So today, Murdoch Junior returned to face the Commons’ Culture, Media and Sport Committee, and encountered a suitably fired-up Tom Watson, plus full supporting cast. And the MP for West Bromwich had a surprise for Junior: he’d been speaking to Neville Thurlbeck, former chief reporter at the now-defunct Screws. And Nev says Junior saw the email containing transcripts of hacked messages.
Watson offered Junior the chance to come clean and admit he misled the Committee back in July. The offer was declined. Instead, Junior dropped former Screws editor Colin Myler and legal man Tom Crone in the mire, suggesting it was they who had done the misleading. Crone described Junior’s evidence as “disingenuous”.
And Crone isn’t the only one on the legal side that has suggested Junior may not have been totally candid about what he knew, and when he knew it. As the current issue of Private Eye (#1301) has pointed out – it’s on Page 6 and the magazine is on sale at all good newsagents for just £1.50 – blaming the lawyers didn’t work with Harbottle & Lewis, nor with Crone.
Moreover, it didn’t work with Julian Pike of Farrer & Co, who told the same Commons Committee that “there was wider involvement in phone activity than [Clive] Goodman”. News Group’s own counsel Michael Silverleaf concurred: “There is overwhelming evidence of the involvement of a number of senior journalists in the illegal enquiries ... a culture of illegal information access”.
These comments come from 2008. That’s a year before Nick Davies and the Guardian first began to prise the lid off the Murdoch can of worms. And it’s the same year that Davies brought us the go-to book on the workings of the Fourth Estate, Flat Earth News. It was while talking about the part of the book examining The Dark Arts when Davies was aggressively challenged by Stuart Kuttner of the Screws.
“Nick Davies lives on another planet. What’s he talking about? It was one journalist at News Of The World, who did it once, and he was fired and went to prison” asserted Kuttner. Davies knew this was untrue, and the tone of Kuttner’s attack caused someone with more information to contact Davies. The Murdoch empire had effectively advertised its guilt to the world.
The aggressive tone continued when the Guardian first splashed on Phonehackgate, with the twinkle-toed yet domestically combative Rebekah Brooks suggesting that the paper was misleading the public. The Metropolitan Police, coincidentally being advised by former Screws hack Neil “Wolfman” Wallis, leant on editor Alan Rusbridger to back off. The reek of corruption is unmistakeable.
And now the Murdochs have turned on their own lawyers. Everybody’s out of step bar Junior, as far as he can recall. Roll on the next revelation.