Some MPs have told "total lies", says Rupert Murdoch

Murdoch denies he is going to sell up and hits out at Gordon Brown in his first interview since the

Rupert Murdoch has given his first significant public comments since the scandal engulfing News Corporation broke. Speaking to his own newspaper, the Wall Street Journal, he vigorously defended the company's actions and hit back at accusations against him.

He said that News Corp had handled the crisis "extremely well in every way possible," making just "minor mistakes." This is despite claims by the Metropolitan Police that News International hindered its investigation.

Murdoch also addressed his appearance in front of a Commons select committee next Tuesday. He agreed to attend yesterday after initially declining. He said he wanted to:

[Address] some of the things that have been said in parliament, some of which are total lies. We think it's important to absolutely establish our integrity in the eyes of the public......I felt that it's best just to be as transparent as possible.

He singled out former prime minister Gordon Brown, who has accused reporters at News International of accessing his son's medical records and gave a rabble-rousing speech attacking Murdoch and News International in the Commons on Wednesday, saying: "He got it entirely wrong".

Murdoch added that "the Browns were always friends of ours" until the Sun withdrew its support for Labour before the last election. His biographer, Michael Wolff, tweeted that in the interview "Murdoch seemed genuinely distressed about Brown not liking him anymore".

In the last few days, speculation has been rife that Murdoch might sell off his British newspaper titles to prevent contagion in his empire. Murdoch, who is famously committed to the newspaper business, responded to these rumous:

Pure rubbish. Pure and total rubbish....give it the strongest possible denial you can give.

He also said he was confident that the damage to News Corp was "nothing that will not be recovered". Unsurprisingly, the Sun King is fighting back.

Samira Shackle is a freelance journalist, who tweets @samirashackle. She was formerly a staff writer for the New Statesman.

How Jim Murphy's mistake cost Labour - and helped make Ruth Davidson

Scottish Labour's former leader's great mistake was to run away from Labour's Scottish referendum, not on it.

The strange revival of Conservative Scotland? Another poll from north of the border, this time from the Times and YouGov, shows the Tories experiencing a revival in Scotland, up to 28 per cent of the vote, enough to net seven extra seats from the SNP.

Adding to the Nationalists’ misery, according to the same poll, they would lose East Dunbartonshire to the Liberal Democrats, reducing their strength in the Commons to a still-formidable 47 seats.

It could be worse than the polls suggest, however. In the elections to the Scottish Parliament last year, parties which backed a No vote in the referendum did better in the first-past-the-post seats than the polls would have suggested – thanks to tactical voting by No voters, who backed whichever party had the best chance of beating the SNP.

The strategic insight of Ruth Davidson, the Conservative leader in Scotland, was to to recast her party as the loudest defender of the Union between Scotland and the rest of the United Kingdom. She has absorbed large chunks of that vote from the Liberal Democrats and Labour, but, paradoxically, at the Holyrood elections at least, the “Unionist coalition” she assembled helped those parties even though it cost the vote share.

The big thing to watch is not just where the parties of the Union make gains, but where they successfully form strong second-places against whoever the strongest pro-Union party is.

Davidson’s popularity and eye for a good photo opportunity – which came first is an interesting question – mean that the natural benefactor in most places will likely be the Tories.

But it could have been very different. The first politician to hit successfully upon the “last defender of the Union” routine was Ian Murray, the last Labour MP in Scotland, who squeezed both the  Liberal Democrat and Conservative vote in his seat of Edinburgh South.

His then-leader in Scotland, Jim Murphy, had a different idea. He fought the election in 2015 to the SNP’s left, with the slogan of “Whether you’re Yes, or No, the Tories have got to go”.  There were a couple of problems with that approach, as one  former staffer put it: “Firstly, the SNP weren’t going to put the Tories in, and everyone knew it. Secondly, no-one but us wanted to move on [from the referendum]”.

Then again under different leadership, this time under Kezia Dugdale, Scottish Labour once again fought a campaign explicitly to the left of the SNP, promising to increase taxation to blunt cuts devolved from Westminster, and an agnostic position on the referendum. Dugdale said she’d be open to voting to leave the United Kingdom if Britain left the European Union. Senior Scottish Labour figures flirted with the idea that the party might be neutral in a forthcoming election. Once again, the party tried to move on – but no-one else wanted to move on.

How different things might be if instead of running away from their referendum campaign, Jim Murphy had run towards it in 2015. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to British politics.

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