupert Murdoch’s media power, and how it penetrated into politics, the Metropolitan Police and almost every nook and cranny of public life. The chilling effect of a media company too large and powerful to challenge was demonstrated by the House of Commons Cu l t u re, Me d i a a n d Sp o r t Se l e c t Committee. This meekly deferred to Rebekah Brooks, then chief executive of News International, when she refused to appear before it in 2009. MPs confessed they pulled their punches for fear that their personal lives would be put under surveillance.


Bosses at the News Of The World set up a “thorough internal investigation” and said it proved the phone tapping was the work of a “single rogue reporter”. News International, owners of the News Of The World, The Sun, The Times and the Sunday Times, paid more than £2m in compensation and legal fees to celebrities whose phones had been hacked. Hacked celebs inc­­luded Gordon Taylor, boss of the Professional Footballers’ Association. Taylor was paid £700,000 as long as he agreed to a gagging clause. The payment was approved by James Murdoch, Rupert Murdoch’s son, head of News International. Part of Taylor’s evidence against the News Of The World was an email – known as the “For Neville” email. This suggested that Neville Thurlbeck, the newspaper’s chief reporter, might have known about the alleged phone hacking. Colin Myler, the paper’s editor, and Tom Crone, the paper’s legal adviser, said in July 2011 that they had told James Murdoch about the For Neville email. Murdoch told MPs that, despite signing the cheque, he had no knowledge of it. Myler and Crone lost their jobs when the paper closed on July 10, 2011. In July 2011 in was reported that News Of The World journalists had hacked into the phone of Milly Dowler, the murdered teenager who had disappeared in 2002. Rebekah Brooks, then editor of the newspaper, became chief executive of News International.

Puppets on a string: Demonstrators outside the Department of Culture Media and Sport in London after Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt announced in June 2011 that he would agree to the takeover of BSkyB by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation

Campaign for Press and Broadcasting Freedom National Committee member Granville Williams picks the politics out of the phone hacking scandal

Any attempt to link the BSkyB bid with the phone hacking scandal, or to ask whether News Corporation was a ‘fit and proper’ owner of BSkyB, was dismissed by Hunt and Cameron. By June, Hunt had concocted a flimsy deal that involved Sky News being hived off into an ‘independent’ company and it finally looked set to go through Suddenly in July what had seemed to be an invulnerable media empire was forced into humiliating retreat. The Guardian revelation that a private investigator working for the News of the World had listened to and deleted messages on the phone of missing schoolgirl Milly Dowler sparked outrage. There was an emergency Parliamentary debate, the establishment of the Leveson inquiry and the end of the BSkyB bid. The News of the World was jettisoned, its staff, largely innocent, thrown to the wolves. But Brooks and Les Hinton, once

The sheer scale of this crisis opens up an opportunity to promote policies which can finally build a democratic, responsible and accountable press

Mur­d och’s top fixer in London, could not hang on. They had lied to MPs and had to go. Top cops Sir Paul Stephenson, the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, and Assistant Commissioner John Yates went too. And the mighty Rupert Murdoch was hauled before the newly emboldened MPs’ committee to be ‘humbled’ alongside son James and Rebekah Brooks. The committee published damning documents which pointed to yet more dishonesty and evasion on the part of Murdoch executives.

ABYSMAL FAILURE These events highlight the abysmal failure of press regulation, but they also raise questions that go to the heart of policymaking in a democratic society. How was Rupert Murdoch, who started to build his UK media empire when he bought The News of the World in 1969, able to achieve not just such vast media power but such sway over politicians? As he acquired more newspapers in Britain he used them to promote his views: pro-privatisation and ‘deregulation’, anti-EU, anti-union, anti-BBC ... anti anybody and anything that stood in the way of his commercial interests. Politicians were in awe of such power; in Mrs Thatcher he had a natural ally, but under Tony Blair Labour consciously tailored its media policies to suit Murdoch, in return for the support of his papers both at and between elections. If democracy is to survive, a situation in which media barons effectively dictate government policy, and politicians are too terrified to stand up to them, needs urgent remedy. The industrial scale of the phone hacking revealed a media ownership that believed it was invincible, that its newspapers were immune from ethical restraints, and that those who sought to criticise or highlight its misdemeanours could be attacked without risk. The sheer scale of this crisis opens up an opportunity to promote policies which can finally build a democratic, responsible and accountable press.

Wapping Post  25th anniversary special  2

NOTHING NEW UNDER THE SUN – KETTLING BEGAN AT WAPPING The savagery of the police attacks on the Wapping strikers and their supporters shocked the nation. There were four separate inquiries and questions in Parliament. Some officers were even charged with assault, though none were convicted. The unions’ bi-weekly rallies were subjected to charges by mounted police and police in riot gear. They swung their batons and grabbed people at random. Hundreds were injured. During the year of the strike nearly 1,500 pickets and supporters were arrested and four were jailed. These horrifying scenes, witnessed by thousands and widely reported, were grimly similar to those at the miners’ picket lines a year earlier, where officers from the Met had played a leading part in the military-style attacks. In one report by a group of lawyers, a top QC said commanders had seen the policing as “a military operation against an enemy, not as a public order exercise.” Another report, by the National Council for Civil Liberties (Liberty) showed that officers


Cops, cash and collusion – a 25-year history REBEKAH BROOKS, one-time editor of the New of the World and the Sun, has a disastrous talent for blurting out embarrassing truths when summoned to appear before MPs.

In 2003 she told the Commons media committee that her journalists had paid police officers for information. All journalists know this is a fact, but not one to be admitted in public. This year she was called back to explain herself and told MPs that journalists and police had a “symbiotic relationship of exchanging information for public interest”. Apart from her spurious claim on the “public interest”, Brooks was spot on. News International and the Metropolitan Police have had a secret and intimate relationship for 25 years, since even before the force was used to batter the strikers and their supporters in the Wapping dispute. Their mutual backing has been at the centre of the festering web of corruption that forced the resignation of top bosses on both sides this summer and the closure of the News of the World. No t W j o u r n a l i s t s h a ve b e e n shamed for paying private detectives to hack into celebrities’ voicemails and to bribe bent coppers and officials of other public agencies to dig out confidential information on private individuals. But the police’s conduct has been just

as bad, if not worse. After all, it is a journalist’s job to winkle out information, but the police are public servants who must stick to the straight and narrow. This is the charge sheet against the Met police and their partners in crime on the Murdoch press. E N T R A P M E N T: p o l i c e collaborated with stings worked out by NotW journalists to set people up to take hard drugs or commit serious crimes. Officers would arrive to nab the culprits, usually on a Saturday afternoon, giving the paper its Sunday scoop and the police their arrest. COLLUSION: the Met plotted its brutal campaign against the Wapping strikers with Murdoch in advance. They invoked power to seal off the streets three days before the unions even decided to strike! B R U TA L I T Y: Wa p p i n g strikers and sup­p ort­e rs were subjected to a yearlong ordeal of police attacks. Mounted police and police in riot gear charged into their picket lines and rallies, swinging their batons and grabbing people at random. Hundreds were injured. COVER-UP: Police also colluded in the long but ultimately doomed bid to keep the phone-hacking under wraps. News International bosses could get away with lying for four

