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Issue #1546      9 May 2012

Rupert Murdoch “not fit to run a company”

News Corporation chief Rupert Murdoch has been branded by MPs as “not a fit person” to run a major international company. This was the dramatic conclusion of a report on phone hacking from the Commons culture, media and sport committee.

But Tory members of the cross-party committee fought tooth and nail to stop such a ringing condemnation of Murdoch. Voting was six to four in favour of the report’s conclusion that “Rupert Murdoch is not a fit person to exercise the stewardship of a major international company.”

Lib Dem MP Adrian Sanders broke ranks with the Tories, joining anti-Murdoch campaigner Tom Watson and four other Labour MPs in voting for the crucial finding.

The majority also found that the whole hacking affair demonstrated “huge failings of corporate governance” at News International, publishers of the Sun and News of the World.

Mr Murdoch had shown “wilful blindness” about what was going on, and his son James Murdoch had shown “wilful ignorance.” Tory members did endorse another finding that it was “simply astonishing” that the Murdochs only realised as late as December 2010 that the company’s line about “one rogue reporter” was untrue.

The committee also united in concluding that it had been “misled” by evidence from former News of the World editor Colin Myler, former News Group Newspapers legal manager Tom Crone and former News International executive chairman Les Hinton.

A Commons motion will be tabled condemning the trio for giving misleading evidence after the committee found that witnesses had demonstrated “blatant” contempt.

MPs will decide whether a contempt of Parliament has been committed and what punishment would be imposed. The three could be called to the bar of the House to explain themselves and in theory they could be imprisoned in Big Ben tower – a punishment not used since 1880.

Mr Watson declared that powerful people had “corrupted our country.”

He told a Commons press conference: “They lied and cheated and blackmailed and bullied.” He also called for leading politicians – including Tony Blair and Gordon Brown as well as David Cameron and George Osborne – to reveal all their email and text message contacts with the Murdoch empire.

But Tory committee member Louise Mensch claimed that finding Rupert Murdoch “not a fit person” was “wildly outside the scope of the select committee.”

She explained that four Tory members had refused to vote for the report as a whole because it was “partisan.” Mr Sanders insisted he had voted simply on the basis of the evidence presented to the committee.

Tory committee chairman John Whittingdale emphasised that members had been united in concluding that they had been misled by witnesses. The committee is composed of five Labour members, five Tories and one Lib Dem.

The report deliberately avoided conclusions about the evidence of people arrested during ongoing police inquiries, who may face future criminal trials.

Labour member Jim Sheridan said: “The committee has shed light and exposed criminal activity within our Establishment press and media. That has led to the Leveson inquiry, which would not have happened but for this committee.”

The last MP to be imprisoned briefly in Big Ben tower was radical atheist Charles Bradlaugh, who refused to swear the oath of allegiance to the monarch in 1880.

Morning Star  

Next article – Venezuela’s new labour law “first in transition to socialism”

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