“Alice laughed. 'There's no use trying,' she said. 'One can't believe impossible things’. ‘I daresay you haven't had much practice,' said the Queen. 'When I was your age, I always did it for half-an-hour a day. Why, sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast’”. Lewis Carroll might not have written those words, had be been alive today, and able to observe the creative behaviour of our politicians.
This creativity was on display on Monday in the House of Lords, when a statement was given on the subject of the takeover bid made by 21st Century Fox for the 61% of Sky that it did not already own. Lord Keen of Elie, who is the Advocate-General for Scotland, repeated “as a Statement an Answer given in another place by my right honourable friend Matthew Hancock”. There followed questions from his fellow peers.
One of those questioning The Good Lord was Liberal Democrat Baron (Don) Foster, formerly MP for Bath, and previously known as the man who ended Chris Patten’s time in the Commons. This was his intervention: “I have one simple question. Given the numerous meetings that have taken place between government Ministers and Murdoch executives and the recent meeting between the Prime Minister and Rupert Murdoch, do the Government now agree that they should implement Lord Leveson’s recommendations 83 and 84 immediately so that minutes are kept of such meetings and the content of the matters discussed made public?”
After batting aside one of Foster’s suggestions, by responding “There is no present intention to deal with the matters in Leveson that the noble Lord refers to”, which is in itself revealing, Lord Keen attempted to have his fellow peers believe one of those Impossible Things, that being on the subject of Theresa May’s recent Murdoch meeting.
“As regards his suggestion of a recent meeting between the Prime Minister and Rupert Murdoch, I point out that the only recent meeting was in September, when the Prime Minister was attending a meeting with certain journalists and correspondents from the Wall Street Journal and Mr Murdoch arrived unannounced, as it were, at that meeting. I can advise the noble Lord that there was no discussion at that time of the present transaction”.
So let’s get this one straight. Theresa May, during what was a flying visit to New York City last September, during which there would have been more demands on her time than she could reasonably hope to satisfy, just happened to find space in her schedule so she could meet with “certain journalists and correspondents” from just one newspaper.
That paper was not the New York Times, which, if one were to select just one title to visit, would have been the obvious choice. Instead, she visited the WSJ, and then there was a doubling down of coincidence as Don Rupioni just happened to be there. Murdoch, like the PM, has multiple demands on his time. Which makes the coincidence yet less believable.
We may not yet be Through The Looking Glass. But Parliament is being asked to believe a series of impossible things. And if that is the mere appetiser for what we’re about to receive in the shape of the Sky takeover, Lewis Carroll will be well and truly eclipsed.