Murdoch is The Dirty Digger
Rupert Murdoch was not known as the ‘Dirty Digger’ as a term of endearment. He was a ruthless, calculating and unprincipled businessman. He would use and abuse anyone to get his way. Agreements and conditions put in place to help him acquire notable titles such as The Times were ignored or torn up once the deal was done. He has been largely unchallenged for most of his working life. To see him play the role of a benign potentate at the Leveson Inquiry took some swallowing. His aim was he declared, “To dispel some myths.”
Nick Davies is the award-winning journalist who exposed the depths to which the News of the World had sunk against ferocious opposition and much establishment indifference. His views of the Digger’s appearance at Leveson are apposite.
“Murdoch kept denying that he made deals with politicians, ie, that he simply offered them the support of his paper in return for favours to his business. But Jay suggested: "It operates at a far more sophisticated level, doesn't it?" and went on to quote the reported words of the former Australian prime minister Paul Keating: "You can do a deal with him without ever saying a deal is done."
He described how he had once spent an afternoon at Chequers, telling Blair how much he opposed Britain joining the euro, as though the prime minister had nothing better to do.
To this extraordinary degree of access, he boldly added that he does indeed direct the editorial line of the Sun on major issues, including questions about Europe. And, once again failing to hold his tongue, he went right ahead and admitted what this would mean to a man like Blair: "If any politician wanted my views on major issues, they only had to read the Sun." The Sun relentlessly reinforced the anti-EU message.
Murdoch continued to deny that Blair had ever done anything for him, but then conceded that Blair had "gone the extra mile for him" over European policy, to the point where he had acceded to the Sun's demand that the government should agree to hold a referendum before accepting the new EU constitution.
And Blair had done something very similar by ensuring Britain maintained tough anti-union laws and then underlined the point with an article in the Sun, following which the two men had enjoyed dinner together. Murdoch agreed it was possible he had congratulated Blair on his position.
Similarly, Jay quoted Murdoch's former confidant, Woodrow Wyatt, who was close to Margaret Thatcher and who recorded in his diary that he had once told Murdoch: "Margaret is very keen on preserving your position. She knows how much she depends on your support. Likewise, you depend on her." Murdoch produced his standard denial – "I didn't expect any help from her, nor did I ask for any" – and then found himself accepting that, while the Sun supported her, she had delivered a series of decisions which looked really very helpful indeed, including allowing him to buy the Times and the Sunday Times without referring his bid to the Monopolies and Mergers Commission. She also exempted BSkyB from the regulations in the 1990 Broadcasting Act.
With Gordon Brown and David Cameron, he kept closer to the script but, even so, he caused unnecessary trouble.
He denied discussing the BBC licence fee with Cameron. Enough said. Talking to a prime minister about the licence fee might suggest he had some commercial motive. But then his tongue added: "I wasn't interested in the BBC licence fee. I had been through that with previous prime ministers, and it didn't matter. They all hated the BBC, and they all gave it whatever it wanted." Guardian 26/4/2012
Be prepared for a string of ex and current Prime Ministers denying that Murdoch influenced them in any way. Keating’s comment about doing a deal without a deal is perceptive. One of the most shaming things is the way our senior politicians (apart from the LibDems, regarded by Murdoch as losers and therefore not worth bothering with) behaved in such a sycophantic and demeaning way in the hope of getting his blessing.
Sick bags all round.