Andreas Whittam Smith: The buck stops with Rupert Murdoch himself

The successes have been his alone, so have the failures. The scandals that tumble out daily are his doing

Share

Imagine that James Murdoch understood the meaning of the statement made by his father, Rupert, on Monday and saw his own fate. For commenting on the exposure of corrupt practices on an industrial scale at The Sun, the tycoon said: "The practices... described at the Leveson Inquiry are ones of the past and no longer exist at The Sun."

Essentially, this is Rupert Murdoch's method of dealing with the crisis. What did happen won't happen again because what was no longer exists. The News of the World no longer exists. Rebekah Brooks as a former editor and executive no longer exists apart from occasional references to her in the media. To all intents and purposes, she is dead. And now the same thing has been visited upon his son, James.

It was on James's watch that all the dreadful things happened at the News of the World and on The Sun, and weren't successfully hidden away. So he must no longer exist. Or, to put it in the polite words of yesterday's announcement: "James Murdoch... has relinquished his position as executive chairman of News International." Then followed a list of all the wonderful things he had done – except that there was no mention of the company's newspapers. In that world, he no longer exists. Did he ever exist, he must wonder?

It is now widely realised that the entire media company is at risk because in most markets a condition for obtaining and continuing to hold a broadcasting licence is that the people running the show are "fit and proper" persons. Moreover, the non-broadcasting properties will become tarnished. Mr Murdoch senior has seen this from the first day. That is precisely why he must get himself into the position I describe above: "What was the case is so no longer."

It is the same logic that sees News Group steadily providing the police with evidence against its employees on The Sun. Mr Murdoch couldn't close down The Sun as he had done the News of the World. It has a valuable six-days-a-week franchise and, as we have just seen, can take the slot left vacant by the News of the World on Sundays. Instead, the corrupt journalists have to be rooted out. They, too, must no longer exist.

In an extraordinary way, the Metropolitan Police are acting as Mr Murdoch's agents in this process. The company has neither the resources nor standing to do the work itself. So, thinks Mr Murdoch, give the incriminating files to the police and let them clear out the guilty journalists. But, in taking this path, he is running great dangers for himself. He is forgetting that the police and journalists share at least one technique in common: the jigsaw puzzle approach. That takes advantage of the fact that slotting seemingly minor facts into a big picture often provides major insights.

Meanwhile, the Leveson Inquiry rolls on. Some Murdoch groupies have recently criticised it, "useful idiots" as Lenin is supposed to have called such people, but to no effect. Think what was disclosed on Tuesday at the Inquiry. It was alleged that a News of the World executive mounted a surveillance operation on a detective chief superintendent and his detective constable wife to frighten them off from pursuing murder enquiries . Ludicrously, the newspaper was hoping to expose an affair between the two whereas, in fact, that they had been married for four years and had two children.

I see the story from now onwards as the hunting down and cornering of Rupert Murdoch himself. It is well understood that the ethos of organisations is established by the founders and by those who follow them as leaders. In the case of News Corporation, Mr Murdoch did indeed inherit the original business from his father. It was a small, Australian newspaper group. Nonetheless, News Corp is Rupert Murdoch. He has single handedly built it up. Nothing important takes place without his approval. He runs it his way.

From which it follows that if the successes have been his alone, so have the failures. The disgraceful scandals that now tumble out daily are Mr Murdoch's doing. He is famously hands-on.

That is why he has been prepared to spend five or six weeks in London at present nursing the injured Sun newspaper. He has chosen every senior executive. The way things are done requires his assent. The triumphs are his – and so are the evil practices that we now see so clearly. He won't retire, but he will be removed.

For faced with serious allegations of the kind that have recently been made, the only logical response, using Mr Murdoch's own approach, would be that he himself should no longer exist. If the empire is to be saved, then there has to be somebody who can say – "Yes, disgusting stuff indeed, but that was really the old man's fault, and he has resigned from all his positions and sold his shares."

Rupert Murdoch will soon "no longer exist".

a.whittamsmith@independent.co.uk

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Environmental Adviser - Maternity Cover

£37040 - £43600 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The UK's export credit agency a...

Recruitment Genius: CBM & Lubrication Technician

£25000 - £27500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides a compreh...

Recruitment Genius: Care Worker - Residential Emergency Service

£16800 - £19500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Would you like to join an organ...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Landscaper

£25000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: In the last five years this com...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Errors & Omissions: Whoever and whatever Arthur was, he wasn’t Scottish

Guy Keleny
Labour's Jeremy Corbyn arrives to take part in a Labour party leadership final debate, at the Sage in Gateshead, England, Thursday, Sept. 3  

Jeremy Corbyn is here to stay and the Labour Party is never going to look the same again

Andrew Grice
The long walk west: they fled war in Syria, only to get held up in Hungary – now hundreds of refugees have set off on foot for Austria

They fled war in Syria...

...only to get stuck and sidetracked in Hungary
From The Prisoner to Mad Men, elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series

Title sequences: From The Prisoner to Mad Men

Elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series. But why does the art form have such a chequered history?
Giorgio Armani Beauty's fabric-inspired foundations: Get back to basics this autumn

Giorgio Armani Beauty's foundations

Sumptuous fabrics meet luscious cosmetics for this elegant look
From stowaways to Operation Stack: Life in a transcontinental lorry cab

Life from the inside of a trucker's cab

From stowaways to Operation Stack, it's a challenging time to be a trucker heading to and from the Continent
Kelis interview: The songwriter and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell and crying over potatoes

Kelis interview

The singer and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell
Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea