In a statement issued by the Romney Campaign today, the GOP Presidential Candidate has retroactively cancelled his visit to the London 2012 Olympics. Former Governor Mitt Romney said
“I’ve received nothing but support over my non-appearance on London earlier this week. Both the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, and the Prime Minister David Cameron, praised my silence about the organisation of the 2012 Olympics. Mr Leader of the Opposition, Ed Miliband, couldn’t wait for me to shut up.
Meanwhile, from left to right, from Conservative to Liberal, the people of Anglosaxonland have welcomed my absence. I’m told both the Queen, David Beckham and Paul McCartney are hoping that I’ll continue not to appear at the Opening Ceremony tonight.”
Compare and contrast the ‘Romneyshambles’ video to the classy message myself and other Gamesmakers received from Michelle Obama this morning
It’s hard to believe, but at 4pm BST today it will be exactly a year since Nick Davies and Amelia Hill published online a leak from Operation Weeting, the newly recreated (third) investigation into phone hacking, and revealed that the News of the World had hacked the phone of a missing 13 year old schoolgirl, who was found dead six months later, murdered by Levi Bellfield.
That headline changed the political scene here in the UK. Within days the News of the World had closed, and New Corp were forced to withdraw their takeover bid for Britain’s most lucrative broadcaster, BSkyB. Within two weeks James and Rupert Murdoch were summoned to appear before a Parliamentary select committee, and David Cameron was forced to set up the Leveson Inquiry.
Over the next year, the hacking scandal expanding to a corruption and bribery scandal at the News of the World’s sister paper, the best selling Sun. Over 50 people have now been arrested. An internal News Corp inquiry, the MSC – set up under pressure from the FBI, SEC and DOJ – has now handed over thousands of emails suggesting bribery of public officials. The scandal expanded to include allegations of TV piracy at News Corp’s pay-TV encryption services in Australia, the UK, Italy and the US.
But more than anything, for the UK, the Leveson Inquiry has shone a light into the dark corners of the political media class, and revealed such extensive back door lobbying between the Murdochs and the last five prime ministers, that it was almost like discovering a state within a state. And of course, with Rebekah Brooks, Andy Coulson and James Murdoch meeting virtually every day with David Cameron, George Osborne and Jeremy Hunt, the convergence over the last few years has been almost seamless. As a senior News International journalist expressed it to me:
The Court of Cameron and the Court of Murdoch have become almost totally enmeshed.
This last year has been an amazing journey for our country, and for me personally, as I became inextricably caught up in the coverage of the affair. My book, which explores those 14 days in July which ended a media dynasty – and the 50 years leading up to it – is in the final stages and due for publication at the end of the month.
Below I might share some of the book, particularly the reality of the Milly Dowler story, but mainly this diary is to share YOUR memories, to hear your thoughts about this momentous year.
Private papers were released last night from the Thatcher Foundation which show the secret meeting Rupert Murdoch had with Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher to make sure his bid the The Times and Sunday Times would not be referred to the Monopolies and Merger’s commission in return for more political support, and an introduction to Ronald Reagan’s political circle. The eminent and brilliant editor Harold Evans of the Sunday Times, who was against all assurances ousted by Rupert Murdoch, said on a BBC Radio Interview this morning (starts around 1:49).
“The whole thing is so squalid I don’t know whether to laugh or cry at being vindicated after all this time”
This initially was a lighthearted intermission diary, supposing this would be a quiet Sunday as News International tried to manage the chaos engulfing them. But I was wrong.
UPDATE: Sir Paul Stephenson, the Met Commissioner, Britain’s senior police officer, has resigned because of his connections with the scandal. More news as this comes in. But this is affecting all levels of the British establishment. I hear now that the Serious Fraud Office is making forays into the News International books: this means that the payment to police officers is at a deeper and more complicated than first appeared. In company law, such payments would be “a gross misuse of shareholders money”.
In Sir Paul Stephenson’s resignation statement there’s a concealed timebomb; a comparison between his employee (Wallis a former News of the World deputy editor) now arrested in the Hackergate probe, and the Prime Minister’s chief press officer, David Coulson (a former editor of the same newspaper).
Now let me turn to the reported displeasure of the Prime Minister and the Home Secretary of the relationship with Mr Wallis.
The reasons for not having told them are two fold. Firstly, I repeat my earlier comments of having at the time no reason for considering the contractual relationship to be a matter of concern. Unlike Mr Coulson, Mr Wallis had not resigned from News of the World or, to the best of my knowledge been in any way associated with the original phone hacking investigation.
