Published on 1 May 2012

MPs slam Murdoch execs – but Tories refuse to condemn Murdoch

Damning report from the media select committee on the Murdoch empire, but four Tory MPs didn’t sign up to the criticism of Rupert Murdoch – a Lib Dem and the five ¬†Labour members did.

That diminishes the power of the report somewhat, and some will feel Tom Watson and others over-reached themselves and diminished the power of what was – without the criticisms of the Murdochs – a pretty painful document for News Corp.

Tom Watson said he and colleagues pushed that point because they’d been “negligent” in the past and needed to “raise the bar.” There was cross-party agreement that –

Rupert and James Murdoch‘s claims that they didn’t know hacking went beyond one rogue reporter until December 2010 are “simply astonishing”. I asked if that was a lawyer’s euphemism for “incredible”, something the committee discussed when drafting, but am told it wasn’t.

– Hush money “to buy silence” was repeatedly paid by News International to hacking victims and to hacking staff in the form of settlements and inflated pay-offs

– News International executives were involved in a “cover-up” and repeatedly “misled” the committee, specifically Tom Crone, Colin Myler and Les Hinton.

– The committee does not make serious allegations about Andy Coulson or Rebekah Brooks (on legal advice), and it reserves its right to return to this whole saga again when more details, post police and Leveson inquiries, are available.

What happens to individuals who are found guilty of misleading parliament, the highest court in the land? Parliament itself decides in a vote if it there’s been contempt. ¬†It’s not clear if individuals are then hauled to the cells.

Much as this select committee broke new ground (or revived ancient tradition) sending a Commons official off to News International’s Wapping HQ when it wanted to summons the Murdochs for an evidence session, it is yet again going into what John Whittingdale called “uncharted waters.”

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4 reader comments

  1. Philip says:

    The Pusillanimous Four as we shall know them in future.

  2. P k hughes says:

    Another example of the Tories defending the interests of the rich and powerful.

  3. Saltaire Sam says:

    I find the conservative position somewhat strange – but then I would, wouldn’t I?

    It seems as if for all their condemnation of the years of politicians of all parties being in thrall to the Murcdochs, they can’t quite bring themselves to cut the umbilical cord. Or maybe they fear that if RM becomes fair game, more will come out about the relationship with Cameron. But surely, Cameron can’t have been worse than Blair? Or perhaps they still think the Sun will be able to rescue them at the next election.

    The alternative is that they believe that nothing a businessman does is so heinous that it can’t be overlooked if that business is successful – the ultimate bowing to the market being right.

    Or, given their general level of incompetence they don’t get it. Perhaps they have spent so long doing the lambada on Jeremy Hunt’s sprung floor, they are giddy and can’t see the reality of what is clearly a disfuncional organisation.

  4. Mudplugger says:

    It seems like the Tory members were bounced into their ‘minority position’ only by Watson grand-standing again.

    I suspect, if he had been smart enough to re-word it as “the Committee recommends that OFCOM consider whether Murdoch is a fit and proper person” etc., the Tory members would have signed up to that. It would have put the issue where it belongs, but would have had a unanimous condemnatory effect, rather than the diluted one he achieved by his bone-headed insistence.

    The fact that the ‘Tory Four’ went along with some very serious criticism (within the scope of the Committee’s remit) does actually exonerate them from the charge of partisanship. It is only partisans from the other direction who choose not to see this.

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