In another scandal for David Cameron’s government, Baroness Warsi has been caught claiming too much for expenses, in addition to all the other scandals and u-turns such as the pasty tax climbdown and following quickly on the heels of that reversal, the charity tax u-turn that was in the Budget. The government has had so many of these that the term omnishambles has been used, with some justification, to describe it. The extent of these is now so great, that a list has been complied.
In his evidence, former Prime Minister Tony Blair, godfather to one of Murdoch’s children, when questioned said he made no pact with Rupert Murdoch. This is of course patently untrue as Blair has been tied with Murdoch for many years and even travelled to Austrialia in 1995 to get Murdoch to either support Labour or not attack it. A news article notes that Blair “said he took his Cabinet Secretary’s advice on ‘propriety’ before raising the issue of whether Mr Murdoch would be allowed to acquire part of the Mediaset Group. At the time in 1998, Downing Street furiously denied media reports that Mr Blair had brought the deal up during a telephone call with Romano Prodi, the Italian leader. In evidence to the Leveson Inquiry, Mr Blair now admits he asked Mr Prodi about his views on a possible deal but cannot remember how the incident ‘came about’ Mr Murdoch himself previously told the Inquiry that he had ‘never asked a Prime Minister for anything'”. The article goes on to say that “The deal never went through after it emerged the Italians would have been hostile to Mr Murdoch owning the company. Mr Blair today said there was nothing wrong with asking his Italian counterpart about the possibility of a deal and betrayed frustration at the furore about the call at the time”.
In another piece on Blair’s evidence, he amusingly it was written that “He claimed not to know whether either of his two closest advisers, Alastair Campbell and Peter Mandelson, engaged in ‘the stuff with dark arts’ of spin. He said any media attack on his Labour rivals was not encouraged or authorised by him. ”I hate that type of politics and did not engage in it,’ he said”.
In giving his evidenceDr Vince Cable “explained that in his quasi-judicial role he had in fact ‘acted impartially’, and ‘wouldn’t have been biased’. Twice he said that while in charge of the BSkyB decision he ‘didn’t want to disrespect Mr Murdoch’. His declaration of ‘war’? Why, that was merely his way of saying he ‘had no intention of being intimidated'”. Other reports mention that Cable “said he had tried to remain impartial throughout the bid, but had become aware of pressure in the background. ‘There had been veiled threats that if I made the wrong decision from their point of view of the company my party would be – I think somebody used the phrase – ‘done over’ in the News International press and I took those things seriously, I was very concerned,’ he said. ‘I had myself tried to deal with the process entirely properly and impartially and I discovered that this was happening in the background.’ Dr Cable said he thought Fred Michel, head of public affairs at News Corporation, was the person who made the veiled threats but he could not be ‘absolutely certain'”.
In what was perhaps the most explosive of recent events “Hunt sent a ‘sympathetic’ text message to James Murdoch in favour of News Corporation’s bid for BSkyB, despite legal advice not to have ‘any external discussions’ about the deal”. Reports note that Hunt “sent the message on the day he was handed responsibility for deciding whether News Corporation’s £8 billion bid should go ahead. The evidence emerged at the Leveson Inquiry, as Mr Hunt defended himself against accusations he showed too much favour towards News Corporation”. A timelineof the day has been made available. Meanwhile “Cameron believes the culture secretary acted properly when he was responsible for Rupert Murdoch’s BSkyB takeover bid, Downing Street said. No 10 added the prime minister would not refer the case to Sir Alex Allen, his adviser on the ministerial code”.
Lastly and maybe even more significantly, ex News International editor and more importantly, director of communications at Downing St, Andy Coulson was arrested and charged for perjury.
Where this leaves the omnishambles Cameron with his own party and and his Lib Dem partners is hard to see, for now.