The mythical power of the spreadsheet still haunts the Tory Party. But over the past 48 hours, the dynamic of this power has shifted - not to the benefit of The Blue Team, sadly for them, but certainly away from the Murdoch mafiosi. All that leverage that could have been exerted to put the arm on Theresa May and get her to think afresh about the Sky bid no longer exists. Because the spreadsheet is now Out There.
Nonetheless, the Murdoch Sun has continued to tease the spreadsheet today, revealing a few more names, and claiming that some of it is just Good Clean Consensual Fun, but letting readers know “THERESA MAY’S deputy Damian Green is the first name on the list of alleged Tory sex pests because of claims he signed up to a cheating website, The Sun can reveal today”. That is two year old news, thanks.
Moreover, as one look at even the Sun’s bodged copy of the spreadsheet shows - the bodge is the stuff in red in the second column which overwrites information identifying some of those redacted names - Green is not just on that list because his details were found on a leak from Ashley Madison. The BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg has confirmed it.
“Damian Green has instructed libel lawyers, Kingsley Napley” she told earlier, meaning that Green is about to expend a shed load of money, only to end up looking like a complete fool. What is hinted at under that spreadsheet redaction is a lot more than a touch on the knee and a few suggestive emails (but remember, only alleged).
The Sun even reveals some of the names itself: “In many cases the politicians are accused of no wrongdoing and are only named because they have had a relationship with another person in Westminster … Home Secretary Amber Rudd is on the list as having a ‘workplace relationship with Kwasi Kwarteng’, another Tory MP … Neither has ever denied the relationship and they have not been accused of any misconduct”.
Then why not remove the redaction (Ms Rudd is the second to last entry)? And there’s another: “Grant Shapps, the party’s former chairman, is listed because of rumours allegedly spread by his political rivals that he had an affair, which he denies”. Then why is his name still redacted? He’s the “ex-cabinet minister” fifth from bottom.
The mystique of the spreadsheet is rapidly vanishing, yet still the Sun tries to keep up the dramatic tension. “The claims, despite many being unverified and several others strenuously denied, have the potential to bring down Theresa May’s administration, as she has pledged to sack anyone found guilty of impropriety” they tell, while not mentioning that anything that does happen is no longer going to be down to them.
And I have bad news for the Murdoch goons: news has arrived on Zelo Street this morning suggesting that what the spreadsheet euphemistically describes as “inappropriate behaviour” may have spread to at least one of their staff. As a result, one developing story today about female staff working in Westminster does not look at all surprising. Investigations continue; contact details, as ever, on the right hand side.
The Murdoch grip on the spreadsheet is over. Another Sky bid wheeze has failed.