It is a marvel of hypocrisy for the Sunday Times to attempt to worry its readers about a ‘fifth column’ in the British establishment that is supposedly led by Sir David Bell, an adviser to the Leveson Inquiry.

If the Sunday Times was really interested in those exercising secret influences over important institutions, it would surely be writing about a foreign-owned company that has long enjoyed direct and unrecorded access to successive prime ministers and is also alleged (by the police themselves) to have corrupted police officers.

One former senior employee of this company sits in the Cabinet and and another was – before being forced to resign and charged with serious crimes – David Cameron’s chief media adviser. And then there is the company’s former chief executive (also now awaiting trial), who enjoyed private dinners and horse-riding with Mr Cameron, who exchanged intimate texts and emails with him, and who before that was also, remarkably, on intimate terms with Gordon Brown and Tony Blair.

Even more remarkably, this same company engaged in the systematic hacking of the mobile phones of cabinet ministers, senior police officers, royalty, MPs, people in witness protection and the families of crime victims and members of the armed forces.

For years this very large and wealthy company used all its influence and its propaganda power to cover up what it had been doing, and it received support in doing this from a group of companies which pose in public as its rivals. And when that company found itself under scrutiny from a public inquiry set up by parliament, what did it do? It used its propaganda power to try to undermine the inquiry.

Sounds pretty bad, no? Of course the Sunday Times isn’t reporting this real fifth column in British society, for which there is abundant hard evidence, because the Sunday Times is part of it. Rupert Murdoch’s News International, up to its neck in disgraceful activities, is the principal reason why the Leveson inquiry was necessary, but the Sunday Times doesn’t want to tell you about it.

Instead, the paper lazily warms over a daft half-baked conspiracy theory aired on Friday by the Daily Mail – a theory so desperately short of facts (unlike the News International scandal) that you might think real journalists would be embarrassed by it. And you might also think that a Sunday Times reporter, supplied with real facts undermining the theory, might see fit to publish them, but no.

The basis for the conspiracy theory is that there is a secret network of connections between like-minded people who act as the infamous ‘fifth column’. I’m supposed to be part of it, but as I explained to the Sunday Times’s Jon Ungoed-Thomas on Friday, I have never met a lot of the people involved.

As for Sir David Bell, portrayed as the Voldemort of the conspiracy, I believe I have met him on three occasions, one of them a chance encounter in the street, and in total I doubt if we have spoken for more than ten minutes. (I have wasted ten times as long talking to the Sunday Times.) I don’t have Sir David’s phone number or his email address, though several callers since the Mail article assumed I must.

Not, I should stress, that I have any interest in distancing myself from a very distinguished former journalist conspicuous for the good he does for society. If I could claim him as a friend I would be proud to do so.

The Mail ‘investigation’ is amply dealt with here and here.

Brian Cathcart is director of Hacked Off. He tweets at @BrianCathcart.
Photo from FLickr.

This posted originally appeared on the Hacked Off website and is reproduced with permission and thanks.