Rupert Murdoch and his son James appeared before the House of Commons select committee to answer the allegations of phone hacking. Continually they claimed they knew nothing about what had been taking place at the News of the World. Murdoch said that he had been let down by people he had trusted.
This from a man who was born into the newspaper industry. Hhis father Keith Murdoch ran Australian newspapers and he was interduced to the best of popular newspapers when he went as in intern to the Daily Express tutored by Ted Pickering on Fleet Street tactics.
He worsted Robert Maxwell in 1969 in his bid for the News of the World because he convinced British opinion, including myself and my colleagues at The Times that he understood newspapers.
Then he was an unknown factor in Fleet Street. But he appealed to many because he was critical of the British establishment. He was bidding nfor the News of the World, whose editor had delivered a disgraceful attack on Maxwell with an editorial which described the News of the world as ‘British as roast beef’.
In fact the News of the World owes its popularity to appealing to the public appetite for the juicy court reports of those cases which detailed sexual misdemeanors and the like. Rupert Murdoch carried on that tradition.
His second acquisition was quite different. The Sun was a rebadging of the Daily Herald, a celebrated Labour supporting paper. It was an attempt by Hugh Cudlipp, the Mirror newspaper boss to provide a popular newspaper similar to the News Chronicle.
Murdoch transformed it into a down market tabloid, boosted by Page Three unclothed babes and good sports coverage. Combined with trenchant political coverage at election times.
Thus the famous front page when Neil Kninnock was fighting an election as leader of the Labour Party – ‘Will the last person leaving Britain turn off the lights.’
Subsequently Murdoch supported New Labour under Tony Blair. Since those days Murdoch has enjoyed access to whoever occupied Downing Street.
Under cross examination today Murdoch was asked by his visits to David Cameron via the Downing Street back door. He declared that he had many such visits when Gordon Brown was Prime Minister.
But both he, and his son, James, claimed they knew nothing of the phone hacking by the News of the World. They said that they had turned over to the police evidence when they found it.
Their stance was that it was the job of the police to conduct enquiries.
Meanwhile the police were being interviewed by another House of Commons select committee. John Yates, the assistant commissoner whose job it was to look again at the hacking allegations, was blaming Rupert Murdoch’s men for not coming clean with what they knew.
Yates revealed that he had asked David Cameron’s chief of staff whether he should talk to the Prime Minister about these matters. The reply from the Downing Street offical was that he should not raise the matter.
So David Cameron became one of those who knew nothing.
The performance in the House of Commons has been totally transparent. The popular press will no doubt focus on the shaving foam comedian, demolished, not by the police, but by Murdoch’s third wife Wendy, who felled him with a right hook.
Perhaps she should be made chief executive of the Murdoch empire. Rupert is clearly long past retirement. James Murdoch was squirming claiming he knew nothing.
Neither is capable of managing such a large company, where control is held by the Murdoch’s though a devious arrangement whereby some shares have votes and others don’t.
A practice which should be outlawed.
Today’s performances demonstrate that the Murdoch era is over. And that the Met Police has much to answer for.
So the sooner we get a new head of the Met the better.