The New Statesman’s rolling politics blog

RSS

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.

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

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