Rupert Murdoch's Leveson objective was to bust myth that power gave him influence

 

Rupert Murdoch, one of the world’s most powerful and influential media bosses, came to the Leveson Inquiry with one objective: to bust the myth that his power gave him any influence.

An over-powerful Murdoch kingdom with subjects falling on their knees to deliver his every wish was the creation of his competitors, he claimed. Preferential treatment from leading politicians? A myth. If politicians went out of their way to impress him, they were wasting their expenses.

In testimony that sounded over-rehearsed and peppered with legally tutored phrases like “I neither sought to discuss” “I did not recall” and “I did not not ask”, Mr Murdoch portrayed himself as democracy’s servant and delivered a history lesson that contradicted most published accounts of his commercial and political enterprises.

Gordon Brown

There were a lot of things Rupert Murdoch couldn’t recall or remember, but he remembered the “outstanding” occasion he met  JK Rowling at Chequers in June 2008 when he was the guest of Gordon and Sarah Brown. There were serious rumours at the time of Brown planning to hold a snap general election. Key to that decision would have been an insight into how the Murdoch papers might treat his campaign. Murdoch claimed in his statement he had made a “personal connection” with  Brown, the two of them spending time discussing  their family links to “a long line” of Presbyterian ministers. “He gave me a lovely gift, a book of his father’s sermons,”  and added that he had “for some time contributed to Mrs Brown charity.” Yet despite the alleged closeness,  Murdoch said he couldn’t remember any discussion between him and Brown on the election-that-never-was. “I’m sure he didn’t ask me. “

 In the same year Sarah Brown held a “slumber party” at Chequers for influential women in the media. The gathering was dismissed in  less-than-PC terms : “they were just a bunch of women complaining about their husbands, probably.”

In September 2009 Murdoch admitted that Brown “declared war” on his company. The former Sun editor, Kelvin Mackenzie, claimed Brown “roared down the phone at Rupert for 20 minutes”.  Murdoch said there was no shouting, with the call ending simply “I’m sorry about that Gordon, thank you for calling.” So what did Brown’s war look like? “I don't think he was in a very balanced   state of mind.  He, frankly, he could have, I don't know, set up more commissions.  God knows there's plenty of quangos and commissions around us now.”

Last night Mr Brown said that Murdoch’s account of their phone call was “wholly wrong”.

When the fall-out arrived it was full blown. Brown accused Murdoch of being at the head of “criminal organisation” claiming the Sun had hacked into his personal medical records. “It was a totally outrageous statement” said Murdoch. A letter from Sarah Brown to Rebekah  Brooks, then chief executive of News International ,  thanking  her for the “sensitivity and the way she [and News International ] handled the story [of their child’s time in hospital]  was now, according to Murdoch “in the hands of the police.”

Tony Blair

When Blair was elected Labour leader in 2004, Murdoch is recorded as saying he could “imagine backing” the young shadow minister. Within a short period, Blair was favourite to become the next prime minister. But not to Murdoch. “ Not to me. A lot of  things can happen in politics in three years.” A private dinner between the two at the smart Mossiman’s restaurant recalled by Andrew Neil? Rupert couldn’t remember. Blair was apparently keen to tell Murdoch that under New Labour there would be “no onerous media ownership rules.” That would have sounded like sweet music to Murdoch and a memorable promise.  “I have no memory of that, “ he said.

For historians of the Blair years, Rupert offered this “In ten years of his  power, I never asked Mr Blair for anything.  Nor indeed did I receive any favours.” He claimed to have met Blair only two or three times a year. The Iraq war and the controversies that followed Blair’s decision to by-pass the United Nations and side with the regime of George Bush was never discussed in their meetings. “I don't think Mr Blair would come to me for advice on  a matter like that” adding “I mean he's surely above talking to a press proprietor about his foreign relations…”

David Cameron

The first myth Rupert Murdoch tried to shoot down yesterday was that he hadn’t forgiven David Cameron for setting up the Leveson Inquiry. “Untrue,” he said. He was asked  if media  abuses went  further than the issue of phone hacking. Teasingly he said  “Oh, they go further.”  How further he may reveal today. Cameron first entered the Murdoch radar, he claimed, during one or two “family picnics at my -- at weekends at my  daughter's house in the grounds of Blenheim Castle,  where he came with his family, and my -- we were overrun by children, there were no politics…”

Then the meetings started. Murdoch’s memory wasn’t good on the frequency: there were lunches, breakfasts, attendance at the wedding of Rebekah and Charlie Brooks. And a breakfast meeting on the day the Sun decided to formally endorse Gordon Brown during Labour’s conference. “Was that the day we endorsed him?” The date seemed to surprise him.

