For so long, Phonehackgate was reported only by the Guardian and Observer, and later by the Independent, the unwritten code of Omerta around the dunghill that is Grubstreet holding firm and proving true Nick Davies’ phrase “dog doesn’t eat dog”. Shamefully, this even extended to the unfair dismissal case brought by Matt Driscoll against the Screws where he was awarded almost £800,000 – a record.
Even as the grim story of Milly Dowler’s phone being hacked, and the possibility that the families of Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman had had theirs accessed illegally, unfolded, most of the press pack merely followed the story as the Screws was closed down. But yesterday that changed: the legendarily foul mouthed Paul Dacre has clearly put the word out, and the Daily Mail has begun to lead on the affair.
Under the by-line of Stephen Wright, the Mail told “Hacking Police find ‘bombshell’ emails: now detectives may want to question James Murdoch”. Wright speculates as to whether Junior will be questioned, or perhaps arrested, as part of Operation Weeting, the potential of a cover-up which may also involve the twinkle-toed yet domestically combative Rebekah Brooks, and possible deletion of emails.
It’s true that the Commons Home Affairs Committee has been warned that hundreds of thousands of emails were deleted at News International’s request recently, and that more than one organisation was thus involved. And there is the potential here to test Junior’s repeated assertions that he was not the “mafia boss” as characterised by Tom Watson, but merely badly informed.
And that poses a problem for the Commons Culture, Media and Sport Committee, where a report into Phonehackgate, informed by its hearings going back to 2009, when Nick Davies showed them a transcript of the “For Neville” email, is in preparation. The Guardian has suggested that the Committee will indeed conclude that Junior was not the real villain of the piece.
But the Committee’s potential dilemma is, on this occasion, the supporting act. Because the move by the Daily Mail, firstly from Omerta to merely following, has crossed the journalistic Rubicon: Dacre and his hacks are now prepared to lead on the story, which suggests they are confident that the Murdochs are sufficiently damaged as to be beyond salvation.
Or, as the Mail piece puts it in signing off: “It is possible the most shocking revelations in the phone-hacking scandal are yet to come”. It Certainly is.