Murdoch’s tangled web

by Daphne Liddle

THE LEVESON Inquiry into phone hacking at the former News of the World produced its first arrest last Tuesday as the former editor of that paper Rebekah Brooks, her husband racehorse trainer Charlie Brooks and three minions were charged with attempting to pervert the course of justice.

They are alleged to have removed seven boxes of material last July from the offices of News International — the Murdoch-controlled company that owns the Sun, Times, Sunday Times and the Sun on Sunday, the successor to the News of the World.

The charges are thought to relate to finds made by police in a bin near the Brooks’ £1.5 million home at Chelsea Harbour.

It is a signal that the Crown Prosecution Service believes it has strong enough evidence to bring a successful case.

There are several strands of investigation into the phone hacking scandal — the investigation by the police, the inquiry conducted by the parliamentary Culture Committee that published its findings two weeks ago, the Leveson inquiry into press standards, particularly regarding the Murdoch press empire and its relations with the Government and police. And finally there is the News Corporation’s (the US-based parent company of News International) internal inquiry being conducted by its Management Standards Committee.

And there are many cross paths of investigation as the police, MPs and journalists investigate each other and accuse each other of connivance, corruption and turning a blind eye.

And the alleged wrong doings have also broadened to include the close relationship between David Cameron and his various Cabinet ministers with the Murdoch empire.

This includes weekend parties with Chancellor George Osborne at his official home of Dorneywood with Rebekah and Charlie Brooks, David Cameron’s choice of former News of the World editor Andy Coulson, already under suspicion of involvement in illegal phone hacking, as his press secretary.

It also includes Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt and his choice of special advisor, Adam Smith, another Murdoch minion, at a time when the Government was considering approval of Murdoch taking a controlling share in the BSkyB broadcasting company.

Hunt swears he never leaked any private Government deliberations to Murdoch and claims to be surprised that Smith might have.

Allegations of government-Murdoch collusion now range from the BSkyB issue, back through Tony Blair’s decision, with George Bush, to launch an illegal war on Iraq in 2003 and Margaret Thatcher’s decision in the 1980s to approve of Murdoch’s bid to take over the Times, Sunday Times and the News of the World.

But stories of press barons with undue influence over elected governments go far back in time, beyond Murdoch and Maxwell to Beaverbrook, Northcliffe and many more.

Revelations are coming thick and fast as those under the spotlight of Leveson try to shift the blame or incriminate others. Alastair Campbell, Tony Blair’s former press secretary, giving evidence at the Leveson Inquiry, tried to exonerate his former boss by claiming that the frequent communications between Blair and Murdoch in 2003 and 2003 — the run-up to the invasion of Iraq — were Murdoch expressing his agreement with the course of action Blair had already decided on, not Murdoch prompting Blair and Bush to launch a bloody and illegal war.

Rebekah Brooks last week decided under pressure at the Leveson inquiry to reveal the emails and texts between herself and David Cameron — showing that they were on terms of close friendship.

Clearly this was a trump card she had been holding close to her chest, hoping that a threat to reveal it would keep her safe from the inquiry. But now she has played it she cannot threaten to use it again. And within a couple of days she was under arrest and charged.

Nevertheless her revelation of such close contact with Cameron is another dagger in his back. Who knows there may be many more damaging revelations to come from cornered Murdoch minions? Murdoch himself is unlikely to allow himself to be brought down without bringing down a lot of other powerful people who have connived with him in the past.

What started a year ago as an investigation into the hacking of the phone of a murdered teenager, which confused the investigation into her death, has turned into a storm that could engulf Cameron and bring down this vicious anti-working class government — and could even put Blair in the dock over Iraq.