Rupert Murdoch, Rebekah Brooks and James Murdoch will all face the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee from 2.30pm today. The trio are set to answer questions relating to the phone hacking that occurred at News International throughout the 2000s. Sitting opposite them will be ten MPs. Who are they?
Tory MP John Whittingdale heads up the Commons select committee in charge of handling the phone-hacking scandal. The chairman of the Culture, Media and Sport committee has stated that that in seeking to uncover the truth, he hopes that the committee will avoid behaving like a “lynch mob”. Whittingdale is reported to be an old acquaintance of Les Hinton, recently resigned as CEO of Dow Jones and former News International chairman.
The Labour MP has been a consistent thorn in the side of News International since re-joining the backbenches in 2009. Watson led what was at times a one-man crusade to keep the issue of phone-hacking alive in parliament. He is possibly the most forthright member of the Committee when it comes to the media in the UK. In 2010, Watson hit out at “the media barons”, who he felt had undue influence in parliament. “They are untouchable. They laugh at the law. They sneer at Parliament. They have the power to hurt us, and they do, with gusto and precision, with joy and criminality.” Suffice to say, Watson will enjoy his moment against the Murdochs.
The chick-lit author and Conservative MP for Corby was elected in 2010. Like John Whittingdale, although broadly loyal to the government, Mensch has willingly asked Jeremy Hunt awkward questions on phone-hacking.
The relatively non-descript backbencher is a long-standing member of the committee. Alan Keen got into hot water over his expenses in 2009 and was made to repay £1,500. Many MPs felt hard done by the way the expenses scandal was reported; Keen will no doubt enjoy eviscerating the Murdochs over their scandal.
Dr Therese Coffey
Conservative MP for Suffolk Coastal, Dr Thérèse Coffey states on her official parliamentary website that the phone-hacking scandal is a matter of “huge importance” and that the Murdochs will face “some robust questioning”. On her personal website, Coffey mentions very little of the scandal, simply commenting that “a week is a long time in politics”.
Damian Collins, MP for Folkestone and Hythe, writes plainly on his website that phone-hacking and the use of the information gathered for personal gain “is not only morally wrong but also illegal”. While seemingly more accepting of the idea that hacking might be done to celebrities, he states that it is “disgusting” that such an act was carried out on victims of murder and terrorism.
Referring to the inquiry into press standards, libel and privacy held two years ago, when News International came before the Commons Select Committee, Tory MP for Shipley Philip Davies has drawn a clear link with that case and the current “catastrophic” events taking place: “We put in our report then that it was ‘inconceivable’ that Clive Goodman was the only one involved but what we didnt’ appreciate was the severity of what was allegedly going on.”
MP for Newcastle-under-Lyme Paul Farrelly gave a statement at the start of 2011 when the news came out that Paul Gascoigne was to sue the News of the World over phone-hacking allegations. Farrelly criticised the Met, arguing that changes in the way hacking is now dealt with makes it harder for suspected victims to have their case examined: “we found great fault with the police investigation and to that we can add the conduct of the Crown Prosecution Service, which simply rubber stamps the Met’s totally inadequate handling of the affair”.
The Scot has been Labour MP for Paisley since 2001. Like Keen, Sheridan was derided in the Telegraph over his expenses. Sheridan summed up how he will approach how he will approach the committee in a radio interview this morning: “I like to know what kind of relationship [Murdoch has] had with senior politicians, what influence does he think he has had … What it won’t be today, as some of the leading commentators were suggesting that it will be, [is] some sort of witch-hunt of the MPs against the press. That is certainly not what it’s about, we will be asking in a polite way, robust questions.”
Aside from Tom Watson, Adrian Sanders has been the most out-spoken committee member in recent days. On Brooks arrest, the MP for Torbay said: “It’s convenient. In whose interest was it for this arrest to take place before Tuesday? Because if it does impede what we can ask, that’s not going to go down well with my fellow committee members.”