Labour MPs urge police to consider charging Murdoch after secret tape is released

Tom Watson and Chris Bryant suggest that Murdoch could be charged with perverting the course of justice.

While most people were watching Andy Murray's triumph or Mohammed Morsi's fall, the phone-hacking scandal took yet another turn. Almost exactly two years to the day after the Milly Dowler story broke, the investigative site Exaro revealed a secret recording (appropriately enough) of Rupert Murdoch addressing Sun staff in March in which he describes payments to the police and public officials as "the culture of Fleet Street" and expresses regret at News Corp's co-operation with the hacking inquiry.

In reference to the decision of the company's internal management and standards committee to hand over documents to the police, Murdoch said:

… it was a mistake, I think. But, in that atmosphere, at that time, we said, 'Look, we are an open book, we will show you everything'. And the lawyers just got rich going through millions of emails.

All I can say is, for the last several months, we have told, the MSC has told, and [**** ****], who's a terrific lawyer, has told the police, has said, 'No, no, no – get a court order. Deal with that.'

After journalists told him that they felt scapegoated, he commented: 

We're talking about payments for news tips from cops: that's been going on a hundred years, absolutely. You didn't instigate it.

Labour MPs Tom Watson and Chris Bryant, the twin scourges of News Corp, have been quick to respond, urging police to question Murdoch and to consider charging him with perverting the course of justice.

Bryant, the shadow immigration minister, who I'm told is in line for a promotion when Ed Miliband reshuffles his team, tweeted this morning: "So there's a surprise, @rupertmurdoch was lying and play acting when he appeared before parliament. Time police considered charging him."

Watson told Channel 4 News last night: "What he seems to be saying there is that they stopped co-operating with the police before the Sun staff started to rebel. And what I would like to know is what are they sitting on that they've not given the police. And I'm sure that this transcript and this audiotape should be in the hands of the police tomorrow because I hope that they're going to be interviewing Rupert Murdoch about what he did know about criminality in his organisation."

News Corp has responded by declaring that "No other company has done as much to identify what went wrong, compensate the victims, and ensure the same mistakes do not happen again. The unprecedented co-operation granted by News Corp was agreed unanimously by senior management and the board, and the MSC continues to co-operate under the supervision of the courts."

For Ed Miliband, under relentless fire from the Tories over the Unite-Falkirk affair, the story comes at a convenient moment. At yesterday's PMQs, after Cameron accused him of "taking his script from the trade unions", Miliband reminded MPs that it was the Prime Minister who "brought Andy Coulson into the heart of Downing Street". Anything that revives interest in the scandal, ahead of Coulson's trial in September, remains political gold for the Labour leader. 

Follow The Staggers on Twitter: @TheStaggers

Rupert Murdoch delivers a keynote address at the National Summit on Education Reform in San Francisco, California. Photograph: Getty Images.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

Getty
Show Hide image

Northern Ireland election results: a shift beneath the status quo

The power of the largest parties has been maintained, while newer parties running on nicher subjects with no connection to Northern Ireland’s traditional religious divide are rapidly rising.

After a long day of counting and tinkering with the region’s complex PR vote transfer sytem, Northern Irish election results are slowly starting to trickle in. Overall, the status quo of the largest parties has been maintained with Sinn Fein and the Democratic Unionist Party returning as the largest nationalist and unionist party respectively. However, beyond the immediate scope of the biggest parties, interesting changes are taking place. The two smaller nationalist and unionist parties appear to be losing support, while newer parties running on nicher subjects with no connection to Northern Ireland’s traditional religious divide are rapidly rising.

The most significant win of the night so far has been Gerry Carroll from People Before Profit who topped polls in the Republican heartland of West Belfast. Traditionally a Sinn Fein safe constituency and a former seat of party leader Gerry Adams, Carroll has won hearts at a local level after years of community work and anti-austerity activism. A second People Before Profit candidate Eamon McCann also holds a strong chance of winning a seat in Foyle. The hard-left party’s passionate defence of public services and anti-austerity politics have held sway with working class families in the Republican constituencies which both feature high unemployment levels and which are increasingly finding Republicanism’s focus on the constitutional question limiting in strained economic times.

The Green party is another smaller party which is slowly edging further into the mainstream. As one of the only pro-choice parties at Stormont which advocates for abortion to be legalised on a level with Great Britain’s 1967 Abortion Act, the party has found itself thrust into the spotlight in recent months following the prosecution of a number of women on abortion related offences.

The mixed-religion, cross-community Alliance party has experienced mixed results. Although it looks set to increase its result overall, one of the best known faces of the party, party leader David Ford, faces the real possibility of losing his seat in South Antrim following a poor performance as Justice Minister. Naomi Long, who sensationally beat First Minister Peter Robinson to take his East Belfast seat at the 2011 Westminster election before losing it again to a pan-unionist candidate, has been elected as Stormont MLA for the same constituency. Following her competent performance as MP and efforts to reach out to both Protestant and Catholic voters, she has been seen by many as a rising star in the party and could now represent a more appealing leader to Ford.

As these smaller parties slowly gain a foothold in Northern Ireland’s long-established and stagnant political landscape, it appears to be the smaller two nationalist and unionist parties which are losing out to them. The moderate nationalist party the SDLP risks losing previously safe seats such as well-known former minister Alex Attwood’s West Belfast seat. The party’s traditional, conservative values such as upholding the abortion ban and failing to embrace the campaign for same-sex marriage has alienated younger voters who instead may be drawn to Alliance, the Greens or People Before Profit. Local commentators have speculate that the party may fail to get enough support to qualify for a minister at the executive table.

The UUP are in a similar position on the unionist side of the spectrum. While popular with older voters, they lack the charismatic force of the DUP and progressive policies of the newer parties. Over the course of the last parliament, the party has aired the possibility of forming an official opposition rather than propping up the mandatory power-sharing coalition set out by the peace process. A few months ago, legislation will finally past to allow such an opposition to form. The UUP would not commit to saying whether they are planning on being the first party to take up that position. However, lacklustre election results may increase the appeal. As the SDLP suffers similar circumstances, they might well also see themselves attracted to the role and form a Stormont’s first official opposition together as a way of regaining relevance and esteem in a system where smaller parties are increasingly jostling for space.