Last week saw the some of the most powerful people in the British political sphere attend the Leveson Inquiry, that was started as a result of the ongoing phone hacking debacle.
Former Prime Minister Gordon Brown in giving evidence said that “Brown also strongly rejected claims that he declared ‘war’ on Mr Murdoch in a telephone call after losing the support of The Sun newspaper. He described the allegations as ‘gossip, rumour, innuendo’ and even accused Lord Mandelson and Alistair Darling of putting ‘tittle-tattle’ about alleged plots in their memoirs”. This directly goes against what Rupert Murdoch said in his evidence. The report adds that “admitted that he spoke to Rupert Murdoch on the phone in early November 2010 to complain about The Sun’s coverage of the war in Afghanistan, but denied evidence by Mr Murdoch that there was an angry call between the two men after The Sun withdrew its support for the Labour Party”, the piece concludes “News Corporation immediately released a statement saying that Mr Murdoch ‘stands by his evidence'”.
The same day the chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, widely considered close to the Murdoch empire, said that “gave an insight into Downing Street’s fears about the BSkyB deal and Dr Cable’s influence as he appeared before the Leveson Inquiry. His evidence places him at the heart of many key events linked to the Murdoch media empire, including the Conservative Party’s decision to hire former News of the World editor Andy Coulson. But he denied being too close to Mr Murdoch and his executives, arguing it is natural for politicians to ‘hang out’ with newspaper owners and journalists. He also sent a strong warning to the Leveson Inquiry that the Government would not support any proposals that ‘damage democracy’ or ‘cross a line’ in restricting free speech”. It was Osborne that sent the text message to Jeremy Hunt after Vince Cable had been removed from deciding on the BSkyB bid. The piece adds that Osborne “said his main concern was that Mr Murdoch’s controversial £8 billion bid for BSkyB was a ‘political inconvenience’ that would inevitably cause trouble for the Government”.
The piece concludes that Osborne “said the main priority was to stop Mr Cable resigning as this could pose a threat to the Coalition. ‘My principal concern was that this is not something that should lead to the resignation of Dr Cable,’ he told the Inquiry. ‘Frankly I also had concerns about the impact of such a resignation on the coalition and the unity of the government.’ He said Jeremy Heywood, a senior civil servant, was actually the one to suggest that the role should be handed over to Mr Hunt”. Interestingly, the piece finishes with “Osborne also robustly defended his ‘friend’, Andy Coulson, the former Downing Street media chief, who had resigned as a News of the World editor over phone-hacking”. This seems strange, politically dangerous and immoral given that Coulson has been both arrested and charged.
While this was occurring, Nick Clegg, the “Deputy Prime Minister has repeatedly confronted David Cameron about the refusal to order an inquiry into the Culture Secretary, it emerged yesterday. Sources close to Mr Clegg took the unusual step of providing details of the Liberal Democrat leader’s concerns over the Prime Minister’s handling of the issue. Mr Cameron has refused to refer the Culture Secretary to the independent adviser on ministerial interests after it emerged that Mr Hunt and his advisers had privately communicated with News Corporation executives when the company was attempting to take over BSkyB”. Clegg has ordered his MPs to abstain from a vote “on whether Mr Hunt should face an independent investigation” in the House of Commons. The article notes that “the latest row threatens to be the most personal disagreement between the Coalition partners. It is also being waged on an issue close to the Prime Minister, which threatens his own integrity”. The piece ends that “Bernard Jenkin, a senior Conservative MP, said civil servants should decide whether Mr Hunt was investigated, not the Prime Minister”. Jenkin, one of the hard right Tories disagrees with much of what Cameron has done, or intends to do. The Labour proposed motion was defeated with 18 Tories voting against the Government.
In the same week Sir John Major KG also gave evidence in which he said that Murdoch told him to change his policy on Europe. Also giving evidence was Clegg who reported that “A Liberal Democrat minister was told his party would not get “favourable treatment” in Rupert Murdoch’s newspapers if they opposed the BSkyB bid, the Leveson Inquiry has heard”. The article adds that “Clegg confirmed ‘veiled threats’ were made to the Liberal Democrats about their perceived lack of support for News Corporation’s £8 billion bid. The Deputy Prime was told by Norman Lamb, his chief parliamentary and political adviser, that News Corporation was pressing the party to be ‘open’ to the takeover”. This is usual treatment for those who oppose Murdoch and shows, as if it were necessary, the depths to which Murdoch would go to make a profit. Clegg while giving evidence said that he met the Murdoch’s a mere five times.
Yet in another blow to Hunt reports mention that “Labour accused the Prime Minister of a ‘smokescreen’ and a ‘stitch-up’ after Downing Street released a staged exchange of letters between Mr Cameron and Sir Alex Allan”. The piece goes on to say, “Sir Alex, whose job is to rule on any breaches of the code, replied that Mr Hunt’s ‘adherence to the ministerial code’ was a matter for the Prime Minister, and that he could not ‘usefully add to the facts of this case'”. This is hardly a ringing endorsement of Hunt or Cameron.
Lastly, the incumbent Prime Minster, David Cameron gave evidence before the inquiry. Chief among what was revealedwas that the disgraced Brooks sent a text message to Cameron saying that they were “in this toghether” and that suggesting that the neighbours go for a “country supper”. The article mentions that “Cameron said the Conservative Party had never made secret deals on a ‘nod and a wink’ with Rupert Murdoch. The Prime Minister admitted he tried to win support from Mr Murdoch’s newspapers during at least 10 meetings in the run-up to the election. But he said it was ‘nonsense’ that the Tories ever traded policy in return for favourable coverage from Mr Murdoch’s Sun and Times titles. He told the inquiry his party had no idea that Mr Murdoch would try to buy BSkyB straight after the 2010 election, so it could never have been the subject of a grand bargain”. Is is clear from this just how close Murdoch/Brooks were to Cameron, a closeness he is now rightly suffering for. Others have argued how Cameron’s whole strategy during his questioning failed. Other reportage has paid attention to how Cameron seems to have forgotten much of what happened with the Murdoch’s, while others mention his embarrassment, numerous meetings with the Murdoch’s as well as admitting the fact that the appointment of the immoral Andy Coulson as his director of communications has “haunted” him. Even Lord Justice Leveson questioned Cameron’s judgement when it came to hiring Coulson.
Indeed the only politician who came out of the week with anything sensible to say was leader of the Labour Party who, while given evidence argued for a media ownership cap. Where this leaves the sleaze encrusted, government of Cameron that seems not only to lack creditability but also competence is anyone’s guess, but Cameron’s government now almost looks as greedy and amoral as the newspaper group whose approval he begged for.