Coffee House

MPs squabble over their own phone hacking report

1 May 2012


The education select committee reported earlier, but it is the report of another select committee that
will get all the attention today. The culture, media and sport select committee has just delivered "">its verdict on the phone hacking scandal, naming names and
apportioning blame — or at least in theory it has. In practice, ‘its verdict’ may be stretching it a bit. During the press conference just now, the individual members of the
committee could barely put up a united front at all.

There are the parts of the report that they all agree upon: that the former News International employees Les Hinton, Tom Crone and Colin Myler misled the committee in their testimony, for instance.
And then there are the parts that they disagree upon among themselves. The most vexatious of these appears to be an amendment, submitted by Tom Watson, to the effect that ‘Rupert Murdoch is
not a fit person to exercise the stewardship of a major international company.’ Six members of committee voted for this amendment (the five Labour members and the one Lib Dem), while four
voted against it (the four Tories, excepting chairman John Whittingdale) — so it made it into the report. The same split then occurred when it came to voting for the report as a whole.

This resulted in a quite extraordinary press conference. Tom Watson rattled through a speech stuffed with barbs against Murdoch, and even quoted Bob Dylan for good measure. But then his fellow
committee member Philip Davies stressed that these were not the views of the entire body, and added that ‘some people have got carried away with themselves’. Louise Mensch suggested
that she would have voted for the report in its entirety, if it hadn’t been for Watson’s Murdoch amendment. The Labour MPs came to their comrade’s defence. And on and on it went.

Seems to me that the accusations levelled at Hinton, Crone and Myler are very serious in themselves — but I expect that the ‘not a fit person’ attack will seize the headlines
tomorrow. The political question is whether this will wash back to damage the Tories as the Hunt row continues, or perhaps the political class as a whole. But, whatever, there’s little sense
of catharsis after today’s report. This messy affair continues.

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  • Archibald

    With recent developments, I cannot believe that the Speccy hasn’t got Louise Mensch’s appearance on Daily Politics as shown on this link up yet (you have to scroll down):

    The real scandal of this report is Tom Watson getting away with this hijacking to take headlines around the world with a statement admitted to be based on no evidence while you remain silent. Come on Speccy, stand for something for once, you are such a timid little soul these days.

  • Archibald

    What I meant to add was, there was even a tacit admission of BBC bias in favour of Labour by Jim Sheridan, who while trying to not look ashamed tried to suggest that if it was the BBC in the Murdoch position, Louise Mensch would be first to put the boot in. Why, exactly, would that be Jim?

  • Archibald

    The BBC this morning was a disgrace; when will the Speccy come out and openly attack the clear bias? The headline on BBC Breakfast was that the committee had found that he was unfit and that he’d come out to say to staff they were working hard to get better. No mention of the split on the committee. No mention of Murdoch’s counterpoint that it was a partisan effort. And certainly no mention of the shameful performance of Jim Sheridan on Newsnight last night. Speccy, even the Guardian’s Simon Jenkins was having a go at the BBC when the story first broke for its coverage, will you just sit back and be quiet as ever?

  • Louisa

    Coeur de Lion has it right – in a few words too.

  • Fergus Pickering

    I knew it! If you say someone’s fat ten your comment gets pulled. OK then. The traditionlly built Tom Watson (whose record as a fiddling MP I should like to be reminded of) is hardly competent to pronounce on somebody’s fitness to run a business. Watson is unfit to run anything at all. Is that OK?

  • AndyLeeds

    You got it Sussex Lad. The BBC is a monopoly and it abuses its position. It’s news reporting is a model of bias – to know what the lead story will be you merely have to cast at glance at the tax avoiding rag The Guardian. So we must rebalance our media by breaking up the BBC and allowing a host of new providers to take root.

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