That’s a barb and a half. As Robert Peston says
Stephenson statement implies that Met’s employment of Wallis was less controversial than David Cameron’s employment of Coulson
It is striking that Sir Paul has taken responsibility and answered questions about the appointment of the Deputy Editor of the News of the World whereas the Prime Minister still refuses to recognise his misjudgement and answer questions on the appointment of the Editor of the News of the World at the time of the initial phone hacking investigation.
People will wonder at why different rules apply for the Prime Minister and the Met, especially when as Sir Paul said himself, unlike Andy Coulson, Neil Wallis had not been forced to resign from the News of the World.
It is also a very serious concern that the Met Commissioner felt unable to tell the Prime Minister and the Home Secretary about this operational issue with Neil Wallis because of the Prime Minister’s relationship with Andy Coulson
Amazing times. This could go all the way up to the Prime Minister – a close friend of Rebekah Brooks. Even Iain Dale, a famous Conservative Blogger agrees; Could Cameron Be Next
I can’t believe I am even writing this, but it is no longer an impossibility to imagine this scandal bringing down the Prime Minister or even the government. OK, some of you reading this may think that last sentence is a deranged ranting, and you may be right. Indeed, I hope you are. But Sir Paul Stephenson launched a thinly veiled attack on David Cameron in his resignation statement and the Prime Minister is already on the ropes about the propriety of his relationship with Andy Coulson.
They have arrested her on suspicion of both phone hacking (under the Phone Intercept Law) and corruption allegations.
This is key development, and puts James Murdoch next in the frame as per my previous diary – FALL OF THE HOUSE OF MURDOCH VI. Indeed, so dramatic was it that the best go to source for inside information on New International, Murdoch’s biographer Michael Wolff, could only emit the tweet “Jesus” at first. Now he adds this…
In 2008, during a two hour interview I did with Rebekah Brooks, she took seven phone calls from James Murdoch–that’s how often they spoke.
A Guardian Video from just seven days ago shows how close Brooks was to both James and Rupert who (rather than the hacked victims or 200 staff redundancies) said Rebekah was his ‘priority’
My FINAL UPDATE for US readers. In case this seems like a parochial issue, you ought to know that the Chief Executive of News International at the time when all these scandals took place was Les Hinton (pictured below), who is now is the publisher of the Wall Street Journal for Murdoch. Follow his scandalous coverup in Media Matters. Also Andy Coulson, former editor of News of the World and Prime Minister David Cameron’s former Head of Communications will be arrested tomorrow.
AMAZING NEWSFLASH! The News of the World (commonly known as ‘News of the Screws’ because of its salacious coverage) is to be axed for good. Though it was the biggest selling English language paper in the world, many major companies including Tesco had refused to advertise in it and the brand was damaged for good. This of course is a blow for the Murdoch Empire, but a tactical retreat. The pressure isn’t off. But it’s killed his main Sunday Paper in the UK
It’s just been announced that because of over 100,000 submissions against Rupert Murdoch’s acquisition of the satellite channel BSkyB, government approval by our Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt – largely expected this week – will have to be deferred several months. The Government are still arguing that revelations of illegal activity among senior News executives should not affect the principle of the takeover – but everything is to play for.
(Left to right, Les Hinton, Andy Coulson, Rupert Murdoch and Rebekah Brooks together in 2005)
This could be a crucial moment for press freedom and media plurality in the UK. Murdoch’s takeover the largest broadcaster (by revenue) in the UK, would have given him a unique cross platform monopoly. Thanks to series of favours by cowed and appeasing politicians (especially Margaret Thatcher) Murdoch’s News International has been allowed to accumulate nearly 40 percent of the newspaper market. He also has key sports and film rights in the UK. A combination of BSkyB and News International would have made him much more powerful in the UK than Berlusconi is in Italy – and at least Berlusconi is an Italian citizen.
The tyrants lose their swagger and those that lived in fear dare to speak out. The dynamics of the News International saga are similar to the ones that shape the fall of dictatorial regimes, except in this case it is some mighty media executives who are suddenly fearful and the politicians who are liberated.
Yesterday’s exchanges in the Commons were ones I thought I would never witness. They are of historic importance. Senior elected politicians dared to challenge the powerful Murdoch empire and there was an air of catharsis as they did so.
For more on Murdoch’s corrosive and corrupting effect on British journalism, and and his coarsening of public life and politics in the UK, follow me below the flip.