Batten down the hatches, or in allotment speak, put weights on the hen-run coverings! the weathermen are often wrong, but to judge by the skies they may be right this time in warning that we are about to have a spell of weather likely to have every ark-builder in the land getting out the planking. In fact our short-term future looks almost as black as that of our dear leader, who is learning just how dangerous it is to retreat from the embracing arms of the Murdoch clan.
The setting up of a truly independent inquiry into phone-hacking must have seemed a good way of dodging the bullets when David Cameron was first cornered after revelations surrounding his intimacy with the Murdochs hit the headlines. Here, he will have thought, is proof positive that I am stooge to no man. Unfortunately for him he rather missed the point that Rupert Murdoch, and his dopey son James, are not quite as cuddly as he imagined. They, after all, have courted and won the hand of Thatcher and Blair, and have never before felt the need to wield the axe. Now they are on the revenge trail.
Yesterday James Murdoch gave an indication of what may be to come. Since becoming leader of the Conservative Party, Cameron has taken as many pains to cultivate his relationship with the Murdochs and their acolytes as he has to conceal just how close it has been. For example, when he was asked about the notorious dinner at the Chipping Norton home of his close friend Rebekah Brooks, the Prime Minister at first claimed that it didn’t happen. He later admitted that it did but insisted that there was nothing “inappropriate” about his conversations with James Murdoch. Yesterday James confirmed to Leveson that he did discuss the BSkyB takeover with Mr Cameron at the dinner. How appropriate was that?
We now also have details of the many social gatherimngs that the Camerons enjoyed with the Murdochs. We also know that in December 2010, the Prime Minister relieved Vince Cable of his responsibilities after he was taped by reporters admitting that he had “declared war on the Murdochs”. Mr Cameron made clear that, in his view, Mr Cable’s anti-Murdoch comments were “totally unacceptable and inappropriate”. He then appointed Jeremy Hunt, whose obsequious relationship with the Murdochs was well known. It sees that Mr Hunt’s pro-Murdoch bias was both acceptable and appropriate.
Yesterday we learned just how Hunt fulfilled his duty to be quasi-judicial in overseeing his responsibilities in regard to the takeover. The release of a long series of e-mail exchanges between staff working for James Murdoch and those working for Hunt is a bombshell. They show clearly that Mr Hunt not only failed to observe the necessary proprieties, but appeared intent on ensuring the bid went through, however difficult that was. In one e-mail the front man for James Murdoch reported back that he had been given information on what Mr Hunt was to announce to parliament. It was, he said, “absolutely illegal”. In another message Frederic Michel, head of public affairs at News Corp, reported on an “agreed” plan with Hunt that would lead to “game over for the opposition”.
Had it not been for the revelations about phone hacking published in The Guardian the bid would have been waved through, and both Cameron and Hunt would undoubtedly have received their political pay-back.
Unsurprisngly the opposition has called for the resignation of Jeremy Hunt. But in any large organisation people take their lead from the top, and the Labour Party is attacking Judy rather than Punch. Mr Cameron has long been an intimate friend of many within the Murdoch camp. Social life apart, his pro-Murdoch sympathies were on display in his decision to employ Andy Coulson and in his refusal to condemn Mrs Brooks when she fell victim to the Metropolitan Police investigation. He even tried to hide the fact that he had ridden a horse lent to Mrs Brooks by the police. The information being dribbled out by the Murdochs is beginning to show the Prime Minister as a stranger to the truth.
Is it really any surprise then that Jeremy Hunt, already in thrall to the Murdochs, should see his master’s lead as one to follow?
Next up before Leveson will be Rupert himself. Will he play the role of the kindly elderly leader who knows little of what his minions do? Or will he show just how tough and ruthless he really can be? Our Prime Minister must be praying that it is the former, for there is now every reason to believe that there is still a great deal we don’t know about the stench of corruption pervading 10 Downing Street!
BARCELONA CAN DRIBBLE!
To be honest we codgers are not usually given to applauding the Russian empire of Stamford Bridge. But it has to be said that Chelsea performed wonderfully in coming successfully through their encounter with what many claim is the best team in the world.
They are certainly the best dribblers. But their reluctance to shoot rather undermines the ‘best’ claim. Even the ten men of Chelsea were able to hold Barca at bay for more than half of the match, after John Terry had taken leave of his senses.
Here’s hoping Chelsea can now land the cup. It would have been nice to see a British-owned team of British players do it, but anything is better than our usual nothing!