Imagine …..

19 Dec

Imagine that an inquiry has been set up to look into the relationship between the government and newspapers.  The government appoints MPs of all parties to participate in an internal inquiry and the date of the first meeting is set.

Members of the public turn up and what do they see?  Sitting with MPs on this inquiry committee are Rupert Murdoch and his son James!  Not in the public gallery, not even with their bevvy of lawyers in ther main room – actually sitting with the committee.  Surely this is a mistake?  You can’t have the very people you are investigating sitting with you!  It gets worse.  Then Rupert Murdoch reads out a statement about why the internal inquiry committee cannot look into his relationship with the government.  Why:  Because the government is giving evidence to another inquiry – an independent one –  looking into the relationship of the press to all sorts of people – the police, people who have been hacked, people on a list who might have been hacked, reporters who may or may not have taken bribe – they are just one element of that public inquiry which might take years to come to a conclusion and, even if it does come to a conclusion, the government doesn’t have to abide by its recommendations.

So, because the government has provided information to one set of people it is not allowed to scrutinise its own procedures or even examine its own evidence to those people put to the inquiry to test its validity  (it is the only body that can do this) and ensure that its own house is in order and its hands are sqeaky clean in the matter.

Rupert then goes on to pretty much run the meeting, dominating throughout the whole meeting.  He instructs themas to what they can and cannot investigate, he tells them who they can call as witnesses.  Thesays the people who believe they have suffered problems with this relationship should DEFINITELY not be called – only people who have benefitted from it.  Meanwhile, son James sits in the shadow of his Dad not saying anything.  However, suddenly a member of the committee pipes up and says:  “Hey, James, that wasn’t a very good article you wrote for us on the role of the press – surely with your expert knowledge you could have written something better?”  James looks VERY annoyed and says “But I didn’t write that article”.  The committee member says “But we asked you to do it and it has your name here, at the end of it” and James says: “Maybe it does, but I didn’t write it”.  So the committee member asks who did.  “Ah, that was my secretary, she wrote it.”    And the committee member says:  “But your name is on it as author”.  James is adamant, “Even though my name is on it, I didn’t write it”.  And the comment is not even in the notes which come out after the meeting.

A committee member asks Rupert Murdoch whether it is usually the case that a newspaper mogul’s son should work for the government and the press  – sitting in David Cameron’s office, being paid by David Cameron but spending most of his time there editing a newspaper (though the newspaper IS supportive of the current government, of course) .  Through gritted teeth Rupert says “Well, no not normally”.

Substitute Mark Williams for Murdoch and Nigel Harrison for his son James, the committee Chairman for the anonymous questioner about the paper and Councillor Mike Allen asking about James and what his job is, and you get the idea.  This is what we have – the very people to be investigated running the whole show and dictating the terms under which the committee does its work. – and writing up the notes!

And it wasn’t even the equivalent of Rebekkah Brooks who wrote the offending article!

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