Snappish Murdoch and who will judge Hunt?
A more snappish Rupert Murdoch in evidence at Leveson today. The man who said yesterday that anyone in public life was fair game for media attention today complains about being harrassed by snappers and reporters when he left his home beside Rebekah Brooks last year.
He’s also got a bit personal with the inquiry QC saying “people like you” would draw certain negative inferences. He’s shared with us that he sees himself as a “victim” of a News International “cover-up” over phone hacking that prevented him from finding out how bad things were.
There was a tantalising moment earlier when the inquiry QC seemed to be asking the “grand deal” question which is argued by Peter Oborne in today’s Telegraph. Were Jeremy Hunt’s visit to News Corp HQ in New York – just before David Cameron met James Muroch in the UK and The Sun endorsed the Tories in 2009 – connected? Rupert Murdoch didn’t seem to quite get the point, Lord Justice Leveson then interrupted and the whole thing was not returned to. Bizarre.
It’s emerged that Lord Justice Leveson had a phone chat late Tuesday afternoon with the Cabinet Secretary Sir Jeremy Heywood about how he was intending to deal with the allegations against Jeremy Hunt. There will be much interest in quite what passed between them.
The call would appear to have happened just before Number 10 saw Jeremy Hunt and sent him out to face the press saying that the allegations against him were something that would be looked into by the Leveson Inquiry and, by implicaton, adjudicated on by Lord Justice Leveson.
Not exactly within the terms of reference originally agreed for Lord Justice Leveson’s inquiry, you might think and, I understand, not necessarily what Lord Justice Leveson has in mind. His report may or may not answer the many questions that people have for Jeremy Hunt at the moment. Not quite the impression you’re left with listening to the PM yesterday or Jeremy Hunt on Tuesday night.
Lord Justice Leveson gave one of the strongest indications yet of his thinking on media standards. He thought the News of the World conduct in extracting a promise of cooperation from someone involved in the Max Mosley pictures in return for pixillating her face in the pictures was “disturbing” and, as a High Court judgement said, amounted to “blackmail.” Rupert Murdoch clearly didn’t think the same way but could spot danger and said “you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours” is common in life but he hadn’t read the judgement.
The inquiry QC jumped in and said if “you scratch my back” is such a way of life, was he quite sure it never came into play in his relations with politicians? Murdoch said nice try but “I’m not falling for it.”