ELEMENTARY, DEAR WATSON
This morning’s key press conference on the goings on within the Murdoch empire did not feature any of Rupe’s troops – barring the man from the Times who dared to briefly put his head above the parapet – but will bear heavily on the ability of the Murdochs to ward off yet more questions about their conduct following the revelations on Phonehackgate.
Don't I get a mention this time?
Because this was the much awaited launch of Labour MP Tom Watson’s book Dial M For Murdoch, co-written with Martin Hickman. Watson, a prominent member of the Department of Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) select committee, had previously attracted criticism for likening News Corporation to a Mafia operation. Here he gave some insights into why he said what he said.
Watson put the matter directly from the start: News International (NI) was “a toxic institution that has operated in Britain like a shadow state” and that the cover-up subsequent to the revelation of phone hacking was just as important a story. He then revealed that NI had gone after all the members of the DCMS select committee, with each investigator allocated two MPs.
The objective was to see what dirt they could dig up: who was having extra marital affairs, any closet gays, any other embarrassing information, all were solicited. The means used included blagging and other impersonation techniques, bullying and intimidation. Watson admitted that NI enjoyed some success from these endeavours. And that wasn’t all that the Murdoch empire was up to.
As the house started falling in last year, even the twinkle toed yet domestically combative Rebekah Brooks was not immune from investigation: her office was bugged. By this time, one might have been excused for thinking that Watson could be deviating from reality, but for one detail: he got the information from former Screws man Neville Thurlbeck.
Nev gave Watson an interview: it’s all on record. And it gets worse: he asserted that the reluctance of the DCMS select committee to summon Ms Brooks was down to the intimidation felt by its members. He also concluded that the actions of NI’s hacks undermined the work of Parliament, and could not rule out the possibility that they might still be influencing the DCMS committee.
Put alongside this is the move by the Crown Prosecution Service to charge some of those previously arrested, whose number has been swelled only today by the Sun’s Royal Editor Duncan Larcombe, picked up in a dawn raid on his home in Kent. Factor in that the likes of Thurlbeck are now willing to talk, and you have serious trouble for Murdoch. He was deep in the mire, and now he is yet deeper.
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