At about 1pm today I entered a newsagent on Golborne Road. All the newspapers were laid out on the shelf in front of me. But no News of the World.
Optimistically, I hoped that the friendly and conversational newsagent had refused to stock the paper. But that was not to be. “All gone,” he announced. “I had people in this morning who had never bought the News of the World in their life, but bought it today.”
With Twitter and Facebook at my disposal, I wasn’t too surprised. Friends and contacts – many supposedly on the left – had ventured out this morning to grab the last issue of a newspaper which closes today after 168 years of publication.
You might say what’s the big deal? Why wouldn’t you want a souvenir of such an event?
Moreover, if you’re on the left, you might want to look back at your own side’s success in throttling Rupert Murdoch.
But as I argued on Thursday, the End of the World, as it has become known, is not a success. No. It is a distraction from holding those responsible – Brooks and the Murdochs, at the top – to account. They want us to think this is the end of the story. But this is still a long way off.
You could even say it’s a success for News International, who can reduce his operating costs with a slimmer, seven-day operation. Less staff, and the ones they like without the union disputes and illegality of respective redundancies and arbitrary sackings – as World staff will be invited to apply for other News International (ie. Sunday Sun) vacancies. Apply being the key word here. A labour-saving move in the same vein as Murdoch planned years ago with the move to Wapping.
So forgive me for my audacity, but I don’t want a souvenir of Murdoch’s ploy.
Even if the ploy is a historic moment, to coin a phrase which has probably been used before, buying is subscribing.
I don’t want to give News International the feeling that we’ve bought the End of the World as the end of hackgate. This is his game. We’re supposed to feel like we’ve achieved something now, and let it fade out.
By refusing to play along, we could have shown that we realise this is not the end.
Besides, wasn’t there talk of boycotting the News of the World on a Liverpool-and-the-Sun level? It’s pretty feeble that given that there’s only one issue left to boycott that this was more popular than ever before. Sentimentality among print-journalism enthusiasts can obviously overcome our moral – and journalistic – responsibility.
The End of the World is not a sentimental moment. Their vile and despicable actions stand. The most mournful aspect of the closure is of course that the journalists are taking the consequences of the actions of those at the top. Buying the last ever paper – the front page of which conveniently forgets to mention the phonehacking disgraces (naturally, I haven’t looked at the rest) – isn’t going to do them any favours.
Nor is it something we should hold up as an achievement.
But too late now. It’s 22:40, and the News of the World has sold out in almost every newsagent. Oh how ironic. It would be a different matter if they had all been stolen – not that I’d want to encourage stealing, of course.
But what we can do is attempt to persuade people off the Sun, which continues to lurk like a cockroach which has survived a nuclear catastrophe. If you buy the Sun, shame on you until Murdoch has got his sleazy hands off it.
I’ll leave you with Billy Bragg’s latest number, a welcome update of his 1985 song It Says Here.