I guess the headline for Murdock and News Corporation is the outright attack on the BskyB bid by parliament. That a vote on this issue was called for by Ed Milliband and the Labour party, is not such a surprise. That it was wholeheartedly backed by both parties in the coalition government is perhaps more so, though not completely unexpected, given the rhetoric David Cameron was dishing out on the Hacking Scandal about a week ago.
As far as I can recall, this kind of cross party unity is a fairly rare occurrence in British Politics, usually reserved for, things like royal deaths, international disasters, and wars, declared or otherwise. When I thought this, I felt it put the whole affair in perspective for me, I believe that there has been in parliament, a simmering resentment at Murdock’s influence, an irritation about having to woo someone who is not a British National in the run up to general elections. Now when presented with an opportunity to express that resentment, the consensus among the various commentators appears to be that Parliament is likely to present a unified front, when it votes on calling for Murdock to withdraw the Bsky B bid.
If Parliament does show the unified front that the commentators expect, this will not bode well for the referral of the bid to the competition committee, even if the committee recommended the bid proceed, it would still be very difficult for the culture secretary, Jeremy Hunt to approve the bid against the expressed disapproval of parliament.
The loss of 6 billion off BskyB share values must also be hurting Murdock, and other shareholders in BSkyB, and I wonder how this might impact on Murdock’s position, shareholders are presumably not without power to affect who wields the reigns of authority within the organisation, so I would expect that there are power games afoot there as well.
Meanwhile British readers of this blog might not be aware that in the USA Murdock’s fingers are well and truly in the Fox network pie, which is also under ongoing scrutiny regarding information and misinformation during elections.
He does seem to have an obsession with influencing electoral processes, does Murdock.
With headlines like the above, appearances by former and current, police commissioners, deputy commissioners and assistant commissioners in front of the Home Affairs Select Committee hearing, almost seemed like a sideshow. And given the laughter and histrionics at various points, at times that’s exactly what it seemed like.
Former Metropolitan Police commissioner Lord Blair, seemed to me to say very little, giving the impression, that not much of the scandal was anything to do with him. He might as well have said, ‘I didn’t do it, nobody saw me do it and your can’t prove nothing.’
Assistant Commissioner, John Yates’ evidence was received with some scepticism, though he was later supported by Theresa May the Home secretary.
Former deputy assistant commissioner Peter Clarke in charge of the first inquiry in 2006 that led to the conviction of Clive Goodman and Glenn Mulcaire, gave evidence as did the current, deputy assistant commissioner Sue Aker, head of the current police inquiry into the allegations. who was compared to others giving evidence quite impressive and candid.
But my ‘star’ of the show was Andy Hayman, who resigned as assistant commissioner over expenses allegations, and admits to dining out with News International executives whilst conducting the phone-hacking inquiry. Even more extraordinary after resigning he took a job as a columnist with the News International-owned Times. Committee members thought he might be seen as “a dodgy geezer”, while Mr Vaz the committee chairman described this as “more like Clouseau than Columbo” and Nicola Blackwood wondered whether she was in Alice in Wonderland.
Two things stuck in my mind about Haymans evidence, firstly his body language fascinated me. Now it seems reasonable to assume that a serving or ex policeman would know that covering your mouth or scratching your nose as you speak is a bit of a tell tale that you might be fibbing. At key moments in his testimony Hayman’s hands were up around his face, they appeared to raise by reflex and then get caught, changing direction and rubbing his chin, or scratching his head, or ending up supporting his head. Anywhere but where they appeared to be originally heading, which was to cover his mouth. Or at least that’s how it seemed to me. At other times his hands were in front of his body palms facing away from him, making pushing movements, which many body language experts associate with not wanting to talk about the subject under discussion.
The second thing that remained in my mind about his evidence was the melodramatic way he responded to Ms Fullbrooks question, which she had asked of every contributor to the proceedings, whether he had accepted payments from News International whilst he was a police officer.
It was not so much his denial, but the melodrama of his denial, his expression of outrage would have been perfectly appropriate if he had been playing Lady Bracknell in a production of Oscar Wildes ’The Importance of being Ernest,’ and delivering the line ‘A Handbag!’ In front of the Home office select committee, it was still high farce but in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Earlier Former deputy assistant commissioner Peter Clarke’s evidence raised an interesting point concerning the time the previous inquiry took place, in the aftermath of 7-7. I confess that hearing this I wondered if an organisation unscrupulous enough to hack the phone of a murdered child and delete messages from it, might have seen police preoccupation with terrorism as an opportunity to be ‘too much trouble’ to prosecute, and/or if they thought that such preoccupation might allow them to pursue further hacking undisturbed by unwanted police interest.
Anyhow all in all not a good day for Rupert Murdock and News Corporation.