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HEAR NO EVIL, SEE NO EVIL … Rebekah Brooks was asked in July to explain to MPs just what made the bells ring at her fab old paper the News Of The World. Any MPs worried that she might be looking to probe their innermost secrets soon put their fears aside. For Rebekah, 43, was quick to assure them that she didn’t have a clue what was going on even in her own office! After all she was only the editor, and wouldn’t know anything about the paper paying a private eye £100,000 a year to hack phones. Or hacking into the phone of a missing teenager. No, she was busy campaigning alongside a brave bereaved mother for a change in the law. And to help that campaign, Rebekah’s paper, the News Of The World, gave the mother … a mobile phone. Now police are believed to have found possible references to the mother’s phone in notes made by the private eye. years because police deliberately ignored the mountain of evidence they had. HOSPITALITY: Over those four years top brass from the Met and Wapping executives met for lunch and other social gatherings. The head of the Met and his wife enjoyed a stay at a swanky health resort represented by a PR firm headed by Neil Wallis, a former deputy editor of the NoW. JOBS FOR THE BOYS: The head of the first perfunctory police investigation into phone-hacking was taken on as a columnist. In the other direction, Wallis was hired as a £1,000-a-day media consultant. His daughter was also given a job. And ten Wapping journalists were taken on as press officers at the Met.


had illegally covered the numbers on their uniforms to prevent identification. And a third, by a GLC-backed police unit, concluded: “They did not allow people to leave scenes of violence and dangerously charged into packed crowds in a confined space.” Twenty years later this tactic became known as kettling. The Met set up roadblocks and placed the whole Wapping area in a state of virtual siege using powers under an ancient law to block some streets for the whole period of the dispute. These powers were invoked on 20 January 1986, three days before the strike began and before Murdoch’s plans were announced. The Met’s Special Branch – political police – were active as well, spying on the strikers all through the dispute. Papers revealed to the Morning Star earlier this year showed they mounted


We have paid police for information in the past Rebekah Brooks March 2003

daily surveillance of picket lines, had access to closed union meetings and kept files on union leaders. Officers produced daily briefs for police chiefs and government. There were so many complaints of brutality that a police inquiry had to be held, by the Northants force. It concluded some officers had acted in a “violent and undisciplined way” and some were charged, but the trial was stopped and none was convicted.




Autumn 2011 • 25 year anniversary special

Everyone was outraged when news broke that the News of the World had ordered the hacking of slain teenager Milly Dowler’s mobile phone. Solemnly, it was agreed that something must be done – a lengthy inquiry presided over by a High Court judge. In four years’ time Lord Justice Leveson will come up with some wise pronouncements on regulating the press. It’s a fair bet they will not include a reform that would benefit all working people, not just the media. That would be the right of the workforce to be represented by a trade union to protect not just their jobs, their pay and working conditions, but their work as well.

Before Wapping, print unions at News International had exercised a check through their Right of Reply policy as well as being active and vigilant on behalf of their members. It is no coincidence that the media with the highest professional standards – the Guardian, Financial Times, the Independent and Telegraph groups, the BBC and ITV News – are union strongholds. But the unions can’t get back into NI without a change in the law. Murdoch has set up a stooge ‘sweetheart union’ to block them. Staff members would have to challenge their managers to get this thrown out, and the unions would have to win a ballot without any contact with staff or any ability to counter the bosses’ pressure and propaganda. Media regulation from outside does need toughening up. But the best way to curb the excesses of the popular press is to allow unions to give staff a voice in the workplace itself.

The toothless tiger that cannot control Murdoch THE WAPPING dispute highlighted the fundamental feature of UK labour law that virtually every strike is a ‘repudiatory’ breach of the workers’ contracts of employment.

This allows the employer to treat the workers as no longer employed – without going to the trouble of sacking them. It is a remarkable state of affairs that has brought condemnation by the supervisory bodies of the international treaties on workers’ and union rights that the UK has ratified: the ILO, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and the European Social Charter. The UK has had a law against unfair dismissal for 30 years but it is a toothless tiger. The average compensation awarded, where unfair dismissal is proved, is a few thousand pounds, and reinstatement ordered in less than one in 200 cases. Murdoch was able to sidestep any risk of unfair dismissal claims by making demands on the unions which they could not conceivably accept, so provoking a dispute and industrial action. This allowed him to treat the entire workforce as sacked (by their own hand) and shut them out of making unfair dismissal claims.

Mike Hicks at Wapping: his notorious jailing exploited police experience in the miners’ strike


Rupert Murdoch built his worldwide media empire on the backs of his UK workforce, by getting rid of them and their unions. This did not only deprive the workers of their jobs and their rights. It also handed unchecked power to his editors and managers.

Toothless: There’s a law against unfair dismissal but only one in 200 applicants are reinstated

Employment law expert John Hendy, QC, explains how the law enabled Murdoch to carry out his Wapping coup

News International also exploited the Thatcher laws which bar all secondary action and secondary picketing. These laws too have been internationally condemned repeatedly but they continue to apply. Murdoch obtained an injunction against the TGWU which had instructed its TNT driver members not to cross picket lines at Wapping. He got an injunction against the print unions’ instructions not to handle Murdoch papers, and the courts punished disregard of the injunction by fining the unions and sequestrating SOGAT’s assets. SOGAT eventually apologised and the instructions not to handle Murdoch papers had to be withdrawn. That was a turning point. Murdoch also obtained injunctions against mass picketing of the Wapping Plant and picket numbers were limited to six. The police tactics and use of the criminal law (particularly the jailing of Mike Hicks) were notorious and exploited previous experience with the miners. Wapping illustrated to perfection the balance of the UK law on industrial action, irretrievably tilted to favour the employer. The failure of the trade union movement to win the dispute was mirrored by its subsequent failure to change the law and redress the balance during the Labour governments. Hope of legislative change has evaporated unless and until the trade unions decide to persuade Labour to commit to bringing our law into line with international law. ??John Hendy QC is standing counsel to UNITE and the NUJ. He represented Mike Hicks and others in the picketing injunction case referred to. He was a legal observer at the Saturday night demonstrations at Wapping.

Wapping Post  25th anniversary special  4



How sackings opened the door to abuse


More than jobs were lost when Murdoch sacked union members says NGA member John Bailey

IT WASN’T just because the unions protected their members’ jobs that Rupert Murdoch wanted to get rid of the unions. Another factor was the Right of Reply, the policy – supported by all the unions – of taking action to stop the more outrageously dishonest stories his editors were putting into the papers. The cheap shots at enemies of the Thatcher government were becoming commonplace, increasingly vitriolic and lacking in any form of balance. Workers were a regular target, especially those daring to take action in support of jobs and working practices. Production workers at the Sun decided that the victims deserved a Right of Reply. They would warn the politicians, union leaders and others the Sun had in its sights about what was to come, and advise them to seek a right of reply themselves. The Sun would not comply with their requests so the next step was to refuse to publish these attacks.

Those sublime possibilities, that set a challenge to the depths being plumbed by the Sun, were lost when we were sacked. The Murdoch press was allowed to get away with more of the same, and worse, for 25 years.

The March 1 1984 edition of the Sun was to have a feature headlined ‘Benn on the Couch’. This was the day that former cabinet minister Tony Benn was contesting a by-election in Chesterfield for the Labour Party. The article consisted of the response from an American psychiatrist to a list of Benn’s supposed personal characteristics concocted by the paper. The shrink duly denounced Benn as being off his rocker. There was no time to warn Benn, so direct action was the only option. The story did not appear. The editor screamed about the loss of freedom of the press, but the result was a serious blow for Murdoch’s freedom to publish his banal prejudices. The front page of Arthur Scargill supporting his striking miners being the most celebrated of several interventions on the Sun. The paper had got hold of a photo of the miners’ leader with his arm raised and added the headline MINE FUHRER. The printers threatened to stop the paper and it came out with a blank space. Those sublime possibilities, that set a challenge to the depths being plumbed by the Sun, were lost when we were sacked. The Murdoch press was allowed to get away with more of the same, and worse, for 25 years. It’s a funny thought, but if there were still strong unions at Wapping perhaps the recent catastrophe might have been avoided and the News of the World still with us.


Press Complaints Commission – much missed by editors THE PRESS Complaints Commission, which has passed away after a long decline, was a decent, harmless body that never offended anyone.

Not for the PCC the abrasive style of over-rigorous regulators who set out to punish or chastise. Under a succession of distinguished chairmen – most of them respected figures in the Tory party – the PCC had to absorb all the rage directed by critics at the press. It did so with characteristic good grace. From its elegant brick-built offices in Fleet Street’s Salisbury Square it dispensed wise and moderate rulings, avoiding conflict with Britain’s prestigious national papers. One editor said: “It made my job

so much easier. If it hadn’t been for the PCC we would have wasted a lot of time dealing with the nutters and malcontents. “It was marvellous the way they got rid of them – the PCC just dragged things on and on until they gave up and went away. “I can speak for all my colleagues when I say how greatly it will be missed.” Over the last few years the PCC weakened and it finally succumbed to the bitter effects of the so-called ‘phonehacking’ scandal. Its passing marks the end of the great tradition of benign regulation of the press. It will not be long before the voices of editors and owners are heard wishing they had it back.

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Baroness Buscombe, a Conservative member of the House of Lords, announced her resignation as chair of the PCC on 29 July 2011. She was previously chief executive of the Advertising Association.

Rupert Murdoch may have lost his favourite executive, Rebekah Brooks, but his real sweetheart is still in Wapping. She’s called Nisa, and unlike the tempestuous former editor of the Sun and News of the World, she doesn’t throw tantrums and she would never ­embarrass him. Her full name is News International Staff Association, a tame house union set up by the company after it got rid of the real unions. The print and production unions were never allowed at Wapping, and Murdoch tore up his agreements with the National Union of Journalists in 1987, a year after the strike. For a time NI was content with a tame Employee Consultative Council, which made no pretence of representing staff. But in 1999 New Labour brought in a law that gave independent unions a right to be ‘recognised’ if they won a ballot of the staff. HR chief Andy Kemp told staff: “If a union made a claim for recognition, they would argue that the ECC is not totally independent … they would probably be right. If you do nothing you would almost certainly end up with a union.” Nisa was openly created to dodge the law – which also says that unions cannot apply for a staff ballot if there is another union already in place – even what is known as a ‘sweetheart’ union run by the bosses. All the 3,000-plus NI staff are automatically members. They pay no subs. Nisa’s ‘general

secretary’ is paid by the company, as are the running costs. There has never been a dispute, though from time to time its reps go through the motions of negotiating with NI. In 2001 the Certification Office for Trade Unions ruled that Nisa was “not an independent trade union”. It said money given by NI was “a gift with strings … it is hard to see how it can be free from management influence”. The refusal of a certification of independence could, in theory, open the way for trade unions – Unite and the NUJ – to apply for the “derecognition” of NISA and a staff ballot to get them into Wapping. But the law makes that virtually impossible. Ten per cent of staff must to sign a request for a vote to get rid of all staff agreements in the company, which would have to be carried. A government agency would have to agree that “a majority of the workers in each unit are likely to support the derecognition”. Then the unions would have to persuade a majority to vote for them, in the face of heavy management pressure and propaganda. The unions would have no right of access to the workforce to put their case. And in the ballot, 40 per cent of all staff – not just those voting – must vote “yes”. There is no possibility of all this happening at News International – not without a change in the law.

Wapping: The Workers Nobody is Rupert Murdoch’s friend today. But when, 25 years ago, his workers and their unions fought back against attitudes and practices that are now condemned on all sides, they were roundly condemned. The victims were blamed and the aggressor praised as a visionary. Never has there been a better time for those workers to tell that story from their point of view. And they are doing just that with their exhibition and booklet “The Workers’ Story”. Ann Field explains. RUPERT MURDOCH did not “save” the newspaper industry. He wrecked it and the jobs and journalism that went with it. That much is clear today.


