There aren't many times in life when you feel as though there is a seismic shift going on, and, indeed many of them have led to grotesque disappointments (May 1st 1997 springs to mind as a prime example). Given my grumpy, cautious disposition the current situation is full of future pitfalls but I am somewhat more optimistic than I would have been a few months ago.
A fortnight past, taking money on the demise of the "News of the Screws", the arrest of the former head honcho of News International in the UK and the rare sight of Rupert Murdoch eating humble pie (or, preferably, something worse) would not have been a punt that many would have signed up for. The resignation of the Metropolitan Police Commissioner and the clear indication that there is a considerable pile of further revelations about corrupt police, journalists and politicians to emerge would have been as implausible as anything dreamed up on strong hallucinogenic drugs.
The collapse of the thirty-year hegemony that the mass media has exercised is not inevitable, and it should not be taken for granted. Pushing at an open door is not the same as dynamiting the foundations of a slum landlord's pride and joy which is the task that is needed. There is at least some head of steam for righteous indignation at the way in which the press and party machines take the electorate as cretinous dupes, to be spoon-fed soundbites and mind-numbing celebrity pap, while at the same time preying on the vulnerable, the victims and those who are normally assumed to be incapable of answering back.
We need political leadership, and for once I think Mister Ed might have judged it right. What is needed now is for the Liberals, who have never been done any favours by Murdoch and his equally-squalid cronies at Associated Newspapers, to be prepared to stick their heads above the parapet. There's plenty of ammunition about fit and proper individuals in the media.
Where the biggest surprise may lurk is in the extent to which the corruption will undermine the Tories. William Hague bumbled his way yesterday to defend his boss on the basis that supping with the devil does not diminish his integrity - to which the only sane response should be a manic cackle and a shout of "shut up you hypocritical Tory tosser" - while it becomes clear that the main protagonists in News International were confidantes, social companions and controllers of the Boy Dave and his merry crew, even when there was genuine suspicion of their malfeasance. They can't claim ignorance - even those who wouldn't be suspected of wishing the Tories well warned them - and deafness is implausible given the extent to which they bent forwards to accommodate Uncle Rupert's demands.
The body language is fascinating, but the Tories and the police are looking to be wounded. Douglas Hurd described Ted Heath's response to the miners in 1972 along the lines of roaming the battlefield looking for someone to surrender to. This may well become the default mode going forward as the scandal develops, and I for one will enjoy this. The acolytes and flunkeys are protecting their own backsides at the moment, for good reasons. The Tories can't expect an easy ride - any more resignations in the top echelons of the police, and potential criminal charges do not play well with their own constituency.
The rottenness of the body politic, started by Thatcher and Major, near-perfected by Blair and embraced with necrophiliac glee by the new Tories, is now becoming apparent to more than a few grumpy old lefties. Schadenfreude is for private pleasure, but the real task is to push sovereignty back to the people and away from the unelected, corrupt plutocrats. We may just be at a turning point.