Former News International boss James Murdoch was up before the Leveson Inquiry into media ethics today and, while James escaped pretty well unscathed (in part due to his professed reluctance to read evening emails revealing phone hacking on a grand scale at the News of the World) he’s left the coalition government reeling.
Culture, media and sport secretary Jeremy Hunt (pictured), the man brought in to take an impartial view of News Corporation’s eventually thwarted bid for BSkyB in place of Murdoch opponent Vince Cable, has emerged as a brown-noser of heroic proportions, even by Tory standards. In essence Hunt is accused of squaring everything in advance with News Corp and the evidence, despite his denials, looks pretty damning.
So Hunt might be forced to depart the Government and Rupert Murdoch, father to James and big boss of News Corp, doesn’t even appear until tomorrow (Wednesday).
Murdoch senior is no fan of UK PM David Cameron. He allowed his UK newspapers to support Cameron in the 2010 general election despite, so it’s said, viewing him as a lightweight toff and flibbertigibbet. In part this was due to the urgings of the likes of James and then News International CEO Rebekah Brooks, since departed and arrested for her alleged part in phone hacking and illegal payments to police.
Murdoch’s lack of regard for Cameron turned to outright loathing when Cameron instituted the Leveson inquiry, forcing News Corp back into the unofficial dock following the painful inquisition by the Parliamentary culture, media and sports committee, at which Rupert received a cream pie in the mush from an angry member of the public. Added to that his £12bn bid for complete control of hugely profitable UK Pay-TV broadcaster BSkyB was scuppered. And we haven’t even had a court case yet. So Rupert doesn’t feel he owes Cameron any favours.
So what might he say? Murdoch was the first non-political visitor to 10 Downing Street when the Tory-dominated coalition government was formed in May 2010, nipping in the back door to keep well away of the media’s prying eyes, much of which he controlled, of course.
And what did Murdoch and Cameron say to each other? Did Cameron promise a BSkyB deal? Well we may find out tomorrow. Rupert’s friends and advisors will be telling him urgently not to spill too many beans, the UK government may still do him a favour one of these days. But the octogenarian Murdoch still has a lively mind of his own and he doesn’t take betrayal lightly.