James Cusick

James Cusick: Britain was no longer safe territory for Murdoch Jr

His performance in the face of a Westminster inquisition made him look out of his depth

Related Topics

In times of war, Mafia families are known to vacate their homes and find safe areas to protect themselves. Described in the Commons as "the first mafia boss in history who didn't know he was running a criminal enterprise", James Murdoch has kept in character and duly obliged by "going to the mattresses".

Britain is no longer safe territory for Murdoch Jnr. Sue Akers, the Iron Lady who now heads the Met's attack dogs, let it be known a few days ago that the ineffective poodles who had previously looked at News International have been replaced with Rottweilers.

Time will tell how true that is. But neither James Murdoch, nor the angry shareholders of News Corp in New York, nor perhaps his father, have the luxury of time to wait and see.

Phone hacking and police corruption was the systematic criminal culture that kept the Murdoch brand top dog in the UK tabloid wars. But the relentless revelations around phone hacking and illegal payments to police and public officials have exposed and torn down that culture, labelled it poisonous – leaving James, in his role as News International's protector and defender of his father's creations, a failure. That more is to come is not a prediction; it is a certainty.

When the News of the World's successor, a Sunday version of The Sun, was launched last week, it was Murdoch senior, the capo di tutti capi, the boss of all News Corp's bosses, who arrived in London from New York with his son Lachlan to do the job himself. James was nowhere to be seen.

The official News Corp line is that James will now focus on expanding the company's international television businesses in New York. The reality? He has been removed from the front line of the hacking scandal.

That points to a number of consequences. One, News Corp's focus will now be the lucrative markets that no longer include Britain. Two, that James Murdoch remains damaged goods, toxic enough to cause News Corp shares to surge by 2 per cent yesterday after the news, based on a mini-celebration that he's at last really leaving.

The kindest analysis, which should be dismissed as holding little long-term value, is that Rupert is returning to rehabilitate and re-energise, giving Wapping a coat of year-zero paint.

That won't be enough. Deputy Assistant Commissioner Akers and operations Weeting, Tuleta and Elveden all remain an in-tray of constant trouble for the company.

James's unconvincing performances in front of Westminster's serial inquisitions on phone hacking, when he offered poor explanations of what he did not know, did not read, and did not bother asking, left him looking like an executive out of his depth.

Those appearances, along with contradictory evidence offered by former lieutenants gone rogue, and who refused to take the bullet for their boss, simply stored up, rather than cleaned up, the hacking mess.

Although New York is off limits for Scotland Yard, that does not mean Murdoch Jnr is beyond their legal reach. Nor will his retreat from Fortress Wapping calm the attorneys in the US Department of Justice, all anxious to show their worth in a presidential election year.

With James out of London, and no Murdoch left in Wapping, a more potent commercial question has just been asked. If Murdoch Jnr's departure is a devaluation of the family's UK silver, does News Corp really need, or even want, News International any more?

Buyers and their lawyers may soon be circling like vultures over Docklands E1 and the hacked-out carcass that Rupert Murdoch and his once heir-apparent began to abandon yesterday.

React Now

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

BI Manager - £50,000

£49000 - £55000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: My client is...

BI Project Manager - £48,000 - £54,000 - Midlands

£48000 - £54000 per annum + Benefits package: Progressive Recruitment: My clie...

VB.Net Developer

£35000 - £45000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: If you're pa...

SAP Business Consultant (SD, MM and FICO), £55,000, Wakefield

£45000 - £55000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: SAP Business...

Day In a Page

Read Next

The law is too hard on sexting teenagers

Memphis Barker

Obama must speak out – Americans are worried no one is listening to them

David Usborne
Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Climate change threatens to make the antarctic fur seal extinct

Take a good look while you can

How climate change could wipe out this seal
Man Booker Prize 2014 longlist: Crowdfunded novel nominated for first time

Crowdfunded novel nominated for Booker Prize

Paul Kingsnorth's 'The Wake' is in contention for the prestigious award
Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

A $25m thriller starring Sam Worthington to be made in God's Own Country
Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy': A land of the outright bizarre

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy'

A land of the outright bizarre
What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

‘Weird Al’ Yankovic's latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do The Independent’s experts think he’s missed out?
Can Secret Cinema sell 80,000 'Back to the Future' tickets?

The worst kept secret in cinema

A cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Facebook: The new hatched, matched and dispatched

The new hatched, matched and dispatched

Family events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped the ‘Births, Deaths and Marriages’ announcements
Why do we have blood types?

Are you my type?

All of us have one but probably never wondered why. Yet even now, a century after blood types were discovered, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Honesty box hotels: You decide how much you pay

Honesty box hotels

Five hotels in Paris now allow guests to pay only what they think their stay was worth. It seems fraught with financial risk, but the honesty policy has its benefit
Commonwealth Games 2014: Why weight of pressure rests easy on Michael Jamieson’s shoulders

Michael Jamieson: Why weight of pressure rests easy on his shoulders

The Scottish swimmer is ready for ‘the biggest race of my life’ at the Commonwealth Games
Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

The 'scroungers’ fight back

The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

Fireballs in space

Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
A Bible for billionaires

A Bible for billionaires

Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes