Simon Carr: The war with Murdoch is off: Hunt announces peace in our time

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The Independent Online

It shows that MPs must still retain some respect from the public: we don't expect them to be afraid of anyone. But whenever Tom Watson stands up to ask about phone hacking, or the Sky bid – anything to do with Rupert Murdoch – the House goes into silence: the fuller the House, the deeper the silence. It's to do with fear. MPs are afraid of the power of News International.

To his credit, it's a fear that Watson has dealt with. What's he got to hide, you ask? Consider what a trawl through your own texts, emails, voicemails, dustbins, credit card statements and internet history would produce. And if you are happy to have it all on the front of the News of the World you're one in a million.

Should Rupert Murdoch be allowed to increase his stake in Britain's media? There isn't a "fit and proper person" clause in the relevant Act, but there's something a bit like it in Section 58 which says that media companies shouldn't be a bunch of criminals engaged in a conspiracy with criminals to commit crimes.

Watson related how the chief executive of News International Rebekah Brooks "openly and brazenly" admitted paying police officers for evidence. Her company is the subject of three separate police inquiries, the evidence is emerging of a conspiracy between criminals hacking detectives' phones, he said, of a senior executive collaborating with one career criminal in jail at the time, and criminals under contract to the company targeting a parent of the children murdered by Ian Huntley in Soham.

Watson's quiet voice was all the more effective for its lack of indignation.

The Culture Minister, Jeremy Hunt, had been given this piece of business remember, after Vince Cable said he was "declaring war" on Rupert Murdoch. Hunt was summoned to the Commons by the Speaker. There would be no war. He waved a piece of paper and announced peace in our time.

He passed the responsibility for the decision on to advisers, lawyers and regulators – all of whom were advising there was nothing to stop the deal proceeding. He ignored Section 58.

But was Murdoch to be trusted? "It is not an issue of trust," he said. "These undertakings are legally binding and legally enforceable."

Not an issue of trust! That did cause laughter in the Gallery. Jeremy Hunt was going through puberty when Murdoch bought The Times and, despite binding undertakings not to interfere, sacked the most popular editor in Britain at the time. You can always trust Rupert Murdoch.