Stephen Glover on The Press

Non-interfering, anti-celebrity – is Murdoch the Dalai Lama of media?

When Rebekah Wade and Andrew Neil are at odds, which of them should one support? Why, the one who is telling the truth, of course.

Two weeks ago, Wade, who edits The Sun, appeared before the House of Lords communications committee. She painted a picture of Rupert Murdoch, the paper's proprietor, as having no more editorial influence than the doorman. When asked about her relationship with Murdoch, and his role in determining which political party The Sun should support, she replied: "It just doesn't happen." She conceded that he chose the paper's editor, but that was about as far as his involvement went.

Neil, a former editor of The Sunday Times, a paper also controlled by Murdoch, has subsequently given a dramatically different account. In evidence before the same committee last week, he said that he "did not recognise [Wade's] description of how The Sun operates". When he was at the Sunday paper, "the editor of The Sun would get daily telephone calls" from Murdoch.

How can two lovers of the truth give such differing testimonies? One possible explanation is that Murdoch's global media empire has expanded since Neil left The Sunday Times in 1994, so The Sun may loom less large in his calculations than it once did. Moreover, time has not stood still, and at 76 the great proprietor may not be quite as hands-on or hyperactive as he was 15 years ago.

Alas, this will not really do, as there is another recent piece of evidence that contradicts Wade's version of events, and supports Neil's. And who might have supplied this? The chairman and chief executive officer of News Corp, aka Rupert Murdoch.

On 17 September last year, the very same Lords communications committee interviewed him in New York. Murdoch said that "the law" prevents him from instructing the editors of The Times and The Sunday Times, and that he "nominates" their editors.

He explained, however, that he was a "traditional proprietor" so far as The Sun is concerned. According to the meeting's minutes, "He exercises editorial control on major issues – like which party to back in a general election, or policy on Europe."

Why should Wade have given evidence to the same committee that was at odds with what her own proprietor had told it only four months previously? It is very puzzling. I suppose she might have been poorly briefed, and was unaware of exactly what Murdoch had said, and so peddled the old canard that he does not interfere. Or was she perfectly aware, and had decided to flex her muscles by pretending that she runs the show?

Whatever the explanation, Neil's account was evidently much nearer the mark. It is also difficult to believe Wade's contention to the same committee that Rupert Murdoch "is often dismayed by the amount of celebrity coverage in my newspaper". If so, he must be the most terrible old hypocrite alive, since The Sun has thrived on celebrities from the moment he bought it. In presenting Rupert Murdoch as the Dalai Lama of the newspaper world, Rebekah is, I fear, pulling the wool.

Last week, I noted that as chief executive of The Spectator, Andrew Neil is presiding at two events marking the magazine's 180th anniversary, whereas its editor, Matthew d'Ancona, is nowhere to be seen. Some people have said that because d'Ancona wisely does not drink alcohol, he could hardly be expected to play host at a "whisky and cigar dinner" or at a "whisky tasting", as Neil is doing.

I'm not convinced. By way of a bet, I recently gave up drinking for two months, and endured the quaffing of others at parties and dinners. Moreover, there are non-drinking anniversary events at which d'Ancona could preside, and other soirées might have been invented. Why not an evening of theology, a subject at which he excels?

No, I stick to my guns. Andrew Neil is hogging the limelight at the expense of his editor.

Sleaze is not the preserve of the Conservative Party

The Guardian's role in bringing down Jonathan Aitken, right, and monstering the Major government for sleaze, is widely recognised. Less well-known is its unearthing of New Labour financial shenanigans.

The Guardian revealed Peter Mandelson's suspect mortgage, over which he was forced to resign. And, although the blogger Guido Fawkes is justifiably claiming some credit, the newspaper did for Peter Hain by running a series of pieces earlier this month about his undeclared donations. Indeed, there was a period of several days when it seemed that the story would not gain traction, but the paper persisted.

I'm not sure what this tells us. In some ways, The Guardian seems a bit off-colour, a consequence, perhaps, of the belief of its editor, Alan Rusbridger, that the future of newspapers lies on the net rather than with the printed word. Still, it remains adept at bringing down ministers who have erred financially.

A revelation? Not if you follow this column ...

It is always tedious when columnists try to score off their rivals, but an exception might be made in the case of my esteemed colleague, ~Professor Roy Campbell-Greenslade.

Last week, the Prof gave evidence to the House of Lords communications committee, mentioned elsewhere on this page. He "revealed" (his word) that there is a pact between the Telegraph and Mail groups not to write about each other. This was written up by Media Guardian, for which Roy writes, as though he had just come down from Mount Sinai.

Let me point out that as long ago as 27 June 2005, I wrote here at length about "some sort of concordat between the Telegraph and Mail groups", and returned to the subject on 20 February 2006.

Far from being the "revelation" that Roy proclaims, it is a fact well-known to every baby being wheeled down the Old Kent Road.

scmgox@aol.com

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
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

Guru Careers: PR Account Manager / AM

£20-30K(DOE) + Excellent Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a PR Account M...

Guru Careers: Account Manager / Account Executive

Competitive (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: One of the UK’s largest and most s...

Guru Careers: Marketing and Communications Manager

£Competitive (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Marketing and Co...

Guru Careers: Digital Designer / Interactive Designer

£ Highly Competitive (DOE): Guru Careers: A Digital Designer / Interactive Des...

Day In a Page

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence