When the Murdoch Screws was closed down in 2011, the story was not that it had been a borderline criminal enterprise, but that here was a great newspaper brought down by a combination of a few rogue acts, rotten lefties, vindictive politicians who hated being exposed in its papers, and of course the deeply subversive Guardian, which had had the audacity to publish factually correct stories about it.
Chief player in this conceit was outgoing editor Colin Myler, leading his staff out of the building in July 2011 after preparing what would be the last edition of the paper. It had been a great paper, a great honour to edit it, and 300 people did not deserve to lose their jobs. They could all depart with their heads held high. Well, up to a point: this morning has brought that particular meme crashing down to earth.
That is because, at 1000 hours this morning, the Commons privileges committee published a report on the conduct of Myler, Tom Crone and Les Hinton when they gave evidence to the culture committee about phone hacking. And it makes damning reading for the former Screws editor - and Crone, former Murdoch legal man, who was exonerated recently by the Bar Standards Board of misconduct.
Put directly, Myler and Crone have been found to be in contempt of the House of Commons over evidence they gave on phone hacking. Les Hinton, former Murdoch lieutenant, has been cleared of misleading the Culture select committee, although there was a scepticism over his memory of events. Additionally, Crone was cleared of misleading the committee over surveillance by the Screws.
As the Guardian has reported, “MPs are set to pass a motion censuring Myler and Crone … News International ‘as a corporate body’ has not been found guilty of lying … The privileges committee is calling for an investigation into what can be done to punish witnesses who lie to select committees. At the moment parliament does not have effective powers to punish people for this”. Why this matters is not difficult to understand.
Myler and Crone were accused by James Murdoch “of failing to apprise him of evidence that the hacking went beyond a single reporter”. They insisted that Murdoch Junior had been bullshitting. But today’s verdict asserts “Mr Colin Myler misled the CMS Committee by ‘answering questions falsely about [his] knowledge of evidence that other News of the World employees had been involved in phone‐hacking and other wrongdoing’”.
Colin Myler had no cause to get righteous: this was, after all, the editor whose “splashes included the Mazher Mahmood sting that exposed the Duchess of York for bartering access to her ex-husband, Prince Andrew; the unauthorised publication of Kate McCann’s diary; and the Max Mosley scandal”. The Screws ended up having to open their wallets over the Mosley story, which they had embellished - by lying.
Another Murdoch editor caught with his pants on fire. No change there, then.