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Rupert Murdoch News International Leveson Inquiry

Review: Day 1 of Rupert Murdoch's evidence at the Leveson Inquiry into Media Ethics

By Richard Ellis |

April 25, 2012 | 5 min read

The fall out from James Murdoch's testimony still reverberated around Whitehall this afternoon, with Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt saving his position. With Murdoch senior giving evidence today, further fireworks were expected. Richard Ellis, managing director of public affairs consultancy Aardvark Communications offers his response to Rupert's first day in front of Lord Leveson.

Much had been made of Rupert Murdoch's evidence to the Leveson Inquiry after his son's explosive appearance the yesterday. With the repurcussion still ringing loud and the aftershocks very much still being felt, there was real excitement about the potential for Rupert Murdoch to cause further mischief for the Government. The reality was very different with the Inquiry drawing on material that wass already public to guide the questioning of Mr Murdoch Snr rather than the previously unseen emails that formed the basis of Murdoch Jnr's discussion.

The media tycoon's performance to the Inquiryprovided a strong contrast with the old man with an apparently sketchy recollection of the details around the phone hacking inquiry who appeared in front of the Select Committee. In front of Lord Leveson he appeared to have a solid grasp of the issues and events that he was involved in over thirty years ago and appeared to enjoy his opportunity deny and simultaneously highlight both his and his papers' influence over a sequence of Governments.

As during the Select Committee questioning Mr Murdoch was at pains to repeat his prepared lines, denying his influence over government policy or any insuation that The Sun's endorsement of a political party was ever commercially motivated and above all that there was any possibility of impropriety. Juxtaposed with his lack influence was courtship after courtship from every prime minister since Thatcher. His repeated denials that commercial motivations underpinned his decision to back certain parties contrasted with his agreement with Counsel to the Inquiry Robert Jay QC that he (Rupert Murdoch) had extracted all he could in terms of policy promises from Tony Blair before endorsing him in the 1997 election. Similarly in the same statement he denied making conditions for his support of political parties but was happy to state he strongly expressed opinions.

Even in the court room he seemed to exert control. His memory while significantly better than during the Select Committee hearing was not perfect - who can remember every conversation for the last thirty years - leading to some lines of questioning being short; the need to find the relevant passages in the evidence files (not an easy task) enabled him to operate at his own pace; and long pauses while answering Mr Jay's questions made it hard for the QC to know when to beging the next question for fear of being interupted. All in all he controlled the environment as much as anyone could.

Again we learned nothing that Mr Murdoch didn't want us to learn. So why was Rupert Murdoch's evidence so compelling? While denying his power and influence in the UK, he made it moreevident than it has ever been.

It was clear that while political leaders come and go, Mr Murdoch is a constant. He was clear that when Mr Brown "declared war" on News International it bothered him not an iota and that it was natural for future prime minister to take detours from their planned holidays to visit him. Most telling, having stated that that politicians seek the influence of all media editors and proprietors everywhere, he repeatedly stated that he had never asked a [future] prime minister for anything.

I was left with the image of our political masters, cap in hand, kneeling to an all powerful media mogul.

Rupert Murdoch News International Leveson Inquiry

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