Rundle: the inevitable splits and spats of the News fallout
It’s goin’ off in London, it’s goin’ off, mate … barely a day after the Commons sub-committee on sport, culture, media, the Falklands, the Cinque ports and Jarndyce versus Jarndyce, had delivered its report on News International, phone hacking and related matters, and therein stated that Rupert Murdoch was an “unfit” person to run anything more than lemonade stand, well, the whole place has collapsed into chaos and acrimony, on partisan lines. The Tories are rushing to the defence of Rupe, Labour is threatening to expose their hopeless fealty to him further, and a delicious side-spat has opened up over whether it is politically legitimate to call odious Tory dimwit Louise Mensch (nee Bagshawe) a “rich whore” or not.
The splits and the spats were inevitable, but until now the committee had been a model of unity, as it attempted to get to the bottom of News International’s systemic corruption of journalistic practice and the Metropolitan police force, and the latter’s willingness to become a paid agency doing Rupe and his henchpeople’s bidding. Though everyone groaned when Tom Watson used a question to accuse the hapless James Murdoch of being a “Mafia boss” — if only; the evidence is James couldn’t be a Brumby’s franchisee, let alone a crime boss — they have generally supported each other on lines of questioning, if for no other reason than that to be seen to be on the side of an organisation that hacks a dead girl’s phone had no dividend. There was also the matter of, y’know, genuine public interest. The degree to which the police force had been rendered internally ineffectual by News’ payments and favours to officers was genuinely shocking, especially if you bought the Olympic-period hysteria about terror, etc, and the non-Murdoch tabloids were hammering hard on that line.
Then the committee’s report was drafted, and here accounts vary. The Tory members of the committee — in particular Mensch — claim that the “unfit” tag was added by Labour members close to the final drafting of the report, as an ambush, that the matter was never discussed by the committee in private session, and that Murdoch R had not been in the frame to answer questions that would establish fitness or otherwise. Labour replied by arguing that the issue had been discussed months before, and by threatening to release a full list of proposed Tory amendments to the final report, that would establish what a pusillanimous bunch they truly are.
Labour, well Watson, also accused the Tories of leaking interim discussions of evidence to News — crucially, between the first and second appearance of Murdoch, J, thus allowing him to tailor his answers to the committee’s concerns. The stoush between Watson and Mensch occurred mainly on Twitter, with others piling in — notably another Labour MP, Chris Bryant, who asked whether [committee member] Therese Coffey had been receiving private briefings throughout the period of the report. Mensch for her part, tweeted some flatly unbelievable brown-nosing to Murdoch, J:
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