[Update at end of post]
And so the runaway train that is Phonehackgate has felled another pillar of the Murdoch empire: Rebekah Brooks, the twinkle-toed yet domestically combative CEO of News International has bowed to the inevitable and fallen on her sword. The action looks, at the outset, to be strangely timed, but nothing is quite as it seems nowadays with Rupe and his troops.
Why did she not go immediately after the decision to close the Screws, or at least after that last edition had come off the press? That’s the straightforward one: Rupe and Junior didn’t want Brooks to go then, and Murdoch senior was keen to show that she still had his backing when he eventually flew in to try (unsuccessfully) to regain control of the situation.
One can argue over whether this was to give Murdoch Junior some kind of shield, but even though the Screws newsroom was hostile, the man sitting where the buck stopped was not. A week on, and all is changed. This has much to do with the upcoming appearance of Brooks and both Murdochs before the Commons culture committee (for which there will not even be standing room).
At first, Brooks was the only one to signal her willingness to turn up to be grilled by John Whittingdale and his team. Junior said he would go, but not until later in the year, while Rupe didn’t even say whether he’d lower himself to be interrogated by mere parliamentarians, aka the Hired Help. The clear conclusion is that Brooks was going to volunteer to take the flak, while the Murdochs sat it out – preferably out of the country.
Only when it became clear that the will of Parliament was that Rupe and Junior must turn up and face the music did both – reluctantly – consent to appear. Having decided to turn up in person, there was no need for a fall guy – or gal. So the “dead CEO walking” that I described previously could be cut loose, and thus this morning’s announcement.
Problem is, how many more sacrificial victims can Rupe and Junior offer up? One name that is being pitched more and more is that of Les Hinton, loyal servant of the Dirty Digger for around fifty years. If Rupe sez that Les has to walk the plank, then we’ll know it really is serious. It would be another case of “greater love hath no man, that he lay down his friends to save his life”.
It’s not over yet, and I suspect Phonehackgate will require further attention before the much awaited Commons culture committee meeting next Tuesday.
[UPDATE Saturday AM: Honestly, Zelo Street is not in possession of a crystal ball! But once again this blog has pitched the name - in this case Les Hinton - before the fall. The only surprise, to me, was that he went as soon as he did. So Phonehackgate will indeed get further attention before Tuesday, because, as I point out above, Hinton going means it really is serious. In the next Murdoch Is Served I'll show why Hinton went, and why it will not be enough]