But in February 1987, when the Wapping dispute ended, the media was crowing about the fate of printworkers and the unions. Now, for the first time since the end of the dispute, its complete story and the lessons to be learned from it are being told from the point of view of the sacked workers and their trade unions in “The Workers Story”, an exhibition and booklet. Unions were condemned at the time for the crime of achieving the best terms and conditions for workers. The aim of Murdoch and his supporters inside and outside successive governments was to remove trade unions, and not just print unions, from the scene altogether. Ever since that decade of terrorizing trade unionists, every employer seeking first to get rid of unions and then to roll back the pay and conditions of their workers has been egged on by governments and the Murdoch press. “The Workers’ Story” tells how the

News International conspired with government and the rogue EETPU union to get rid of an entire workforce with the support of the law and, in the face of rebellion on the streets of Wapping and elsewhere, the police. The aim of Murdoch’s “dash for freedom” was to enable him to pursue world-wide political influence at the highest level, as well as to make money. Using the lucrative Sun and News of the World to fund USA ventures and service debts, Fox News, 20th Century Fox films and subsequently Sky News and Sky Sport, along with the strings of newspaper groups around the globe have provided that power and influence. The exhibit i o n p rov i d e s some answers as to why and how a trade unionorganised workforce was sacrificed to achieve those aims. It tells a story in words and pictures that should be seen by anyone who is interested in understanding the origins of an organisation that could hack into people’s private phone messages and seek to corrupt police and politicians with apparent ­impunity for many years.

Sacked worker Marie Alvarado cuts the ribbon at the formal opening of the exhibition at the Marx Memorial Library, May Day 2011

WHERE TO SEE THE EXHIBITION LIVERPOOL 19–30 September: Unite regional office LONDON 3–14 October: Goldsmiths College; public meeting 4 October MANCHESTER 18 October–18 November:

Peoples History Museum BRIGHTON 28 Nov–1 December: Unite national sector conferences LONDON 5–16 December: Unite regional sector conferences, Green Lanes

LONDON 9–31 January 2012: Bishopsgate Institute ??For more information see

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s’ Story

AA Sun/News of the World library, 1985


AA Strikers demand expulsion of electricians’ union from the TUC outside a meeting of the general council JJA member speaks out at a SOGAT mass meeting in Central Hall Westminster, May 1986 GG Local residents march through Cable Street, August 1986 HH Supporting the boycott campaign, April 1986

AA Preparing to print at Bouverie Street GG Police snatch squad use chokehold on arrested picket, January 1987 ANDREW MOORE/RELEX

AA Sacked Sun/News of the World cleaners, 1986 HH Flying pickets stop a TNT truck leaving a depot April 1986 GG Mounted police charge demonstrators and photographers, May 1986 NEWS LINE


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At a meeting to launch The Workers’ Story at the Marx Memorial Library, just up the road from London’s Fleet Street, Tony Newbery who took part in the strike as a young activist and is now a Unite union official for printworkers joined others in remembering the struggle


This is our story, it’s The Workers’ Story Tribute to the strikers Murdoch knew Wapping was a watershed for our industry. We faced the full force of the state using Thatcher’s anti-union laws that are still in place despite four terms of Labour government. Police brutalised us to give safe passage to Murdoch’s scab distribution outfit TNT. We faced the connivance of Hammond and his scab electricians, trained by News International and driven into Wapping in caged buses, lying on their stomachs. Despite all odds we fought for our union and our industry ... as did the London wholesale workers who stood by the executive decision not to distribute Murdoch’s papers … as did the chapels and workers who supported us financially and physically, so we could survive. We also had the support of local residents in Wapping which had become a police state. We took to picketing. Wapping, Gray’s Inn Road, Bouverie Street, Manchester, Glasgow Kinning Park. Sometimes there were ‘flying’ pickets at TNT depots. We went to Scarborough ... to the EETPU conference cordoned off by Yorkshire police. We went to Labour Party and TUC conferences. Sadly we had to picket our own SOGAT executive. Murdoch’s printing empire was under siege for over a year. We were effective. There was camaraderie … of printers; lady cleaners; proofreaders; comps; Fleet Street branch engineers; London press branch of EETPU; ; clerical workers; and warehouse men. It was second to none. Here we were, ordinary working men and women galvanising solidarity in post offices; bus garages; hospitals; trades councils; constituency Labour Parties; and among firefighters … addressing mass meetings and rallies. We were organised, politicised and, by some, criticised. Our struggle came mighty close to success. We were made offers to end the dispute. And by ballot we turned the offer down. Our message was: “We fight on. We have nowhere else to go.” I witnessed and felt the solidarity 25 years ago. I witnessed it again on 26 March 2011 when 500,000-plus workers marched in defence of our NHS and schools, libraries, public services and communities and, once again, against Tory plans to destroy trade unions. They tried to destroy us, the print workers, gathered again here today. They did not succeed then and they will not now. I’m sure this exhibition will be an inspiration to all in struggle, and for the future generations who will carry the torch. It was courage and determination that saw us through. This is the tribute to the strikers and their families, the pickets and supporters. This is our story. It’s The Workers’ Story.

A rally in London to mark the 25th anniversary of the dispute, hosted by the NUJ and Campaign for Press and Broadcasting Freedom and supported by Unite/GPM

Letter from Organising workers is a Government was Australia permanent job today terrified of him I was proud to be the FoC of the Sun composing chapel during the miners’ strike. The editor, on behalf of Murdoch, ran a vicious campaign against the NUM and Arthur Scargill. Our chapel sought the right of reply on many occasions, only once were we successful. All the other times the newspaper did not go to press because the editor was not prepared make the article more balanced. I do not subscribe to this argument that it was the Right of Reply campaign that made Murdoch decide to do what he did. Nor do those investigative journalists who have written in-depth articles on the subject. I now live in Australia, but will raise a glass to trade unionists who stood firm against all the odds. John Brown FoC, Sun composing chapel

Since the mass de-recognition of newspaper unions the former GPMU has worked closely with the NUJ to reorganise the industry – especially once the right to win union organisation was established in 1999. The two unions were able to win back recognition at many regional and national titles through sheer hard work and organising campaigns as well as using the Central Arbitration Committee process. The seismic change in newspaper production in recent years has been the closure of local plants and the growth of large regional print factories. With the notable exception of News International, these sites are mostly well organised with good and effective chapels. Many of Unite’s members now producing newspapers were not working in the 80s and 90s – but they are aware of the battles at Wolverhampton, Warrington and Wapping. It is a different industry altogether and organising workers into the union is a permanent fixture in the duties of all chapel reps these days. The NI hackgate scandals and the 25th Wapping anniversary exhibition have reignited the debate on the domination of media barons, cross-media ownership, honest reporting and the issue of the employment rights – all issues that Unite and the NUJ are working on together. Tony Burke Assistant General Secretary Unite