For those reading too much into the switch from New Labour to Cameron’s rebranded Tories, Murdoch had this to tell the inquiry. “Mr Jay [the inquiry’s leading counsel] you keep inferring that endorsements were motivated by business motives, and if that had been the case, we would have endorsed the Tory Party in every election.  It was always more pro business.” So there was no discussions with Cameron on the BBC, nothing on  Ofcom, nothing on his appointment of the ex-News of the World editor, Andy Coulson, as his director of communications. Was he interested in Cameron’s views on any of this? “No.”

But the BBC was revealed as a raw nerve for Murdoch.  “I'd been through that with previous prime ministers and it didn't  matter what they said, they all hated the BBC and they  all gave it whatever they wanted.”

Although Cameron was described as interrupting his family holiday in Turkey in 2008  to fly to Santorini on Murdoch’s son-in-law’s plane, and staying on his daughter’s yacht, for a meeting with Rupert, the significance of their one-to-one discussions was dismissed as unimportant. It was Cameron wanting to meet him, not the other way around.  “I think I've explained that politicians go out of  their way to impress people in the press, and I don't   remember discussing any heavy political things with him  at all. “Cameron may have been wasting his time. “Mr Cameron might, of course, think stopping in Santorini  would impress me.  I don't know. “

Disability

David Cameron’s son Ivan, was born with a rare combination of cerebral palsy and a form of severe epilepsy called Ohtahara syndrome. He required round-the-clock care. He died  in St Mary’s Hospital in Paddington aged six in February 2009. Murdoch appears to have given little attention to Ivan’s condition. He said “I was extremely  impressed at the kindness and feeling he [Cameron]  showed to his children and particularly to his retarded son.”

Privacy

Weeks and months have been taken up by the Leveson Inquiry examining the definition and nature of privacy. For key lawyers at the core of the inquiry, privacy is their business. Murdoch however revealed his own views on privacy - which may have made its way into the judgement of his editors. “ I think people in public positions have public responsibilities,  and I'll even include press proprietors in that.  I don't think they're entitled to the same privacy as  the ordinary men in the street.  If we're going to have  a transparent society, a transparent democracy, let's  have everything out in the open.”

James Harding, editor of the Times

Although regarded as knowing everything that goes on inside his UK newspapers,  Rupert Murdoch, revealed in his statement that he had only learned of the “Nightjack” email hacking case at The Times “until it arose in evidence before the inquiry. “ He described as “being appalled” at the way The Times lawyer, Alistair Brett, had mis-led Mr Justice Eeady when the hacking case came to court.

Mr Harding received a further rebuke from News Corp’s boss, saying he was “disappointed” The Times editor hadn’t bought the disc that contained all the details of MPs expenses.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Sport
A referee issues a red card
football
Life and Style
Approaching sale shopping in a smart way means that you’ll get the most out of your money
life + styleSales shopping tips and tricks from the experts
News
in picturesWounded and mangy husky puppy rescued from dump
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Ashdown Group: IT Support Analyst - Chessington

£25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Service Desk Analyst - Chessington, Surrey...

Ashdown Group: (PHP / Python) - Global Media firm

£50000 per annum + 26 days holiday,pension: Ashdown Group: A highly successful...

Ashdown Group: Analyst Programmer (Filemaker Pro/ SQL) - Global Media firm

£50000 per annum + 26 days, pension, private medical : Ashdown Group: A highly...

Ashdown Group: IT Support Analyst - Chessington

£25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Service Desk Analyst - Chessington, Surrey...

Day In a Page

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'