Jemima Khan: Lots of questions but very few answers

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The Independent Online

Lots of questions and lots of replies but very few answers. James Murdoch relied on the PCC Report of November 2009. The PCC relied on News International assurances. It was the usual circular firing squad.

They were coached to the point of catatonia judging by Rupert Murdoch’s expression. He resembles Clive James on smack. What I was after was genuine contrition.

Murdoch Senior was monosyllabic, forgetful and ignorant of the facts. He had never heard of Thurlbeck, was unaware of payments to Max Clifford or Gordon Taylor until after the settlement.

James meanwhile was half Harry Potter, half Hannibal Lecter; his tone measured and conciliatory but his eyes sharky, behind circular glasses.

The questions were the opposite of forensic, apart from those delivered by Tom Watson and Paul Farrelly who were the only interrogators capable of follow-up questions. A particular low-point was Alan Keen’s “Mr Rupert…” It was hugely frustrating.

Just as we were fantasising about a real QC, taking them on with wit and sarcasm, there was the custard pie scuffle and Wendi Deng "intercepts the foam message" - suddenly it had degenerated into the Jeremy Kyle show. The question everyone now wants to know is how security missed that frothy pie in their searches. This is not what the Murdochs were paying the police for.

After the pie attack, Rupert returned looking old and vulnerable. Perception had changed. It all started to feel uncomfortably like geronto-baiting.

It is testimony to the ineptitude of the interrogators and to the “comic protester” that between them they end up making Rupert Murdoch look like a victim and Wendy Deng a heroine.