Within days of the dispute starting it became obvious that we would not be able to stop the distribution of the newspapers. In spite of the optimistic theory that the lorries were empty, one only had to see the piles of the Sun and The Times in the shops to know that this could not be true. The dispute would only be resolved by negotiation. Therefore, it was important to keep up the pressure; this we did by marches and demonstrations. In November, Murdoch made a ‘final’ offer. This offer had to be accepted within 10 days or there would be nothing, it was very understandable why most people took the offer, up to that point everything Murdoch had said had been true. I don’t criticise or condemn anybody who accepted the offer, after 11 months in dispute many had problems, both personal and financial. In January, to mark the anniversary of the dispute we had the biggest demonstration ever. Yet a month later it was all over. A lot was made of the fact that, unlike the miners, we had a ballot before we came out, the question was put why we did not have a ballot to end the strike – there did not seem to be any answer. In 1986 the government were frightened of Murdoch. In March 2011 they are terrified of him. Ron Garner Striker sacked by News International

The refuseniks’ story – two journalists who refused to work at Wapping œ page 10 Wapping Post  25th anniversary special  8

Never a greater need for strong, effective unions When the dispute began I was deputy MoC at the Mirror group clerical chapel. We had our own problems with another millionaire publisher, Robert Maxwell. We had suffered hundreds of redundancies and attacks on our terms and conditions – so we fully supported our colleagues at News International. We were both fighting employers trying to weaken unions and exploit their workforce. Many Mirror workers regularly attended the demonstrations and mass pickets at Wapping and several experienced the aggressive policing and were arrested. We collected money for the strikers. Our chapel treasurer would often walk down Fleet Street with thousands of pounds in a carrier bag to be donated to the strike fund. The sense of solidarity and camaraderie at the Wapping demonstrations was impressive and motivated several of our members to become more involved in the chapel. The years since Wapping have been difficult for workers in the newspaper industry. Local union

We need to concentrate on rebuilding our unions at local level and supporting workplace reps, rather than relying on the ‘strength’ of a union with a large number of members but few activists


Times change Gloved hands; socked feet; a stinging wind; blue eyes; cheeks; noses. Blue language shared and roared on another raw day outside the Wapping plant.

Why did we engineers strike? We were turned into militants by Murdoch. He put a gun to our heads. We had no choice but to fight. The first march to Wapping was organised by the engineers. Was there a summer in 1986? I remember always being cold! There’s a woman on the deck, the copper has his foot on her scarf, standing over her with his stick raised. I shoulder him off, he runs away. I’m between a brick wall and a horse’s arse. The lads pull me out somehow. Twelve month anniversary and as Maggie’s thugs charge, one peels off to go for my wife. I get to her first and put my arm in the way. He runs away. The tosser! Still none of us buy his papers but Blair and his cronies are “bought and sold for Murdoch’s gold”. Jim Brookshaw Striker sacked by News International

Those insiders are outsiders, bussed and bribed in to input words on a page, ideas into minds, sans serif fonts, sans veritas ni corazon; a shell, a sham, coated and cased in a scab of shame. Outside pounding horses and riot police/ army lunge towards us, black batons raised. Stop them! Those men, women and children who shiver, stand or march, drink tea and gather under banners, faces open to the world, to say: “Those are our jobs.” Weeks pass, months, a year. But still they gather beneath walls of barbed words, wired up to lorry-loads of “get-them-out-at-anycost.” Newspaper cover price now reduced to fear, injuries, heart attacks, grief, dole and deaths. Inside the fortress they try to sleep in peace for 25 years. But Times change: outside the horse of progress gallops on, throws off his rider dressed in blue – we don’t need you either; join the queue. Young hearts and minds share ideas and knowledge in a web that spins wide around the world and march the streets to an ancient beat against cuts in jobs, services and benefits. Marie Alvarado Striker sacked by News International

organisation was weakened and many workers became demoralised. Employers took full advantage – derecognising unions particularly in admin and clerical areas, cutting thousands of jobs and introducing worse terms and conditions. Redundancy programmes are almost an annual event. Because of these job cuts workloads are much heavier, often leaving workers with little appetite or energy to get involved in resisting this onslaught. Pay rises way below inflation are the norm and sometimes wage freezes have been imposed. In the current economic climate there has never been a greater need for strong and effective unions. Collective organisation and action, particularly at local level, was the heart and strength of the print unions, and although (as at Wapping) it doesn’t always get us what we want, without it we are all vulnerable to the actions of greedy employers. We need to concentrate on rebuilding our unions at local level and supporting workplace reps, rather than relying on the “strength” of a union with a large number of members but few activists. Lesli Miller MoC MGN Unite chapel and GPM national sector committee member

Solidarity is the lesson that we must learn Since the dispute trade unionists in the industry have seen their influence in the workplace weakened due to anti-union laws. But, when former Fleet street members and Wapping veterans began to find employment in the trade again, the foundations were laid for the present trade union movement within the industry. Although the biggest unions such as SOGAT and NGA suffered the near-fatal blow of sequestration, the new and young members were, and still are, being educated from what happened during the dispute. The most important lesson learned is that of solidarity and what it can achieve. Many chapels have recently been fighting (in most cases successfully) freezes and reductions in pay and even redundancies. As long as the courage and resolve of the Wapping pickets is remembered, both present-day and future trade unionists will be able to draw strength when fighting for justice, fairness and equality. Dean Whitehead FOC Newsfax


We went from being ordinary working people – I worked in a library – to having to organise ourselves into what was a complete strike organisation. None of us thought it would last a year, but it did. It was an unbelievable display of strength really. We were involved in doing things we’d never done before. Half of our branch were women, 600 of us out on strike. There was a big call for speakers, with many of us ending up speaking at pit

9  Wapping Post  25th anniversary special

He put a gun to our heads

Everything else seemed insignificant

Residents’ backing

The dispute dominated our lives. It haunted us wherever we went and whoever we were with. Everything else seemed insignificant. Rightly or wrongly, the everyday things our friends outside the strike did appeared trivial beside the harsh realities of Saturday nights at Wapping and living on supplementary benefit. They couldn’t comprehend our depth of feeling. But the strike had become, for better or worse, the greater part of us. Even those who sympathised could not be expected to display the same sort of commitment we did. If someone was actually hostile to the cause, it became very difficult to keep a friendship alive. It was no longer enough to have run together in the same school playground; to have grown up in the same street; to have shared good times and bad, because we felt it too deeply to be able to accept their dissension and go on as if nothing had changed. Graham Dodkins Striker sacked by News International

In February 1986 the National Council for Civil Liberties following complaints from local residents, investigated policing at Wapping. Its report No Way in Wapping showed freedom of movement in the area had been severely curtailed and that residents in cars and on foot were often stopped at roadblocks and asked to give their name, proof of identity, where they were going and why. Some were arrested when they refused. Residents also complained of distribution lorries ignoring speed limits. Bus services to the area were terminated at Aldgate on Wednesday and Saturday evenings. Many residents became firm supporters of the strike. They held regular demonstrations to protest about restrictions on their movements and many were arrested.

villages and across the country. We ran the operations room – taking the calls, that was the clerical people. We were involved in absolutely everything. For those of us who were branch officials, we were involved in what were basically strike committees, regular Tuesday meetings, attended by 50 to 70 people. Sometimes it was like having teeth pulled. John Lang Deputy FoC, Sogat Times Newspapers clerical branch

A long way from Wapping – but MacKenzie is still keen to upset someone

The refuseniks’ story – journalists who refused to work at Wapping I know journalists who have always regretted taking the Murdoch shilling Well there’s a surprise! Rupert Murdoch enlists the help of a cynical British government, a gutless judiciary and a servile police force to defeat print unions at Wapping and thinks he can walk on water. The dispute clearly gave him – and his underlings – the impression that they were above the law. And of course they were. Just as in the miners’ strike, all the powers of the state were at the disposal of the employer. No wonder the News of the World thought it could continue to break the law with impunity. And as to the Metropolitan Police applying the law without fear or favour – the recent revelations about alleged bribery and mutual back-scratching speak for themselves. Allow me – and other so-called refuseniks – to derive a degree of satisfaction from what we all hope will be Murdoch’s comeuppance. The motives of journalists who refused to cross printworkers’ picket lines 25 years ago were many and varied. They ranged from loyalty to the National Union of Journalists and trade unionism generally, sympathy for sacked printworkers, to distaste for an organisation which wielded far too much media power – power which grew immeasurably after the Wapping dispute. Some refuseniks declared that they simply weren’t going to be pushed round by a bully offering a £2,000 bribe to cross picket lines. In my case the motives were probably a mixture of all four. And I have never regretted my decision – although at the time I had three young sons, a foster daughter and a recently acquired mega-mortgage. It was not an easy time. I needn’t have worried. My colleagues on The Times labour staff Donald Macintyre, David Felton and I were able to secure sufficient freelance work to keep our heads above water. The NUJ helped out with dispute pay which covered the mortgage. Most refuseniks found there was life after Wapping. We were far luckier than colleagues in the print unions. Some marriages collapsed under the strain of the dispute, some of the sacked printworkers suffered nervous breakdowns, many lost their homes. I know of no refusenik who thinks he or she made the wrong decision. However I know journalists who went into Wapping who have always regretted taking the Murdoch shilling. That feeling has been immeasurably reinforced by the revelations about the ugly, all-powerful monster that grew out of the dispute. Without the restraining hand of unions, News International was able to recruit and promote journalists who were eager to break the law on behalf of Rupert Murdoch. Management was able to suborn some of the more reluctant editorial staff and secure the acquiescence and silence of others. Let’s hope that, at last, justice will be done. Barrie Clement Labour Reporter on The Times who became Labour Editor and Transport Editor at The Independent. He now works as a freelance

A brutal ultimatum I joined The Times in 1966, and was then the only woman reporter covering home news. When the Wapping dispute began 20 years later, I was a specialist correspondent covering race relations and disarmament. I was also part of the NUJ chapel negotiating team. We were repeatedly told that it had nothing to do with us journalists, that they were planning a new evening paper, that the NUJ would be fully recognised at Wapping. The journalists were offered a brutal ultimatum – go to Wapping or be sacked. Fear led most Times journalists to agree to go. Ten of us refused. I no longer read the paper, but I am told it is not what it was. Although I never got back to being a specialist correspondent on a national newspaper, I carved out a decent career as a freelance journalist. I am quite sure that I made the right decision in 1986 and have never regretted it. Pat Healy Former Times journalist


Of course I knew about Coulson’s resignation before offering him the job. But I believe in giving people a second chance. David Cameron

MacKenzie blasts ‘fat mums with ugly babies’ who get in his way By Ian Blunt A FORMER editor of The Sun, has launched an amazing attack on the mothers of Surrey.

Kelvin MacKenzie, 64, moans that they block up a road near his luxury pad in Weybridge when they do the school run. He said: “Those fat mothers, who think legs and shoes are things you put on in the

morning, and their very fat and ugly children, who are being dropped off down an amazingly narrow lane. It’s literally a nightmare, twice a day. “How dim are these mothers? Why don’t they drop their kids at the end of the road? Do they think little Janey is going to collapse and die if she walks 365 yards?” MacKenzie was talking to

Tracy Hill of Surrey Life magazine. The article, in the magazine’s May 2011 edition, continued: “And he adds, ‘Go on put that in. That’ll get them going.’ And there is a twinkle in his eye and he is enjoying being vile. I warn him they might start an e-mail hate campaign against him on Mumsnet. He laughs, ‘I’d enjoy that!’”

As unions went out the door, ethical reporting followed them

TWO FORMER tabloid editors who know a lot about phone hacking both started their national newspaper careers on the Bizarre column at The Sun.

Andy Coulson, former News Of the World editor, and former Daily Mirror editor Piers Morgan – neither of whom, it goes without saying, possibly knew even one iota of anything about any phone hacking ever by any members of their staffs ever – were recruited in the eighties by Sun editor Kelvin MacKenzie. The Bizarre page began in 1982, four years before the Wapping dispute. Its first editor was John Blake, now familiar to Private Eye readers as a publisher of popular music books. The Bizarre reporters sat at a square of desks in a corner the features department on the fourth floor of The Sun’s Bouverie Street building. This was to be MacKenzie’s pride and joy: a specialist unit dedicated to landing celebrity gossip. MacKenzie, now 64, deserves all the credit due to one who pioneered the creation of modern celebrity journalism. Bizarre also served as a testing ground for another dream close to MacKenzie’s heart – the de-unionising of the paper. He kept a close eye on the column’s content and also how it recruited its staff. He liked them to work on

short-term, three or six-month contracts. At the time The Sun was a National Union of Journalist (NUJ) closed shop. The staff contract stated that journalists had to be members of the NUJ. And the use of casual journalists on short-term contracts was, in theory, strictly controlled and limited to specific holiday-relief contracts. After the move to Wapping de-unionisation became a relatively simple matter, and with it came widespread casualisation.

An editor who suggests, in some way or another, paying a policeman for information is suggesting an illegal act: bribing a police officer The advantage for an editor in having a largely casual staff is simple: casuals do what they are told or they don’t get hired again. They have little practical defence from any union; they tend to work too many hours for too little pay in the hope of landing a staff job. They are also under pressure to comply with any illegal activities an editor may condone at his or her paper. They are not generally whistleblowers, even after moving on from the paper that employed

them. Editors, as a breed, do not tend to hire journalists who have blown the whistle on an editor. This removal of a means of resistance to unethical practice can have a disastrous effect in the relationship between reporters and the police. Co-operation between journalists and law-enforcement agencies has existed for as long as newspapers have existed. This is hardly surprising: both groups seek to gather information. Any decent local paper with a reasonably sized staff (do such things exist any more?) has reporters who are regularly in touch with local police stations. Police regularly give reporters information about crimes that have been committed locally. Newspapers print the stories and police might hope that helps their investigations. Newspapers may also not print stories if the police think that might hinder their work. This mutual aid exists both at local and national level. Money, of course destroys the cosiness of this relationship. An editor who suggests, in some way or another, paying a policeman for information is suggesting an illegal act: bribing a police officer. But an autocratic editor with a compliant staff will find little resistance to this in their own office.

Wapping Post  25th anniversary special  10


At NI hacking and huge payouts go hand in hand IN NEWS International, as everywhere else, there is one law for the rich and another for the rest of us. Nowhere is this more clear than in the huge handouts to people linked to the phonehacking investigations.

Private eye Glenn Mulcaire, who was jailed in 2007, along with News Of The World royal reporter Clive Goodman, for intercepting royal voicemails, was paid £105,000 a year. He received £80,000 plus £5,000 for legal fees as a severance payment, despite editorial bosses saying they knew nothing about phone hacking. News International has paid £246,000 in legal fees to fund Mulcaire’s representation in court cases about celebrities’ voicemails. James Murdoch told MPs in July that he was “surprised to learn” that News International was paying his fees. The company said on July 20 that it would end the two-year arrangement. Mulcaire has filed a High Court complaint against this, claiming the company has a contractual arrangement to pay his legal bills. Murdoch also told MPs that Clive Goodman, the “single rogue reporter” who was sacked, received payments worth £243,502 in relation to a claim of unfair dismissal, including £13,000 in legal fees. Andy Coulson, who resigned as editor

The Murdoch press is no longer top dog in UK national newspapers. The closure of the News of the World has cut its share of the market from 35 to 29 per cent, allowing Associated Newspapers, publisher of the Daily Mail, to take the top spot with 30 per cent. of the News Of The World in January 2007, was given a severance pay-off of “several hundred thousands” according to BBC Business Editor Robert Peston. In July 2007 Coulson went to work for the Conservative Party on a reported salary of £275,000. His severance package, paid in instalments, amounted to his full two-year News Of The World contract. He kept his company car, and three years of private health care. Rebekah Brooks, who resigned as chief executive of News International in July 2011, is, according to a Daily Telegraph gossip column, still on the Murdoch payroll and will hang on to her chauffeur-driven company car for two years. She has resigned from 23 directorships of Murdoch-related companies. Redundant News Of The World staff are being treated less generously. One employee told MP Tom Watson: “The

company is playing fast and loose with employment law to avoid paying fair severance to many, many innocent people. People like me who had no knowledge of hacking but who can wave goodbye to their careers because of it”. NewsCorp, the papers’ ultimate owners claim the “vast majority” of redundant workers will be found jobs elsewhere in the business. According to the Daily Mail, senior colleagues of Rebekah Brooks reckon that, if she is paid off, she would get about £3.5million. Colin Myler, 59, last editor of the paper, is said to be in line for £2million. Two of the company’s senior lawyers – Jon Chapman and Tom Crone – will each get about £1.5million, according to the Independent. Les Hinton, 67, who resigned as chief executive of Dow Jones, is expected to receive a hefty sum. He was a former boss of News International Reported payments made to celebrities in damages and/or legal fees include: £700,000 to former head of the Professional Footballers’ Association Gordon Taylor, £700,000 to publicist Max ­Clifford, £100,000 to actress Sienna Miller and £20,000 to football commentator Andy Gray.



The circumstances of pay-offs made to Messrs Goodman and Mulcaire, as well as the civil settlements with Gordon Taylor and others, also invite the conclusion that silence was effectively bought. Commons culture committee, Report on Press Standards, February 24, 2010

Rupert Murdoch’s pay rose 47% to £20.5m in the past year. As executive chairman of News Corporation, his income was boosted by a £7.7m bonus for the year ending June 30, 2011. He had received no bonus the previous year. News Corp reported an 8% rise in profits to £1.7bn in the year to June 30. It said that Rupert Murdoch deserved his bonus because he had led the company through the economic downturn and positioned it for growth. Rupert’s son James, the company’s deputy chief operating

officer, saw his income from the organisation rise 74% to £11.1 m. He was offered a bonus of £3.7m, but declined it because of the “controversy” over phone hacking. Elisabeth Murdoch, Rupert’s daughter, receives a salary of £1 million a year. She received £131 million after Shine, the TV production company she runs, was bought by News Corporation early in 2011. Lachlan Murdoch, who is acting chief executive of Australian TV company Ten Network, got a mere £310,800.

Those investigations in full Your Post guide to who’s looking into what

OPERATION MOTORMAN was a 2003 investigation by the Information Commissioner’s Office. It discovered that information from the police national computer was being sold to a private investigator. The Metropolitan Police were informed.

Operation GLADE was set up by the Met in 2003 to look at the Motorman findings. In February 2004, two private eyes, a civilian police employee and a retired police officer admitted

11  Wapping Post  25th anniversary special

conspiring to commit misconduct in public office. The investigation led to the arrest of a senior News of the World journalist, who was not the “single rogue reporter” Clive Goodman. The journalist was later released without charge. It also led to the police, with a warrant, tapping the phone of Rebekah Brooks. Operation WEETING was set up in January 2011 to look into phone hacking at the News Of The World. It is headed by Deputy Assistant Commissioner Sue Akers and has 60 officers assigned to it. It has so far made 13 arrests. It follows an investigation in 2009 by Assistant Commissioner John Yates into a Guardian story that

phone-hacking was widespread at the News Of The World. Yates’ investigation lasted eight hours, and found no reason to take further action. Yates and Commissioner Paul Stephenson later resigned. Operation RUBICON is an investigation by the Scottish police into phone hacking, breach of data protection and perjury. It follows the jailing of former Scottish MP Tommy Sheridan for perjury after a defamation case against the News Of The World. Operation TULETA is described as a scoping exercise prior to a possible full investigation to investigate possible computer hacking at the News of the World. The exercise began in July 2011.


Despite all the evidence to the contrary, many commentators continue to portray trade unionists, and especially those who work in the media, as thoughtless machine-breakers driven by ignorance, greed and fear of new technology. One more convincing argument against this prejudice is Despite the Sun, an hour-long video made in 1986 that documents the Wapping dispute. It is citizen journalism decades before the name was invented and it uses what was then new technology to outstanding effect. It shows “ordinary” trade unionists seeing exactly what the dispute was about and the debilitating effect it would have on journalism – right down to the over-mighty editors of today. As one SOGAT clerical worker says, they were the “focus of a greater conflict”. Today’s photo and video journalists will see an early use by the police of their “You can’t film here” line. The video is not an idealised version of the dispute. There are pointed remarks about the sudden support for “our lady cleaners” from some quarters and the images of police violence are still shocking. Well worth a watch. You can get a DVD version from Spectacle Videos at No. 25, 99-109 Lavender Hill, London SW11 5QL. ?? See a trailer on YouTube at

MOVING AND ANGRY Bad News: The Wapping Dispute. John Lang and Graham Dodkins. www., £15 AFTER 25 years hindsight might not be what it was, but the authors of this remarkable account of Rupert Murdoch’s ruthless sacking of 5,500 of his workers in 1986 had the prescience to record the thoughts and feelings of strikers during the Wapping dispute. The recordings are of sacked clerical staff, the less well-paid of Fleet Street’s workers who suffered but also contributed more than most in the strike. The events of the strike are recorded more succinctly and with less prejudice than any of the previously published accounts of this, the last set-piece industrial dispute in Britain. Beyond recording the harsh realities of picketing at Wapping, John Lang and Graham Dodkins have

included the setbacks, the letdowns and the disagreements suffered during the long 13 months of the dispute. It is far from one-sided: the union leaderships are not spared in the descriptions of the weaknesses and lack of foresight of those who might have known better how to deal with Murdoch and his outrageous deception. But it is the moving and often angry recorded excerpts that give this book its edge. The recordings, stored away for 24 years until last year, bring back into focus the forces of the state ranged against the strikers to prevent any possibility of their succeeding. If you were at Wapping, Bad News will bring back vivid memories, some intensely moving; if you weren’t it will help to explain why many strikers are still in their own personal disputes with Rupert Murdoch. John Bailey



Hillsborough campaign is gaining strength WHILE POLITICIANS have prostrated themselves before the power of the Murdochs, Scousers are defying the scourge of the Sun.

The boycott of the paper that followed the paper’s shocking coverage of the Hillsborough disaster of April 1989 is still going strong – and gaining strength. An online petition calling on the government to release secret documents about the slaughter has gathered more than 100,000 online signatures. It had the backing of the campaign groups, We Don’t Buy The Sun and the Hillsborough Justice Campaign.

POLICE REFUSED Ninety six Liverpool fans died in the crush at the Sheffield stadium after police refused to open the gates and let the crowd onto the pitch. The Sun accused some of the survivors of drunkenness, stealing, and urinating on the corpses. There was outrage on Merseyside after the Sun front page, headed ‘The truth’, that carried the allegations. Newsagents stopped selling the paper and people burned copies in the street. Editor Kelvin MacKenzie became a hate figure. Twenty two years later Merseysiders are still furious at the outrage. One mum who lost her 18-yearold son, James, has written: “He did nothing wrong that day, but like all other Liverpool supporters he got accused of being drunk and so much else. We’ve got to clear their names. “I want someone to show that what The Sun did a couple of days later was a disgrace. They said they had The Truth but they never, they just had lies. That’s why we must have the real truth.” Liverpool FC manager Kenny Dalglish wrote in his autobiography that MacKenzie had phoned him


begging for help to get out of the mess he was in. “How can we correct the situation?”, he asked. Dalglish replied: “You know that big headline – The Truth? All you have to do is put We Lied in the same size. Then you might be all right.” MacKenzie said: “I can’t do that.” “Well,” said Dalglish, “I can’t help you then.” And he put the phone down. Now Dalglish is in a second spell managing the club. It was when he gave his support to the petition that the numbers rocketed. Former Liverpool and England goal poacher Michael Owen and soccer bad boy Joey Barton also joined in. The petition got one of the highest responses ever on the government’s own website. Now MPs will have to put time aside to debate the issue. The government’s information supremo, Christopher Graham, says it’s time the papers were made public. They include letters written by the then prime minister Margaret Thatcher. But Number Ten blocked the move, saying the decision should be taken by the independent panel set up to investigate the tragedy. It’s thought the panel is likely to agree the disclosure soon.

PHOTO CAMPAIGN Meanwhile the Merseyside campaigns are stepping up the pressure on the Sun. They are asking people to send pictures of themselves with a ‘Don’t Buy the Sun’ poster. Fans should take the photos outside any famous football ground or landmark. The campaign will then post the pictures on their website. ?? we-dont-buy-the-sun/

Published by Unite/GPM Sector, National Union of Journalists, Campaign for Press and Broadcasting Freedom and Marx Memorial Library. Contact: Printed by

Above: a photo campaign supporter in Ålesund, Norway,

Below: supporters went to Spain with a message for top British cyclist Bradley Wiggins, a member of the News Corp backed Sky cycling team. James Murdoch, a keen cyclist, takes a personal interest in the team

Wapping Post  
Wapping Post  

Special 25th anniversary issue of the Wapping Post. Newspaper of the strikers against destruction of trade union and workers' rights by Rupe...