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UK Politics

Murdoch arrives, tilting at windmills and David Cameron


Rupert Murdoch mocked the Government yesterday before what is expected to be a tough grilling for the News Corp chief at the Leveson inquiry on Wednesday

Murdoch senior took to Twitter to pour scorn on ministers' plans to lend more money to the International Monetary Fund. The 81-year-old tweeted: "Govt sending IMF another £10bn to the euro. Must be mad. Not even US or China chipping in. Same time taxing hot food." In another message, he wrote: "English spring countryside as beautiful as ever if and when sun appears! About to be wrecked by uneconomic ugly bird killing windmills. Mad."

He will give evidence to Leveson over two days as the inquiry focuses on relationships between the press and politicians. He faced fresh controversy this weekend after a former journalist insisted that senior executives at News International (NI) ordered reporters to engage in "corporate espionage" against MPs investigating the Murdoch papers.

Neville Thurlbeck, former chief reporter of the News of the World, repeated claims that senior NI managers told staff at the defunct Sunday tabloid to dig into the private lives of politicians investigating the phone hacking scandal. He spoke out after claims in a new book by Martin Hickman and Tom Watson MP, quoting Mr Thurlbeck as saying the orders came from senior editorial staff. While promoting Dial M for Murdoch, Mr Watson said the targets were members of his Commons select committee.

But Mr Thurlbeck suggested that the orders came from a higher level: "It was News International, not the News of the World, which ordered us to dig into the private lives of the MPs on the committee which was investigating us. Many News International executives were in the loop, in 'Deepcarpetland' as the News International zone where these things emanated from was euphemistically called."

He added: "Also for the record, every one of my colleagues had grave reservations about carrying out the surveillance. What if we were caught? And caught en masse? It wasn't journalism. It was corporate espionage."

Mr Thurlbeck said he and his fellow reporters ignored orders coming from above and shortly after they were called off by one of the NI chiefs. "We heard nothing more," said Mr Thurlbeck, who refused to name the executives involved in the alleged requests.

In further damaging claims, Mr Thurlbeck said the targets on which newspaper executives asked reporters to carry out covert surveillance were not confined to politicians. Speaking yesterday, he said: "There had been many edicts down the years from News International management to target various people from all walks of life, and these were acted upon."

News International yesterday declined to comment on Mr Thurlbeck's allegations.