Opinion: A good/bad day for Parliament

Some initial reflections on the Culture select committee hearing today:

Is this the most humble day of Rupert Murdoch’s life, as he claimed? I very much doubt it. I suspect the most humble day of his life will come when he is finally removed from his News Corp’s Chairman’s office, no doubt kicking and screaming, with his finger nails screeching along the expensive wallpaper.

One of most significant moments, for me, came when Rupert Murdoch was asked if he felt personally responsible for what went on at his company and he answered “No”.

That seemed very strange, for me. The normal answer is that a chief executive is responsible. He or she may not know everything that goes on in their company, but they are responsible for setting the standards. If those standards slip, they cannot refuse to accept responsibility altogether.

When he says he is not responsible for what went wrong, then how can he be responsible for what goes right in his company? Therefore, how can he expect to be paid a great deal of money for being in charge of News Corp?

And this is consonant with a lot of Rupert Murdoch’s answers. Either bemused silence or “I don’t know”. Is that not the crux of the whole sorry saga? The News of the World was out of control. The point of having a chief executive is that they should be in control of their company.

I also note that Rupert Murdoch said he had not considered resigning because he is the best person to sort out the mess, he said. Well, chum, that is precisely what Rebekah Brooks said 11 days ago. And now look where she is.

Overall, this is a very good day for Parliament. The Culture Select Committee behaved sensibly and maturely. They asked incisive questions. But that is not the end of the matter. Perhaps it is just the beginning. People could see the mighty Media Titan being brought to book by Parliament. That was good.

However, the half-baked custard pie attempt was not a good moment for Parliament. That will, no doubt, be the most repeated image from the day. That’s not good.

But boy, Wendi Deng has a very decent right hook. Was she trained by John Prescott? Perhaps not.

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16 Comments

  • Keith Browning 19th Jul '11 - 9:07pm

    The questioning was so very naive at the beginning of the Murdoch session.

    If you want information you funnel from the general to the specific. You ask about their roles in the company, the chain of command and how their ‘alert’ systems operate.

    Then your questioning gets more specific and relates back to the earlier ‘agreed’ information. The select committees got there at the end, after nearly 3 hours, but by then the fish had mostly evaded the hook.

    Where were the questions about their overall policy about NI staff interaction with politicians and the police. Was it company policy to target these two groups? etc etc.

    I felt like throwing things at the TV because so many questions could be batted away, so easily as they were not well thought out.

    By funnelling you would have built up the pressure and forced out more of the information we all want to know.

    It was a big opportunity missed and there will never be a second chance.

  • John Roffey 19th Jul '11 - 9:52pm

    @Keith Browning: You are right, but it assumes the majority of Select Committee members want to bring Rupert down.

    I thought Louise Mensch’s, and others, questioning was aimed at helping the Murdochs to wriggle free. NI’s share price rose throughout the day.

    I suspect Cameron will be able to survive tomorrow without to much difficulty – and then Parliament’s in recess. Not too much will come from the judicial enquiry until the police complete their investigations – the long grass beckons!

    Just depends on what happens in the US.

  • Terry Gilbert 19th Jul '11 - 9:54pm

    The most remarkable admission was that they are paying Mulcaire’s legal bills. Are we seriously expected to believe that they did this out of compassion for a man who had committed criminal offences which brought disrepute to one of their companies? Of course, not and Murdoch Jnr’s squirming as this was wheedled out of him suggested he knew it was bad. I expect a ‘clarifying statement’ later! (As soon as we learnt he was a really bad criminal, we cut him off without a penny!)

    It seems more likely to me that both of them knew damn well what was going on at least 5 or 6 years ago, and that Mulcaire, and others, are being given top legal advice or hefty retainers in exchange for their silence.

    The other startling thing is the Ed Llewellyn – John Yates emails, in which Llewellyn tells Yates not to tell the PM about phone hacking: “On the other matters that have caught your attention this week, assuming we are thinking of the same thing, I am sure you will understand that we will want to be able to be entirely clear, for your sake and ours, that we have not been in contact with you about this subject. I don’t think it would really be appropriate for the PM, or anyone else at No 10, to discuss this issue with you, and would be grateful if it were not raised please.”

    Are we really expected to believe that Llewellyn took it upon himself to handle hacking/Coulson/briefings by Yates on his own initiative, without informing the man whose arse he was employed to protect. Of course not; but he wanted to avoid putting it in print that Cameron knew anything, so as protect his principle. Difficult to see how Llewellyn can survive.

    And the most delicious Freudian slip of the day: Stephenson on Wallis: ‘I had no reason to doubt his impropriety.’

  • Terry Gilbert 19th Jul '11 - 10:14pm

    @ John Roffey – absolutely re Mensch. Did you see her on C4 News praising Murdoch’s performance, and his bravery after being attacked? And saying today has relieved the pressure on Cameron. The Cameronistas are all in this together (and she was chick lit. A lister!).

  • @ Terry Gilbert: She also did the same on the, damp squib, Newsnight forum on the matter. She keeps making the case that, at that time, NOTW was no worse than the other titles.

    I wouldn’t be surprised if the attack was staged – to gain sympathy for the old man. Normal rules don’t apply to this strata of being.

  • Terry Gilbert 19th Jul '11 - 10:34pm

    NOTW was no worse than the other titles. The Sun? 😉

  • Poor show from our MPs, let them off gently. Wendi Deng should be the next Murdoch to lead News Corps.

  • It will be the police and the courts that ultimately do for Murdoch, not Parliament.

    By the way, where are the Lib Dems and Nick Clegg on this? You’ve been telling us for weeks that you’re the only party free of Murdoch’s taint, and the only ones who challenged him, where are you now? We’ve had the bizarre experience of Nick Clegg supporting the Prime Minister in stronger terms than the PM’s own party, but no Lib Dems offering solutions to the crisis.

  • John Roffey 20th Jul '11 - 8:27am

    There seems to be a problem separating Party leadership and Cabinet responsibilities – the two roles need to be split. The former needs to be outside those who hold government posts so that a more objective approach can be taken with regard to Party identity and its future.

  • Terry Gilbert – you are spot on about the Yates – Llewellyn emails. The phrasing is clearly designed to allow obfuscation and deniability were the emails ever to come into the public domain, and the argument that No. 10 should not know because it is not their place to interfere with police matters is rubbish: the spin is an attempt to conflate knowledge with interference, whereas they are totally separate issues.

  • There was an interesting comment in the Guradian this morning about the cost of hiring top American PR company, Edelman, where incidentally the partner of short-lived LibDem Cabint minister David Laws, James Lundie, has been co-leader of the team rehearsing the Murdochs for their big day.
    “I’m glad you asked me about that….” etc., is classic American management speak which needed no rehearsal. Using this obvious technique used to deflect every awkward question, James Murdoch’s tone of voice and body language was at its most revealing when the torch was shone on News International solicitors, Harbottle& Lewis, where a gag preventing the release of potentially incriminating emails is still in place.
    However, nowhere was James’s discomfort more noticeable than when he was asked whether or not he would be prepared to release Gordon Taylor and Max Clifford from their confidentiality clauses: “cannot comment on the matter”…”I don’t think it’s worth exploring hypotheticals”, even as it was noted that the release of these papers would not prejudice any enquiry.
    I’m afraid that it was ultimately committee chairman John Whittingdale, rather than Edelmans, who saved the day for the Mudochs by closing down this line of enquiry and calling the hearing to a close.

  • John Roffey 20th Jul '11 - 2:00pm

    Having watched most of today’s debate and to add to my 8.27 am comment, considering that the Party has been recognized as immune from this scandal – wasn’t this a time when NC could have recognized his role of Party leader by sitting amongst his Lib/Dem colleagues?

  • I have to say that I am very disappointed with the lack of coverage and posts from Libdems over the last couple of days with regards to the hacking shambles, the select committees and todays very important day in parliament,

    Liberal Democrats finally had a day where their hands where clean from this mess, they could have, and should have, been far more vocal and critical in this session of parliament.

    The whole world was watching, Libdems, had a prime opportunity to distance themselves from their coalition partners, critsize the appointment of Coulson, as they had on numerous occasions, before the elections, And genuinely been a party who could have spoken up for the country with it’s utter disgust towards the Murdoch, media, corruption , the police and the 2 main parties.

    It was a well missed opportunity.

    Cameron and the Tories might want to have people believe that the country does not really care all that much about these issues and we would rather parliament get on with “real issues” like the Euro Crisis and the Deficits. Well personally I think that will be something Cameron will come to regret, because most people do care about Corruption within our police, politicians being in the back pockets of Media Moguls and these huge corporate organisations having so much power and influence over governments and that is crippling the democracy of the average Joe on the street.
    We voted for change, We want Change, and we want this filth removed from our politics.

  • Calling all Liberal journalists and Liberal Democrats interested
    in the media. Lets restart the News Chronicle.
    Contact: newschronicle at hotmail.com

  • I have to agree with Matt & John Roffey (immediately above). Cameron unscrupulously and ruthlessly shafted the LibDems on the AV vote and we owe him nothing when the issue is one of his personal integrity & credibility such as the Coulson affair. By sitting on our hands we are gifting an undeserved opportunity for Labour to take the lead on an issue which should be 100% ours.

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