Ian Burrell: There was no shaving foam pie. Just a lot of flannel

 

If anyone doubted Les Hinton's loyalty to the Murdoch family four months after he quit their News Corp empire after half a century's service, they surely don't now. His assertion there was "no reason" for James Murdoch to follow his lead and fall on his sword over the phone-hacking scandal was one of the few straight answers the former News International executive chairman gave when questioned by MPs.

Hinton spoke via a video link from New York, having chosen not to attend Portcullis House, where Rupert and James Murdoch recently appeared before the same committee. The most high-profile figure to resign from News Corp said he hadn't been questioned by Scotland Yard. If he's nervous about such a possibility on his next visit to England, he didn't show it. The smooth silver-haired Liverpudlian looked unflustered. He leaned forward as he gave his defensive responses, like an opening batsman on the front foot. When Tom Watson sarcastically praised him for "only" saying seven times he couldn't remember an answer, Hinton quipped: "We've got a long way to go".

There was little deference as MPs made no secret of their anger at the way News International has tried to fob off the parliamentary committee over the past four and a half years. Apart from giving a barely plausible picture of an executive chairman who knew very little about what was going on in his business, Hinton taught us nothing more about what the News Corp hierarchy knew about the extent of hacking.

There was "no bombshell", the committee chairman John Whittingdale inadvertently muttered at the end of the session. No bombshell, no fireworks, not even a shaving foam pie. Just quite a lot of flannel.

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