Leading article: This was a day of evasion, not humility

The media committee failed to shed light on the apparent cover-up of the phone-hacking scandal

Share
Related Topics

An idiot with some shaving foam managed to hijack Rupert Murdoch's first ever appearance before a Parliamentary committee yesterday. That was a shame. But in truth, the House of Commons media committee had already failed to live up to its billing as one of the great Parliamentary occasions of our time.

Some telling nuggets were unearthed from the more than two hours of testimony from Mr Murdoch about the influence he wields in British politics. Mr Murdoch recounted how David Cameron invited him to Downing Street to say thanks for his "support" in helping the Conservatives to win the 2010 general election. When asked about his close relations with successive British prime ministers, Mr Murdoch said, with a smile, "I wish they'd leave me alone"; a remark that drove home how craven our political leaders had grown in their relations with the press baron.

A few important facts came out too. The Labour MP Paul Farrelly managed to extract from James Murdoch an admission that News International continued to pay the legal fees of the private investigator, Glenn Mulcaire, long after he was convicted of phone hacking in 2007. Tom Watson exposed just how little Rupert Murdoch knew (or would admit to knowing) about what took place at News International in the years after the phone-hacking scandal first broke in 2005. As Mr Watson noted, this might not be enough given that, as News Corp's chairman, Mr Murdoch is responsible for corporate governance.

Yet the rest of the MPs on the committee were poor. They asked unfocused questions that invited the Murdochs to waffle and evade. Alan Keen and Therese Coffey were particularly unimpressive. And Louise Mensch did the public no favours by inviting the Murdochs to comment on the practices of the rest of the media, rather than focusing on the behaviour of News International. The Murdochs visibly relaxed as the hearing went on. Compared with US Congressional committee hearings, this was an amateurish show.

The committee failed to shed light on the central issue of the apparent cover-up of the scandal. Last week we learned of the existence of an internal News International document, dating from 2007, which showed that phone hacking was a widespread practice at the News of the World. Yet right up to this year, News International was publicly insisting that phone hacking was the work of a single rogue reporter. James Murdoch told the committee that he only found out about this incriminating document in April or May 2011. So who within News International kept their boss in the dark about the existence of the document? James Murdoch stonewalled, although his father seemed to point the finger of blame at Jon Chapman, News International's former chief legal officer, and Colin Myler, the most recent editor of the News of the World. Those are claims that the police need to thoroughly probe.

Rupert Murdoch said that yesterday was the "most humble day of my life". In truth it was not. And the MPs of the select committee, with some honourable exceptions, did nothing to ensure that it would be. But the questions are not over. And Mr Murdoch's day of true humility might still be to come.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Junior Web Designer - Client Liaison

£6 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join a gro...

Recruitment Genius: Service Delivery Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Service Delivery Manager is required to join...

Recruitment Genius: Massage Therapist / Sports Therapist

£12000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A opportunity has arisen for a ...

Ashdown Group: Practice Accountant - Bournemouth - £38,000

£32000 - £38000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful accountancy practice in...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Riyadh is setting itself up as region’s policeman

Lina Khatib
Ed Miliband and David Cameron  

Cameron and Miliband should have faith in their bolder policies

Ian Birrell
No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor