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Thursday, November 10, 2011 

Deceitful and incompetent.

New router has arrived, but now it looks like something's gone wrong with the line as well as it's failing to sync up. Definitely not the router, as it connected straight away when I tried it here. This incredibly happy turn of events means you'll most likely miss my own analysis of James Murdoch's performance before the select committee, which I'm sure you were all desperately looking forward to. Here instead then is Roy Greenslade, summing it up rather well:

Let's imagine that James Murdoch spoke the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth to the Commons select committee. I know it's a stretch, but stay with me.


One day in 2008, 10 June to be exact, Myler and Crone arrived in Murdoch's office to obtain authorisation for a large payment - a very large, six figure payment - to settle the Taylor action.

Murdoch was not shown any documents. He was not told about the contents of a damning legal opinion by Silverleaf. He was not informed about Myler's and Crone's contacts with Pike.

Not only that. He didn't ask. It didn't occur to him question why the settlement was necessary, nor to ask why Taylor's phone had been hacked. It also never struck him to wonder why his senior executives were still maintaining the public stance that hacking had been confined to a "rogue reporter".

He was shown a heavily redacted email - the famous "For Neville" email - but nothing more.

The only discussion was about the level of damages and costs that the company should pay. The meeting then concluded after 15 minutes. Job done.


That was, of course, an illegal act (ie, a crime). That admission may well come back to haunt him.

Finally, though the headlines may well be devoted to Tom Watson's jibe about Murdoch acting like a Mafia boss (early examples here and here and here) it paled beside the Asda moment raised by Philip Davies.

After explaining that he used to work for the supermarket chain (owned by the giant US company, Walmart) Davies registered his incredulity that Murdoch could have authorised the payment of more than £500,000 (to Taylor) without inquiring deeply into the reasons.

"It all seems so cavalier to me," said Davies. "You agree to settle cases with no real cap but a ballpark figure. You agree that a company should have a legal opinion, but you don't even ask to see the opinion when it is written."

And there, in a couple of sentences, is surely the puncturing of the Murdoch defence. What kind of company boss is that fails to show any curiosity about a massive payment in controversial circumstances? A deceitful one or an incompetent one?

I see no reason why it can't be both.

Update: To tempt fate, it looks as though I'm back online (at gone midnight). To add one point, it seems churlish to begrudge Tom Watson making his mafia comparison. While it's never wise to believe everything the inestimable Louise Mensch says, if it is indeed true that every single member of the media select committee was at one point under surveillance authorised by News International, then that's exactly the sort of behaviour you would expect from an organisation which felt it was accountable to no one, let alone to a bunch of jumped up parliamentarians. Like many organised crime groups, it had also seemingly bought off the police, with certain individuals even going from one to the other. Being compared to an Asda manager might be more demeaning, but few Asda managers end up getting arrested over their business practices.

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