Stephen Glover: MPs need to raise their game when James Murdoch appears again

Media Studies: In July some MPs might as well not have turned up, they were so feeble

James Murdoch will face the Commons Culture, Media and Sport select committee on Thursday from what seems like a hopelessly weak position. Since the chairman of News International last appeared in front of the committee, two former senior News of the World executives have suggested that, contrary to his testimony then, he knew about the extent of phone hacking at the paper as early as June 2008. Last week, the committee released an opinion from the company's QC dated 3 June 2008, which suggested there had been "a culture" of hacking at the paper. Didn't Mr Murdoch read this at the time?

Many people will think he did not tell the committee the full truth four months ago. He has a lot of explaining to do. Moreover, he will face his interrogators alone – in July, he was accompanied by his father, Rupert, who sat at the centre of the storm.

This week's solitary ordeal will be taxing for James, and he is likely also to feel isolated for other reasons. The majority of shareholders at News International's parent company News Corp recently voted against his re-election to the board, though the Murdoch family's 40 per cent control of the voting shares ensured that this revolt was ineffectual. During Commons questions last week, Jeremy Hunt, the Culture Secretary, seemingly refused to declare him a "fit and proper person" to run BSkyB. Meanwhile, an article in the latest issue of Vanity Fair alleges that Rupert came close to sacking James last July.

It is difficult not to feel a little sorry for him, since he doesn't seem like a bad man, and is only where he is because he is Rupert's younger son by his second marriage. Nor are his presumed sins as great as some at the News of the World. The charge against him is not of condoning phone hacking, but of orchestrating a subsequent cover-up to protect the company's reputation.

He is probably finished as a senior executive of News Corp, and it is inconceivable that he will succeed his father. Even by his own version of events he is guilty of incompetence for not knowing about extensive phone hacking when senior colleagues did. As it is, the evidence apparently points to complicity. If this were a lurid drama on Murdoch-controlled Sky TV, James would be led away on Thursday, his dreams in ruins. And yet, I am far from certain this will happen.

The reason has to do with the shortcomings of the Culture, Media and Sport committee. Everybody has an allotted time to ask questions. To judge by what happened in July, some of them might as well not have turned up, they were so feeble. A few – notably Labour MP Tom Watson – were more formidable, but even they lacked proper forensic skills. It would be far better if the committee could appoint its own legal counsel. A seasoned barrister could probably make mincemeat of James Murdoch.

My fear is that its members will either feel obliged to plug away at a different line of questions to highlight their originality, or that they will have their own beside-the-point preoccupations. During the July hearings, for example, Tory MP Louise Mensch lost focus by dragging in Piers Morgan, the former editor of the Daily Mirror, and taking a swipe at the Mail group.

We can only hope that the more competent interrogators (probably three or four of the 11 members) will concentrate on the simple point that James Murdoch seems to have known about the extent of hacking three years before he claims. Ask the same question a dozen different ways. Don't be side-tracked by this weekend's revelation that Rebekah Brooks, former chief executive of News International, received a pay-off of £1.7m and various other goodies – inexcusable, but also largely irrelevant.

This is not a court of law, and in any case we should not assume beforehand that James Murdoch is guilty of a cover-up. I am just hoping against hope that on Tuesday the committee asks the right questions to establish whether or not he is.



Misogynist online hatemail is on the rise


Laurie Penny's column in last Friday's Independent revealed the amount of anonymous abuse, often violent and obscene, she receives when her work is published. Other female bloggers and commentators, ranging from liberal to conservative, have confirmed how widespread this phenomenon is. Caroline Farrow, a blogger for Catholic Voices, says she receives "at least five sexually threatening emails a day".

Can anything be done? Given the nature of the internet, it is difficult to see how bloggers can do much – other than to stop writing blogs, which some have. It is hard to disregard obscene emails. Newspaper columnists should be another matter, in so much as online postings beneath their articles are supposedly "moderated". This is a commitment more honoured in the breach than the observance. One columnist tells me that, in an online row below his piece, one person threatened to kill another.

As I have previously suggested, the solution chosen by an increasing number of journalists is to not read online comments. This undermines the point of the exercise, which is to encourage feedback and debate. But how can you have that if people are vile? Unless newspapers properly moderate postings, online comments will go unread by the journalists whose pieces give rise to them.

Rumer was diagnosed with bipolarity, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder: 'I was convinced it was a misdiagnosis'
peopleHer debut album caused her post-traumatic stress - how will she cope as she releases her third record?
A long jumper competes in the 80-to-84-year-old age division at the 2007 World Masters Championships
FootballGerman sparks three goals in four minutes at favourite No 10 role
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvHe is only remaining member of original cast
Lewis Hamilton will start the Singapore Grand Prix from pole, with Nico Rosberg second and Daniel Ricciardo third
F1... for floodlit Singapore Grand Prix
Life and Style
Walking tall: unlike some, Donatella Versace showed a strong and vibrant collection
fashionAlexander Fury on the staid Italian clothing industry
Arts and Entertainment
Gregory Porter learnt about his father’s voice at his funeral
Arts and Entertainment
tvHighs and lows of the cast's careers since 2004
Life and Style
Children at the Leytonstone branch of the Homeless Children's Aid and Adoption Society tuck into their harvest festival gifts, in October 1936
food + drinkThe harvest festival is back, but forget cans of tuna and packets of instant mash
New Articles
i100... she's just started school
New Articles
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
Arts and Entertainment
musicBiographer Hunter Davies has collected nearly a hundred original manuscripts
New Articles
i100... despite rising prices
Holly's review of Peterborough's Pizza Express quickly went viral on social media
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Head of Marketing - London

£60000 - £85000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Interim Head of Marketing / Marketin...

IT Application Support Engineer - Immediate Start

£28000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Software Application Support Analyst - Imm...

Digital Project Manager

£25 - 30k: Guru Careers: A Digital Project Manager is needed to join an exciti...

Paid Search Analyst / PPC Analyst

£24 - 28k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Paid Search Analyst / PPC...

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam