Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Commanded I Was Branded In A Plastic Bag

James Murdoch the small claims that he 'stands by' testimony he gave that he 'never saw' an e-mail revealing that phone-hacking went beyond a single 'rouge' reporter, the Leveson Inquiry has heard. The ex-News International chairman said that he had thought hacking was 'a thing in the past' when he took over his father's UK newspaper operations in 2007. It remained his position that he did not know about the damning so-called 'For Neville' e-mail until 2010, he told the inquiry.
He was also asked about meeting David Cameron during News Corp's controversial BSkyB bid. Murdoch's father, the billionaire tyrant and News Corporation head Rupert Murdoch, will appear before the inquiry on Wednesday and Thursday. James Murdoch the small, who resigned from News International in February. The inquiry is tackling the Murdochs' awareness of allegations that the practice of illegally intercepting voicemails went beyond Scum of the World royal reporter Clive Goodman, who was jailed in 2007. Last year James Murdoch told MPs that he had 'no prior knowledge' of the sheer scale of wrongdoing at the newspapers which he controlled. One or two of them even believed him. He told Lord Justice Leveson that he had a 'general awareness that a reporter had illegally intercepted voicemails' and 'had gone to jail along with the private investigator involved. It was a general understanding of an event in the past.' The inquiry questioned Murdoch in great detail over the 'For Neville' e-mail, which was sent by a junior Scum of the World reporter to the private investigator Glenn Mulcaire in 2008, and contained the illegally obtained transcripts of voicemails belonging to the football union boss Gordon Taylor. In December last year, another e-mail from 2008 was released indicating that Murdoch had been copied into messages referring to the 'rife' practice of phone-hacking at the Scum of the World and also citing the 'For Neville' e-mail. Murdoch has claimed that although he was copied into this e-mail exchange, he did not read it fully. He told the inquiry: 'I didn't read the e-mail chain. It was a Saturday, I had just come back from Hong Kong, I was with my children. I responded in minutes.' He said that he 'now accepts' the 'For Neville' e-mail was 'a thread' which raised, at the very least, the suspicion of wider phone-hacking at the Scum of the World. At worst, it should have been blinding obvious even to a simpleton that the chairman of the PFA was an unlikely choice to have been hacked by the newspaper's royal reporter. But still, Murdoch took no action. 'The fact it suggested other people might have been involved in phone-hacking, that part of its importance was not imparted to me that day,' he said. The Scum of the World reached a - massive - out-of-court settlement with Taylor, head of the Professional Footballers' Association, in 2008. James Murdoch the small claimed that it was 'reasonable' for him to have left the settlement negotiations to Scum of the World legal manager Tom Crone and editor Colin Myler. He said that there was 'a budget of a million and change for legal settlements' at the Scum of the World. He went on to claim that he was aware 'in small detail' of a one million smackers settlement with the odious PR man Max Clifford in March 2010 as there was 'a commercial relationship' with Clifford which the newspaper 'wanted to re-establish.' Murdoch was questioned by counsel for the inquiry Robert Jay QC about his contact with politicians before and during News Corp's bid for the remaining shares in BSkyB - an attempt which was on the verge of being successful but which was dropped in July 2011 when the phone-hacking scandal broke and public revulsion at News Corp and everything they stood for was at its height. Murodhc claimed that he was 'alive to the risk' that politics might influence his company's position, but added: 'We rested on the soundness of the legal case.' He told the inquiry of a meeting with David Cameron, then Leader of the Opposition, on 10 September 2009 at The George Club to discuss the 'Sun's proposed endorsement' of the Conservative Party for the upcoming 2010 general election. Murdoch also said that he had 'discussed the BSkyB bid' with Cameron at the home of former News International chief executive and well-known Crystal Tipps lookalike Rebekah Brooks on 23 December 2010 - seven months after Cameron became prime minister. It was also two days after the Business Secretary Vince Cable was stripped of his responsibility for overseeing the BSkyB bid. This occurred after Cable was secretly recorded by two Daily Torygraph journalists posing as constituents, saying that he had 'declared war' on Rupert Murdoch. Murdoch the small claimed that he had spoken - 'briefly' - to the prime minister about the removal of Cable, saying it was 'a tiny conversation' and 'not a discussion.' He denied the purpose of the meetings with Cameron was partly to find out where Cameron stood on issues which would directly affect Murdoch's companies, such as TV and press regulation. Murdoch the small claimed: 'I might want to know but the purpose of these meetings wasn't necessarily to find out, they were discussions were on a broad range of subjects, from foreign policy to other things.' Asked whether he was friends with Chancellor George Osborne, Murdoch said: 'We have been friendly. I wouldn't say he was a close friend.' He added that he had been to the chancellor's 'grace-and-favour home', Dorneywood, once and had 'one discussion' with Osborne about the BSkyB bid. The inquiry also considered a series of e-mails by Frederic Michel, News Corp's head of public affairs. One referred to a phone call James Murdoch made to Vince Cable on the day of BSkyB bid, saying that it 'went well' and added: 'We should have recorded him.' Another said that Michel had a note from the lack of culture secretary, the vile and odious rascal Hunt's adviser, Adam Smith, that 'the UK government would be supportive throughout the process.' Murdoch opened his evidence claiming that he had resigned as BSkyB chairman 'for the simple reason that I wanted to avoid becoming a lightning rod' for the pay-TV operator during the phone-hacking scandal at News International. He added: 'Some people were trying to conflate' the hacking scandal with his role at BSkyB. Jay asked Murdoch whether he felt in December 2007 that there was 'an open-management culture' at News International. Murdoch replied that the publisher was 'different' to the management relations at BSkyB. Jay asked whether Murdoch the small felt Colin Myler, then the editor of the Scum of the World was 'open' with him in December 2007. 'At the time I had no reason to believe otherwise,' said Murdoch. Jay asked whether there were 'deficiencies' in News International's system for identifying legal risks? Murdoch claimed: 'With respect to newsgathering practices it's self evident in hindsight whatever controls were in place failed. However, there were senior legal managers working with the newsrooms. At the time I didn't have the view whether they were insufficient or not.' He added: 'We had a management board where senior executives would meet regularly and there was ample opportunity to be able to discuss these issues and surface them. I think I would have had a reasonable expectation that having a legal manager so close to the newsroom was a protection that it ultimately proved not to provide.' Murdoch was asked about 'corporate reputation.' He claimed that 'legal risk' is an important part of this. Murdoch was then asked whether he actually had read the Scum of the World on a weekly basis. His reply was that he 'tried to familiarise' himself with the Sun and read the Scum of the World but 'not all of it.' Murdoch claimed he recalled 'receiving assurances' about ethics and journalistic practice at the Scum of the World 'on a number of occasions.' The ethical and legal risk was 'very much in the hands of the editor', Murdoch said passing the buck faster than a big buck-passing thing. He added that he 'did not decide' what was published by the Scum of the World or the Sun. Jay asked about the legal bill for the Scum of the World's Max Mosley exclusive, over which Mosley successfully sued them. Murdoch said that he 'cannot recall' the exact legal bill faced by News International, then publisher of the disgraced and disgraceful Scum of the World, but described the fiasco as 'very disappointing' and 'a matter of great regret and the story shouldn't have been run.' He continued that he 'does not recall' concerns being raised about the alleged 'blackmail tactics', as described by Robert Jay, of the women involved in the Mosley exposé. Lord Justice Leveson asked whether Murdoch the small 'went into any detail 'to read the judge's comments on the Mosley episode. Murdoch said that it was 'made clear' to Colin Myler, editor of the Scum of the World at the time, that it was 'an unfortunate story' and there was a 'strong indication that it shouldn't happen again. Getting it wrong spectacularly as that was, was made clear to Mr Myler with a strong indication it shouldn't happen again,' he claimed. Murdoch was asked why he believed the Scum of the World was profitable. Murdoch said that the title, no closed in disgraced and ignominy, was 'reasonably' profitable, adding: 'The way we do business is part of the connection we have with our customers. In the end the profitability of the News of the World did not save it.' Murdoch was asked about phone-hacking, which Jay described as 'well-trodden ground.' Jay raised the infamous 'For Neville' e-mail and Murdoch's 10 June 2008 meeting with Tom Crone, the News International lawyer and Myler. Murdoch reasserted his previous position that he was 'not shown' the e-mail in question during that meeting. Crone and Myler have both put forward a different version of events. Murdoch added that he was 'given assurances' by Daniel Cloke, the News International HR director, and by Myler in December 2007 that phone-hacking was 'all in the past.' Lord Justice Leveson asked whether Murdoch the small 'probed the adequacy of the internal governance' at News International when he took over following the jailing of the Scum of the World royal reporter Clive Goodman and the private investigator Glenn Mulcaire over phone-hacking. Murdoch said: 'In the newsroom it had not been tight enough and that's why a new editor was brought in who I thought had no skin in the game in the past. But, the newsroom governance again was really an issue for the editor and the legal manager to be responsible for. They were clear they had strengthened governance to catch this sort of thing in the future.' Leveson said that it's not what you put in place for the future but how it happened in the past. 'That was before I was there,' said Murdoch, stopping just short of adding 'it was like that when I found it.' 'I appreciate that,' said Leveson, rather wearily. 'But you didn't pick up what went wrong in our systems earlier?' It was 'the absence of those things being done effectively,' replied Murdoch. Jay turned to the detail of e-mail correspondence between Murdoch the small, the News International solicitor Julian Pike, of Farrers, internal lawyers and Myler. Murdoch said that if a 'snatched' meeting between him and Myler on 27 May 2008 had gone into what was discussed in the correspondence he would have remembered it. Murdoch claimed that he was 'not aware' of an unfair dismissal claim made by Clive Goodman, the jailed former Scum of the World reporter, or that Goodman was alleging others at News International were involved in phone-hacking as well as him. Murdoch said that 'assurances' made by News International executives to him were 'consistent' in that there was 'no evidence' of widespread phone-hacking. Which, of course, there was, several black bin-liners full, in fact, which were at that moment sitting in an evidence lock up somewhere in Scotland Yard. Jay pointed out that Myler told the Leveson inquiry previously he felt there were 'bombs underneath the newsroom floor' when it came to phone-hacking. Myler was appointed as editor of the Scum of the World following the resignation of Andy Coulson, who stepped down because Goodman was found to have engaged in phone-hacking on his watch. Coulson's next job, of course, was as communications director for David Cameron. Murdoch added: 'Their assurances to me were consistent as I said, the newspaper had been investigated thoroughly that no evidence had been found. That was entirely consistent from Mr Crone and Mr Myler all the way through.' He added: 'That is something I have struggled with as well. Why wouldn't they tell me? They didn't. I don't want to conjecture but I think that must be it, that I would say "cut out the cancer" and there was some desire not to do that.' As one-liners in 'blame shifting' go, if you look that one up on Goggle you'll find it pretty near the top of the list. Murdoch claimed that he believed there was 'not a proactive desire' to bring him up to speed on the phone-hacking settlement with Gordon Taylor. Jay asked whether there was 'an agenda' for the 10 June 2008 meeting with Myler and Crone. Murdoch said there was not, adding that it was 'a brief conversation that I've described at length.' Did Myler or Crone refer to the reputational damage of the company, Jay asked? Murdoch said that the general message from Myler and Crone was 'we don't want to have to go through that again,' referring to the jailing of Goodman. Murdoch added: 'It was [implied] it was in the best interests of the business not to have this matter [from 2006] dug up again and dragged through the court.' Murdoch said that he was told the Taylor phone-hacking claim should be settled, partly 'not to drag up' events of the past. Whilst still offering no explanation as to why he believed a royal reporter would be interested in the conversations of a football union executive, Murdoch added that both News International and Taylor 'sought confidentiality with the settlement.' Murdoch said that he 'now accepts' the 'For Neville' e-mail is, clearly, 'a thread' which, at the very least raised the suspicion that wider phone-hacking at the Scum of the World may have gone on, even if it was only by one or two other people. He added: 'The fact it suggested other people might have been involved in phone-hacking – that part of its importance was not imparted to me that day.' Murdoch claimed that Myler and Crone were 'more on the anxious side' at this meeting and keen to leave the room with the knowledge that they could settle the Gordon Taylor phone-hacking claim 'at a higher number.' Jay suggested that the reputational damage to the company was 'inextricably linked' not because it was an old case but 'because it was something new.' Murdoch continued to claim he was not told that. Jay asked whether Murdoch believed three hundred and fifty thousand smackers was 'a generous figure' to settle Taylor's claim. Murdoch replied that he is 'not a lawyer' so had 'no relevant experience.' Murdoch claimed that he 'left the Taylor settlement negotiation to Crone and Myler.' He added that there was 'a budget of a million and change for legal settlements at the News of the World.' Did anyone suggest to Murdoch that Taylor was 'trying to blackmail' News International, asked Jay, because of the 'potential reputational harm' to the company? 'I don't remember words like that, it was a short meeting,' replied Murdoch. Murdoch the small was defiant when asked whether he knew that Colin Myler believed Taylor was attempting to 'blackmail' (Myler's word) News International. He said: 'If the purpose of that meeting was to bring me up to speed on the whole story, from 2006 then a) it would have been a much longer meeting and b) it would have had a different outcome' In what appeared to many observers to be a key exchange, Jay put it to Murdoch that there was 'either a cover up or a failure of governance.' Jay said: 'There are two possibilities here. Either you were told of the evidence that linked others at the News of the World to Mulcaire and this was in effect a cover-up, or you weren't told and you didn't read the e-mails properly and there was failure of governance at the company do you accept that?' Murdoch maintained that Myler and Crone gave him 'sufficient information' to settle the Taylor case, but not sufficient information 'to go and turn over a whole lot of stones.' He added: 'I was given repeated assurances the newsroom had been investigated, that there was no evidence. I've been very consistent about it.' Phone-hacking had been 'packed away' by the time Murdoch arrived at News International, he claimed. Jay asked about the Gruniad story which appeared in July 2009 which gave the first 'evidence' of wider phone-hacking at the Scum of the World. Murdoch was in New York at the time but received a phone call. He claimed that he was told 'it wasn't true; that there was no other evidence, that it had been investigated to death and that it was a smear.' Murdoch repeated that he regretted he should have taken the follow-up select committee report 'more seriously.' Murdoch was asked whether he knew about the Max Clifford phone-hacking settlement. He claimed that he knew there 'was an existing relationship' between Clifford and well-known Crystal Tipps lookalike Rebekah Brooks, then the chief executive of News International, and that 'they wanted to settle it at that.' Murdoch said that evidence exposed during the Sienna Miller litigation was a 'great concern', which is why the employees concerned were immediately suspended and new counsel was brought in. He was asked about 'the culture' of the Scum of the World, in reference to its aggressive response to the Gruniad Morning Star allegations and the select committee reports on phone-hacking. Murdoch the small claimed: 'The culture between these papers is very tribal and the competition between them is a zero-sum game.' Murdoch appeared to express regret that he didn't take the Gruniad allegations more seriously at the time, although he didn't actually mention Gruniad by name. 'The culture between these papers is very tribal. That might lead to a culture of knocking back allegations and not being as thoughtful and forensic about allegations,' he said. 'One of the big lessons learned here, no matter where something comes from, even if it's a commercial rival or someone who has a political gripe, that being more dispassionate, forensic, understanding. Those circumstances don't make an allegation untrue.' After a short break the questioning turned to sports rights and the possibility in the mid-2000s that the Premier League football live TV rights would be split by the EC, in particular James Murdoch's conference call to the then prime minister Tony Blair on 7 October 2005. Jay asked whether 'the purpose' of the call was 'to bring Blair onside?' A witty little football metaphor there, sir. Back of the net, as it were. Murdoch claimed it the call was 'just to make the PM aware of these issues. It's a major British franchise.' Did this involve 'a direct request' to the PM? 'You are subtly communicating your concerns on behalf of BSkyB?' Murdoch the small replied. 'The purpose would be for senior policy makers to understand that some of these policies might have adverse consequences for English football.' And for Sky television, too. Jay asked when News Corp first 'hatched plans' to buy rest of BSkyB which it did not already own. Murdoch said that it was in August 2009. Jay asked about the purposes of Murdoch the small's various meetings with David Cameron. He suggested Murdoch and News Corp would have 'been keen to know where Cameron stood' in relation to issues that affected their company? 'Not really,' claimed Murdoch, very unconvincingly. Not even on the subject of regulation? asked Jay. 'TV, Ofcom, the press, competition?' 'I think more generally an approach to enterprise, not so much macroeconomic but to business, how they work,' claimed Murdoch. But, wouldn't you wish to find out - privately, at least - what the prime minister might say, asks Jay? 'That's not the way I do business,' Murdoch said. 'I would have been interested and flattered.' Jay returned to issues of regulation. 'We did an assessment of the regulatory risk. It was not a narrow political calculation around that,' Murdoch claimed. Jay continued on this theme, didn't you do two calculations, one [each] on the basis of Labour and Tory government re the News Corp takeover of the rest of BSkyB? Murdoch said that he 'would look at the general political direction' of the country. 'Is this a place where our business can be pursued?' But, there was an election coming up, noted Jay. Surely that calculation would have been carried out? 'That wasn't part of it,' Murdoch claimed. 'There was a view later on when it was thought likely we would attempt to do this to try to avoid becoming a political issue in the middle of an election, not the possible outcomes of the election.' Murdoch said that which government was in power at the time of the BSkyB bid was 'not necessarily high in our mind. There was a question how long it might take, would it go to the Competition Commission or not. It was more duration not likelihood of completion we were concerned about.' Moving on to Sun's endorsement of Tory party and meeting held with David Cameron in December 2009 to inform him of this decision, 'it was made clear to me the Sun would be endorsing the Conservative party or moving away from support of Labour,' claimed Murdoch. This would, obviously, have been welcome news to Cameron, asked Jay? 'It seemed that way,' was the reply. Did Murdoch discuss the timing of the endorsement? Murdoch claimed that the editors said it would be 'at the end of the conference season.' Jay asked whether there was any discussion that they would endorse Cameron on very day of Gordon Brown's speech to conference? 'I don't remember the specifity of that. I think it was the day after, the article. It was focused more on Labour's record than endorsement of Conservatives.' Did Murdoch discuss regulatory issues with Cameron at that meeting? No, he claimed, he did not. At earlier meetings? 'I don't believe so.' What about other meetings with Cameron, in run-up to election, asked Jay. Regulatory issues on agenda? 'I think actually more politics, leading up to election,' said Murdoch. 'I don't believe we discussed any specific regulation.' No, of course you didn't. Jay moved on to the now notorious meeting between Cameron and James Murdoch on 23 December 2010 at home of well-known Crystal Tipps lookalike Rebekah Brooks and her Charlie. How many people were there? 'In the teens, maybe fifteen people.' Including Jeremy Clarkson, as it happens but, hey, let's not get carried away by trivia like that at the moment. The meeting was just two days after Vince Cable was 'absolved' of his responsibility of the News Corp/BSkyB merger after, in Murdoch's words, he 'showed acute bias.' There was 'no discussion' with Cameron 'other than he reiterated what he said publicly, that the behaviour had been unacceptable,' Murdoch claimed. 'I imagine I expressed the hope that things would be dealt with in way that was appropriate and judicial. It was a tiny side conversation, it was not a discussion.' Murdoch's witness statement listed a number of meetings between Murdoch and David Cameron, the chancellor George Osborne, and the lack of culture secretary the vile and odious rascal Hunt about News Corp's then-proposed takeover of BSkyB. Murdoch, for example, met George Osborne on 29 November. His witness statement records: 'I recall one conversation with the Chancellor of the Exchequer about the bid. My diary records an appointment with Mr Osborne on 29 November 2010, but I cannot recall whether that was the date on which I had the discussion with him. I believe we discussed a number of matters, and that I expressed my concern at the slow progress with the regulatory process, my view that the investment would be good for Britain and also my view that there were no plurality issues raised by our proposal.' Murdoch recorded meetings with the vile and odious rascal Hunt on four separate occasions between 10 November 2010 and 20 January 2011 about the takeover bid. Murdoch telephoned the vile and odious rascal Hunt on 21 December, after the vile and odious rascal Hunt had been given oversight of the takeover. Murdoch claimed: 'I believe I probably raised my concern with respect to Mr Cable's public statements, the pace of the regulatory review and my concerns about the process so far, and sought assurances that no such bias would continue in the process. I also offered to meet to explain the company's position on the plurality test.' The 'key strategy', he said, was to avoid the News Corp/BSkyB takeover not becoming 'a political football' during the general election. Jay asked Murdoch if he had 'a preference for a Conservative victory?' 'With respect to enterprise and free market the Conservatives tried to make a case they were the better option for that,' replied Murdoch. A Labour victory wouldn't have been desirable with respect to the BSkyB bid? 'We never made a crass calculation about what the newspapers did, it wouldn't occur to me.' Jay turned to Murdoch's conversations with the vile and odious rascal Hunt about News Corp's takeover bid of BSkyB. Jay asked if the vile and odious rascal Hunt was 'a huge ally' of News International. Murdoch claimed 'I wouldn't think so', and laughed when comments on the vile and odious rascal Hunt's personal website were raised that describe the secretary of state as 'a cheerleader' for the Murdochs. Murdoch the small rejected the suggestion that he called the vile and odious rascal Hunt to 'oil the wheels' of the takeover. Murdoch claimed that he has never felt that 'top slicing' the BBC's funding was a good idea - despite the fact that he said exactly that during his notorious 'greed is good'-style speech at the MacTaggart Memorial Lecture at the Edinburgh International Television Festival, in which he attacked the BBC and UK media regulator Ofcom calling the BBC's expansion 'chilling.' So, that's a downright bare-faced lie for a kick-off. He claimed he 'never communicated that' to the vile and odious lack of culture secretary. Jay asked whether Murdoch had discussions with senior politicians about the announcement in October 2010 that Ofcom's role and budget would be reduced by twenty eight per cent. Murdoch was all like 'who guv? me guv? Nah, gov.' He said that he did not believe so. Jay asked whether Murdoch was or is friendly with the chancellor. 'We have been friendly. I wouldn't say I was a close friend,' though Murdoch did confirm that he has visited Dorneywood, once with his family. Did Murdoch discuss the BSkyB takeover bid at this Dorneywood meeting with Osborne, asked Jay? Murdoch said: 'I had one discussion where it might have come up, which was during the process which to be grumpy about was taking a long time. Nothing I said to Mr Osborne would have been inconsistent with our public advocacy on the subject.' Murdoch was then asked whether he had attempted to 'achieve an unfair advantage' over rivals because of his relations with politicians. 'That would not be the way that I would do it,' he claimed, describing his method as 'legitimate advocacy.' Leveson asked: 'Did you obtain greater access because of the weight of press interests?' 'I don't know what all of the other meetings that the PM and these people take in general,' said Murdoch. 'It's true to say politicians and people around the political class are very eager to get their point across, they do talk to the press. As a business person I don't think I've personally experienced that, I haven't actually spent that much time with politicians personally.' Jay said there is an 'ever-changing balance of power' which is more advantageous to the Murdoch media over politicians. 'I just don't think there's the very old-fashioned view of big media proprietors being able to dominate the landscape, I think that's not the case any more,' Murdoch claimed. Jay noted that he is 'not interested in the reality', prompting much laughter. Murdoch agreed with Jay that there has 'always been a political debate' about the regulatory environment around the media in the UK. He said that this 'is unfortunate' and that he would prefer to keep this debate 'focused on the legal environment.' Murdoch added that he tries to 'keep politics out of business', and used Sky's purchase of live England domestic cricket rights, previously broadcast free to air, as an example. 'There was a political angle, I felt my job was to say "No, from a legal perspective it's entirely appropriate for English cricket to be broadcast on Sky." I always try to bring it back to what is legally sound, to make the political debate less relevant.' Jay asked about James Murdoch's personal visit to the Independent newsroom in 2010 after the newspaper launched a billboard campaign, headed 'Rupert Murdoch won't decide this election.' Murdoch claimed that he had 'a meeting in the same building' as the Independent and 'wanted to raise this as an issue with Simon Kelner,' then editor of the Independent, because he was 'upset and concerned' at the 'I went into the front door of the Independent, they didn't really have a desk or reception or a lock frankly, you are immediately in the middle of the newsroom. I didn't storm in anywhere. I found Mr Kelner's desk and said could I speak to you for a minute. I told him of my concerns - whether or not I used colourful language I wouldn't dispute - there was no storming in, it didn't happen out in the open. Mr Kelner had been availing himself of the hospitality of my family for a number of years. I thought this was beyond the pale and not a decent way to go about his business.' It's important to note at this point that, within minutes, Kelner had written to deny that he had ever 'availed himself of the hospitality of the Murdoch family.' Jay then asked whether it is true that well-known Crystal Tipps lookalike Rebekah Brooks 'bore the brunt' of the majority of meetings with politicians in the run-up to the 2010 election. Murdoch said that Brooks had more meetings with politicians than him. He added that there 'were discussions' in 2009 about which party the Sun would back at the next election. He admitted that one factor in deciding who Sun should back was 'who is likely to win.' Opponents of News Corp's failed takeover of BSkyB raised plurality issues that were about the future competitiveness of their businesses and 'nothing to do with the relevant legal test', claimed Murdoch. He added that 'other press owners' had a "'ery distinct commercial fear' around News Corp-BSkyB tie-up, including bundling and cross promotion and size and scale of News Corp's interests in the UK. He described this as 'a competition argument' which they turned 'very effectively' into one which suggested the plurality of the media in the UK might be at risk at some point in the future. 'It's commercial, not simply political, in fact primarily commercial,' claimed Murdoch. Is anyone else at this point getting the imagine of Tom Hollander looking sadly into the camera and saying 'it's just business' as his ship is about to explode in Pirates of the Caribbean 3? Just me then? Jay then turned back to Murdoch's conversations with the vile and odious rascal Hunt about News Corp's BSkyB bid. He highlights two other players in the negotiations: Adam Smith, the special adviser to the vile and odious rascal Hunt, and Frédéric Michel, the News Corp head of public affairs. Murdoch said that Michel was 'liaison with policy makers on various issues.' Was he hired in May 2009? 'Can't remember precisely,' said Murdoch, flatly. The vile and odious Hunt said that he 'was minded' to refer the bid to the Competition Commission. Was, then, consideration given to News Corp undertakings in January 2011 in order to remove or mitigate plurality concerns? 'Essentially the secretary of state said he had received the advice from Ofcom, it's within his remit to take that and way it up with any other undertakings,' said Murdoch. 'Given the length of time the Competition Commission review would take, rather, we would offer substantial structural undertaking [separating Sky News from the deal]. It was a major concession that the secretary of state had extracted from the processed.' Jay then turned to evidence submitted by Rupert Murdoch under a statutory notice. In a witness statement, Michel said that between December 2010 and July 2011 conversations which 'appear to have taken place with the secretary of state in fact took place with the special adviser, Adam Smith', according to Jay. Jay raised a conference call between James Murdoch, Michel and Vince Cable on 15 June 2010. Michel said in one e-mail afterwards that the call 'went well' and 'we should have recorded him.' Michel said in another e-mail that he 'had a note' from the vile and odious rascal Hunt's advisor, Smith, that 'the UK government would be supportive throughout the process (despite what the Standard is reporting this evening).' This e-mail was sent on 15 June 2011. Jay said: 'It's pretty clear you were receiving information on the lines the UK government on the whole would be supportive of News Corp.' Murdoch claimed: 'I think Mr Hunt had said personally he didn't see any issues. There's no special information in there.' Oh, you think so? James Murdoch's e-mail replies to Fréd Michel will be published online later, Jay said. Michel was called by the vile and odious rascal Hunt after the lack of culture secretary did an interview with the Financial Times on 15 July 2011. The vile and odious rascal Hunt's interview had not been published at that point. 'Looks as if you had a chat to Mr Hunt on 15 June 2010. Was the BSkyB bid discussed during that chat?' asked Jay. Murdoch replied: 'I don't remember. I would be surprised if it weren't. It would have been the same position I took publicly and with anyone who would listen.' Fréd Michel sent another e-mail to Murdoch's adviser on 15 September 2010 about a blogpost by the BBC's Robert Peston. In the e-mail, Michel said: 'Jeremy Hunt is not aware and thinks it's not credible at all. He is checking now.' Murdoch claimed: 'At this time I was repeatedly seeking official meeting with Mr Cable and we were not able to have this meeting.' Jay responded: 'So the way you did communicate was through your cheerleader Mr Hunt?' 'I think that's unfair,' said Murdoch. Jay added that, through Michel, News Corp and BSkyB was 'trying to get the inside track' on the government's position on the takeover through the vile and odious rascal Hunt's special adviser. Jay suggested Murdoch 'wasn't getting anywhere with Mr Cable' so instead went to other secretaries of state who might offer assistance. Not fair, claimed Murdoch, 'we were just trying to find out if it was true.' (This claimed caused Gruniad journalist Dan Sabbagh to tweet: 'So was Hunt running a back channel for News Corp while Cable was deciding on Sky bid? What will Jeremy Hunt say?' Sabbagh also noted: 'Tory support decision in Sept 2009 was made by Murdoch, Brooks, Dominic Mohan and the political editor. So, who actually edits the Sun?') Murdoch argued that it was 'perfectly reasonable' for him to believe that a secretary of state would take into account all legal evidence about a proposed takeover. Murdoch denied the suggestion that the BSkyB deal was linked to the Sun's backing of the Tory party. 'I'm sorry, Mr Jay, that is absolutely not the case. The question of support for one politician or another is not something I would link to an issue like this. I simply wouldn't do business that way.' An e-mail sent on 27 September 2010, after Michel spoke to Cable's junior minister, Lord Oakeshott, said that Cable was feeling 'very strong political pressure' over the way News International had treated the Lib Dems and Labour over the previous twelve months. Jay said that it 'looks as if a strong political flavour' was entering the debate. Murdoch said it was 'very alarming' and had 'nothing to do with the proper legal test' over whether News Corp should be allowed to take over the whole of BSkyB. 'Call me naive, I thought senior ministers were serious people who try to do their jobs,' said Murdoch. Again to hoots of laughter. Jay suggested this is 'absolutely key. You have one government minister saying "I don't like the Murdoch press" [Cable] and another government minister [the vile and odious rascal Hunt] who is treated in a rather different way by the Murdoch press, his thinking is going to be converse to Mr Cable's.' Murdoch claimed that the vile and odious rascal Hunt 'at every turn took the advice of independent regulators Ofcom and the OFT in particular at every single decision point.' According to ITV News's Keir Simmons as the session ended for a lunch break shortly after this, James Murdoch's questioner Jay walked away and mouthed to colleague 'this is such fun.' Not for Murdoch, or several members of the current government, it isn't.
One of the most interesting reactions to Murdoch's evidence came from a former Scum of the World journalist, Tom Latchem, a man seldom short of an opinion on pretty much anything. 'Didn't read his papers, didn't choose editors, didn't read emails. What exactly DID he do for his multi-million pound salary?' Good point. What a very great pity you didn't make it when you were working for the fekker.

The Gruniad's Ian Katz wrote in some depth about David Cameron's dinner with well-known Crystal Tipps lookalike Rebekah Brooks and James Murdoch (and Jeremy Clarkson) in February 2011 which at the time Downing Street refused to disclose any details about it. Here's a reminder of how No 10 squirmed when they were first asked about that Christmas dinner: 'For more than two weeks the Guardian has been trying to establish a few details about an evening Cameron spent at the Oxfordshire home of Rebekah Brooks, chief executive of News International, during the Christmas holidays. Here's what the most open government in the world told us: first, No 10 categorically denied the PM had visited Brooks on Christmas day itself; then, when we asked instead if the PM had been entertained chez Brooks over the Christmas period it declined to confirm or deny. Later Downing Street elaborated on its position, pointing out that Brooks was a constituent of Cameron's and, in any case, "the prime minister regularly meets newspaper executives from lots of different companies." But still No 10 refused to provide a date, or even confirm whether the dinner took place. When it emerged that James Murdoch was at the dinner too, Downing Street became fractionally more transparent: an unattributable source reassured lobby reporters that neither Rupert Murdoch's controversial takeover bid for Sky nor the phone-hacking scandal had been discussed. So that's all right then.' In July 2011, Cameron refused to deny discussing the Sky bid at the Brooks dinner, saying merely that he 'never had an inappropriate conversation' about the deal. Here's the Telegraph story from the time.

It was all looking like a bit of right shite state of affairs for one of this blog's most beloved characters (no, not really), the vile and odious rascal Hunt. And Labour could hardly contain themselves in laughing their collective appendages off over this malarkey. Helen Goodman, the Labour MP, described the conversations revealed between advisers to the vile and odious rascal Hunt and Murdoch as 'pretty serious.' She told the Gruniad Morning Star: 'It seems to me that Hunt has not told the truth to Parliament. He repeatedly said "at every stage" he took advice from officials and was completely transparent. Murdoch's evidence makes clear that for the period prior to 23 Dec 2010 this is not so. That he was parti pris and had "off the record conversations" in his role as secretary of state for DCMS.' Chris Bryant, added: 'I suspect Mr Jeremy Hunt is not long for this world, politically, but it's going to get worse for Cameron.' Bryant, a former Labour shadow lack of culture minister, who was, himself, the victim of Scum of the World phone-hacking, also suggested issues of privilege might arise, including whether a minister had misled the house. The vile and odious rascal Hunt's Labour predecessor the vile and odious rascal Ben Bradshaw tweeted: 'It's worse than I suspected at the time. Jeremy Hunt's office was basically operating as a branch office for the Murdoch empire.' yeah. And you tried everything you could to castrate the BBC, just like he did, people in glass houses should through stains. Both Labrokes and Paddy Power immediately suspended all betting on the vile and odious rascal Hunt being the first minister to leave the cabinet, following the evidence heard at the inquiry. The Gruniad were busy thoroughly sticking the boot in with a helpful little summation of the key facts. Harriet Harman, Labour's currently shadow lack of culture secretary, called for the vile and odious rascal Hunt's resignation in the Commons. She told the House that 'the right thing' would be for the lack of culture secretary to come to the chamber, apologise and then resign. The papers were also after his blood including the Indi (in a leader entitled No amount of squirming can save Jeremy Hunt, this was no single incident, but an entire relationship of staggering impropriety), the Torygraph twice (Jeremy Hunt was following the example set by his boss and Jeremy Hunt, Pom-Pom Queen), the Scum Mail,  New Statesman, the Metro, and - in the biggest irony of all - Sky News! Not forgetting the Burnley and Pendle Citizen. Possibly the best piece of the fiasco was by The Spectator's Alex Massie - Groundhog Day at Leveson: Dog Still Bites Man. Or, perhaps it was, Tommy Watson's thoughtful rather than gleeful blogslot for the Gruniad. Aides to the vile and odious rascal Hunt insisted he was not going to quit and said that he was 'satisfied' he had 'behaved with complete propriety' throughout the regulatory process relating to the Sky bid.His aides also stood by his special adviser, Adam Smith, and suggested that Fred Michel, News Corp's director of public affairs for Europe during the Sky takeover bid, had 'wildly exaggerated' the level of his knowledge and contacts with the vile and odious rascal Hunt's Department for Culture, Media and Sport during the decision-making process in 2010 and 2011. The vile and odious rascal Hunt himself said in a statement on Tuesday night that he had asked Lord Justice Leveson to bring forward his own appearance before the inquiry and was 'confident that when I present my evidence the public will see that I conducted this process with scrupulous fairness.' He said: 'We've heard one side of the story today but some of the evidence reported meetings and conversations that simply didn't happen. There were also calls for the Scottish secretary, Michael Moore, to come to the chamber to address allegations made at the Leveson inquiry on Tuesday concerning the conduct of the Scottish first minister, Alex Salmond, during News Corp's Sky takeover bid.

Right, back to Murdoch the small up afore the beak, which is just as amusing as the trails for the vile and odious rascal Hunt. Not that the two were unconnected, of course. Sometimes half-a-dozen confidential texts and e-mails a day would fly back and forth between the lack of culture secretary's Cockspur Street office just off Trafalgar Square and the News Corporation team promoting the takeover bid for BSkyB. It was a remarkable level of apparent intimacy with the vile and odious rascal Hunt, the minister who from January 2011 had the power to decide the bid's fate. On the eve of one key government announcement in March 2011, Frédéric Michel, the chief lobbyist for James Murdoch, who was leading the News Corp bid, e-mailed his boss excitedly at 3am: 'Urgent. JH decision. He is minded to accept and will release around 7.30am to the market.' In what could be one of the most damning exchanges, Michel wrote of the vile and odious rascal Hunt: 'He said we would get there in the end and he shared our objectives.' What made this busy back channel particularly remarkable was that the lack of culture secretary was constantly claiming no such relationship existed. The vile and odious rascal Hunt told the Commons on 30 June: 'I am deciding this deal on a quasi-judicial basis, but I have not met Rupert Murdoch or James Murdoch in recent weeks, and all the meetings I have had with them have been minuted and done through official channels.' If the contents of the e-mails are true, and James Murdoch seemed to confirm that they, mostly, were, then it appears the vile and odious rascal Hunt was being, shall we be kind and say 'economical with the truth.' Robert Jay, the Leveson inquiry's QC, publicly questioned on Tuesday whether the vile and odious rascal Hunt had upheld his 'quasi-judicial' role, during what he suggested was a 'surreptitious' pattern of 'covert interactions' with Murdoch. The details of what appears to be the vile and odious rascal Hunt's collusion with one party would have certainly startled his immediate predecessor, Vince Cable. The Liberal Democrat business secretary was humiliatingly stripped of responsibility for the bid for alleged lack of objectivity, after a Torygraph 'sting' found him saying he had 'declared war' on Murdoch. David Cameron condemned this attitude as 'totally unacceptable and inappropriate.' It'll be interesting to see what the prime minister has to say about his own lack of culture secretary having, seemingly, the opposite relationship with the Murdochs. Cable and his own advisers had, nevertheless, kept strictly away from contact with the parties warring over the bid. One of them, Giles Wilkes, told News Corp's lobbyist: 'I'm sure we're both interested in staying within the bounds of proper conduct.' It will now be up to Cameron and the cabinet secretary, Sir Jeremy Heywood, to decide whether the vile and odious rascal Hunt failed to stay within such bounds. The lengthy record of e-mails, texts and phone calls released on Tuesday appears to reveal a secret communications channel between the vile and odious rascal Hunt and Murdoch devoted to pushing through Project Rubicon and giving Murdoch exactly what he wanted. James Murdoch conceded openly to Leveson: 'The company's representatives were speaking to Mr Hunt and/or Mr Hunt's advisers in the course of the proposed offer.' He described this as 'active public affairs engagement' and said that Michel 'was a liaison with policymakers.' He maintained he was simply trying to get a decision on 'a proper legal basis.' The evidence comes largely from Michel's correspondence, which the Murdochs have now made public. Michel sent regular reports to Murdoch describing his alleged contacts with the vile and odious rascal Hunt. The growing scandal over phone-hacking had forced Cameron's press adviser, the former Scum of the World editor Andy Coulson, to resign on 21 January 2011. But the vile and odious rascal Hunt remained optimistic, according to the e-mails, that he could deliver a result. '[The vile and odious rascal Hunt] still wants to stick to the following plan,' Michel wrote on 23 January 2011. 'His view is that once he announces publicly he has a strong UIL, it's almost game over for the opposition. He very specifically said he was keen to get to the same outcome and wanted JRM to understand he needs to build some political cover on the process.' The following day, an e-mail sent at 3.21pm shows Murdoch being supplied with the wording of the vile and odious rascal Hunt's crucial, and market-sensitive, official statement, due to be delivered the next day. 'Confidential: Managed to get some infos [sic] on the plans for tomorrow [although absolutely illegal!] Press statement at 7.30am. Lots of legal issues around the statement so he has tried to get a version which helps us. JH will announce that he wishes to look at any undertakings that have the potential to prevent the potential threats of media plurality.' The vile and odious rascal Hunt had limited room for manoeuvre. He had gained control of the bid only after Cable had already called in the media regulator, Ofcom, to start a rigid legal process. And he was dealing with a man who, as the evidence submitted to Leveson shows, was powerfully connected. Murdoch's team had already been in contact with George Osborne and his special adviser, Rupert Harrison, to try to get the Treasury to pile the pressure on Cable. The vile and odious rascal Hunt is alleged to have previously told Murdoch that he backed his bid. But he had also received 'very strong legal advice' that it would be improper for him to meet Murdoch during this period. According to the Michel e-mails, the answer to the problem was simply: 'You could have a chat with him [the vile and odious rascal Hunt] on his mobile.' Murdoch the small responded in an e-mail, the inquiry heard: 'You must be fucking joking. I will text him and find a time.' When the vile and odious rascal Hunt was put in charge of the bid on 21 December, Murdoch phoned him again immediately, as he now admits. A couple of days later, Murdoch lobbied Cameron about the bid. The two were together at the then News International chief executive Rebekah Brooks's Christmas lunch in Oxfordshire and although the prime minister has never admitted it before, Murdoch now testified: 'I recall speaking briefly to the prime minister about the proposal.' Under questioning on Tuesday, Murdoch said that he had merely told Cameron he hoped the handling of the BSkyB deal would be 'appropriate and judicial' in a short, 'side conversation.' The following day back in London, Michel texted the vile and odious rascal Hunt, according to his own witness statement. He then e-mailed Murdoch to explain how a back channel was being set up via the vile and odious rascal Hunt's chief of staff, Adam Smith, to enable the vile and odious rascal Hunt and Murdoch to 'communicate privately.' Reporting the suggestion of 'JH' that Michel should be the point of contact between the vile and odious rascal Hunt and Murdoch, he said 'JH' had stressed that it was 'very important to avoid giving "the anti" any opportunity to attack the fairness of the process and fine to liaise at that political level.' Extraordinarily, when Ofcom reported that the takeover might be against the public interest, the vile and odious rascal Hunt's team appears to have asked News Corp's team to help him undermine the findings. Michel wrote: 'Spoke to Hunt. He made again a plea to try and find as many legal errors as we can in the Ofcom report and propose some strong and "impactful" remedies. Would welcomed [sic] other opeds [comment articles] like [Mark] Littlewood or [David] Elstein in coming days.' Littlewood, the director general of the Institute of Economic Affairs, issued a statement supporting BSkyB's bid two weeks later and blogged for The Spectator a month later. Elstein, a former Sky executive, wrote two opeds for the Open Democracy website supporting the bid. A coalition of other newspapers were campaigning against the bid and made representations to the vile and odious rascal Hunt's department, drafted by lawyers Slaughter & May. What the opposition alliance did not realise, however, was that the vile and odious rascal Hunt's office was feeding information back to News Corp about the activities of their rivals. The vile and odious rascal Hunt was due to meet the coalition, but shortly before he did so, Michel e-mailed: 'JH confidential please read. JH would welcome our critical views on the Slaughter & May submission to help him forge his arguments.' Following the formal meeting, Michel wrote: '[JH] debriefed on his meeting with the media coalition. In a nutshell: they looked miserable and know they have lost the battle.' The vile and odious rascal Hunt and his team insisted to an apparently irritated Murdoch that all Ofcom's objections to the proposed safeguards could be overcome by making a few concessions. Matters came to a head on 9 February when Michel texted Smith: 'Bad news from Ofcom. We need to talk', and Smith texted back: 'will call asap.' That evening, Michel e-mailed James: 'As agreed on the call, I have managed to get JH quickly before he went in to see Swan Lake and have further chat. He really feels this Ofcom letter is the ultimate weapon for them to block the deal. It's the last throw of the dice for Ed [Richards of Ofcom]. He shares our frustration – "we all know what Ofcom's intentions are and have been from the start on this." It might be a price worth paying to get a green light in two weeks. He can't instruct his officials to get back to Ofcom as he is not supposed to be aware we have received the letter and its content. He feels we should look at the longer-term view. He asked whether we would be prepared to negotiate at all. I told him he had to stand for something ultimately and show he had some backbone. He said he couldn't ignore Ofcom, he had brought them into this OFT process to get some cover and in public debate he would get absolutely killed if he did such a thing.' On 11 February, Michel sent Murdoch a warning originating from the vile and odious rascal Hunt's office: 'JH called: – he now knows what OFCOM and OFT will send him tonight: Both will recommend he refers to Competition Commission. JH doesn't want this to go to the CC. JH believes it would kill the deal.' Michel told the inquiry that he sometimes used 'JH' as a shorthand term for dealings with Smith and the vile and odious rascal Hunt's other advisers: 'It was my understanding that when they told me something, it was always on behalf of the minister and having conferred with him.' This claim is supported to an extent by the e-mail traffic. Smith at one point refers to 'what Jeremy and I have told you.' At another point Michel explicitly asks him to consult the vile and odious rascal Hunt and get the answer to a question. But much of the language is that of a more direct relationship. In April last year, as talks with Ofcom about the details of the bid safeguards continued, two Scum of the World journalists were arrested in the re-opened police-hacking inquiry. This led to further anxious discussions on the the vile and odious rascal Hunt back channel. Michel e-mailed Murdoch on 13 April: 'Catch up with JH. Debriefed him on the [Scum of the World] issues. There is no question that NOW will not play any part in his decision. He managed to avoid a massive backlash against the deal despite attempts by [John] Prescott and other Labour figures. Given the current onslaught in the media there will be a strategic decision to make for the government as to the day it will choose to clear the deal. We know it will clear it. We just need to push them strongly now to announce it as early as possible.' Six days later, the vile and odious rascal Hunt's chief of staff texted Michel: 'I've got JH meeting officials on it this afternoon to push ahead quicker. Will let you know how we get on.' By May, the Murdoch camp clearly feared their former ally in the cabinet was getting cold feet. Michel wrote: 'We might want to use a call from JRM to JH to put further pressure on or raise some alarm bells.' On 29 May, Michel complained to Smith: 'It does seem the timetable you outlined to me is slipping away massively and we might want to consider our options. Seems that Ed Richards has been given very much a free ride on this and is doing his best to delay.' The the vile and odious rascal Hunt camp tried to reassure Murdoch on 3 June. Michel reported back to him: 'JH confidential. Had conversations with him today. Blame game going on regarding the delay. He is politically very keen to get this done as quickly as possible. Also asked whether there were any other news which could conflict with the process in the coming weeks, and asked me to keep him informed privately. I have painted to him what could happen and what it would mean for him and his department to be openly accused of not providing us process etc. He believes there will be overall green light given by everyone by end of next week.' Michel texted Smith: 'James is not making any more commercial concessions, might even exit the process if consultation doesn't take place next week. Very serious.' He then told Murdoch: 'As discussed, I just had very strong conversation with JH and explained we had now no intention of engaging further in any more commercial negotiations with OFT or Ofcom. I insisted he needed to get a grip. I also floated the threat that we could decide at any moment to withdraw. JH repeated he was definitely keen to see this through as quickly as possible.' The mood only improved when the vile and odious rascal Hunt announced a green light to the proposals on 30 June, subject to one final short period of formal consultation due to end on 8 July. The Rubicon seemed on the verge of being crossed at last. Michel emailed the vile and odious rascal Hunt's adviser early that morning: 'Just showed to Rupert! Great statement!' The vile and odious rascal Hunt spent the day batting off parliamentary attacks from Labour politicians, and Michel texted: 'Think we are in a good place, no?' Smith texted back: 'Very, yes. Jeremy happy.' Just four days later, however, the Gruniad revealed that the Scum of the World had hacked Milly Dowler's mobile phone. In a tumultuous week, in which numerous other shocking revelations were published in several newspapers, Rupert Murdoch shut down the paper and Cameron set up the wide-ranging Leveson inquiry. By 11 July last year, the Sky bid had collapsed. The Murdochs, father and son, have been ordered into the Leveson witness box and forced this week to explain the backstairs lobbying that went on. As a result, both James Murdoch, who tried to ram through the Sky project for his father, and the vile and odious rascal Hunt, the cabinet minister who tried to help him, seem to have ended up in what is very far from a good place. Robert Jay return from his dinner to ask about the correspondence between Fréd Michel, the News Corp head of public affairs and Murdoch. The correspondence in which Michel said 'mission accomplished.' Michel then said 'a Lib Dem MP and former Sky employee' would contact Vince Cable and 'stress the economic arguments' in favour of allowing News Corp's takeover of BSkyB. Murdoch said it was 'entirely straightforward and normal' for a business to wish to promote its views, describing it again as 'legitimate advocacy.' Murdoch confirmed that he had a meeting with the first minister of Scotland, Alex Salmond, shortly after that e-mail was sent. It is not known whether the e-mail exchange and the meeting were specifically linked. Murdoch said that Vince Cable listened to 'other people' about News Corp's bid for BSkyB but 'wouldn't sit down' for a meeting with him. He added: 'I think it would have been entirely appropriate to have a meeting with Mr Cable and his advisors to lay out some of the issues as we saw them and our rationale for the transaction and our analysis of the plurality concerns. Self evident in what emerged in next twelve months that he was taking other people's advice. All we wanted to do was sit down and say here are the issues, please sit us down and let us make our case.' George Osborne's chief of staff Rupert Harrison gave details of Cable's role in the BSkyB takeover to News Corp executive Fréd Michel, Murdoch said. Michel met Harrison, on 9 November, confirming 'tensions in the coalition around Vince Cable.' Jay asked Murdoch was getting confidential information about what was going on at a high level of government appropriate? 'Mr Michel's job was to engage with special advisers,' claimed Murdoch. 'He reports back what he's told. I was concerned with the substance I was hearing.' Harrison said that Cable 'probably' took the BSkyB referral decision 'without even reading the legal advice', the inquiry was told. Murdoch claimed that it seemed like 'people were speaking out of different sides of their mouth' about the BSkyB takeover bid. The inquiry also heard that the vile and odious rascal Hunt was 'very frustrated' that he received 'strong legal advice' not to meet James Murdoch about the bid. Murdoch said that both he and the vile and odious rascal Hunt was 'displeased' with this. Michel advised Murdoch to 'have a chat' with [the vile and odious rascal Hunt] on his mobile phone, 'which is fine.' Murdoch claimed this not a surreptitious phone call 'to my mind'. The vile and odious rascal Hunt later called Murdoch to apologise for a cancelled meeting. Jay read another e-mail from Murdoch to Michel in which Murdoch said 'you must be fucking joking. I will text him and find a time' to meet and avoid legal obstacles. Murdoch told Jay: 'As I said earlier, I was displeased.' Jay said Michel was also 'working" on Vince Cable's special adviser, Giles Wilkes.' Jay claimed suggests Wilkes 'warned him to lay off', saying that 'a dialogue would be inappropriate.' Murdoch said: 'They didn't want anyone talking about the process because they didn't have one.' The internal project code name for News Corp's purchase of the rest of BSkyB was Rubicon. The inquiry heard that the vile and odious rascal Hunt asked Michel, the News Corp public affairs executive, to send him documents 'privately' in November 2010. Reading from a Michel e-mail, Jay quoted: 'Jeremy has also asked me to send him relevant documents privately. Michel e-mailed on 23 November to say that he would have 'a session' with the vile and odious rascal Hunt's adviser the following week, and also that the vile and odious rascal Hunt had asked him to 'send him documents privately.' Why the on-going dialogue with the vile and odious rascal Hunt, asked Jay? 'We wanted any interested party to see the relevant arguments,' claimed Murdoch. 'We wanted do make sure the right legal tests were applied.' Michel also spoke to advisers of the deputy prime minister and the prime minister. Ofcom raised issues with Sky bid, Michel on 14 December said that he had a 'very good debrief with Hunt. He is pretty amazed by its findings, methodology and clear bias. He very much shares our views on it.' Michel that said he would try to set up a meeting with the vile and odious rascal Hunt before Christmas. 'We don't know whether that's a reference to Hunt or Hunt's special adviser,' noted Jay. Or his office, added Murdoch. Jay asked whether Murdoch took the vile and odious rascal Hunt references to mean with the lack of culture secretary personally or with his office. 'Communicating through his office. I didn't assume it was all direct,' claimed Murdoch. 'But I think you can appreciate the channel wasn't of my primary concern, it was the content of the notes which were confirming our concerns about the process.' Well-known Crystal Tipps lookalike Rebekah Brooks told James Murdoch in an e-mail that there was 'total bafflement' from George Osborne's office at Ofcom's public interest statement about the BSkyB bid. Although what the hell this issue had to do with the chancellor, she didn't speculate upon. 'The whole thing at this point was very frustrating,' Murdoch said. On 21 December 2010, Vince Cable's remarks to two undercover reporters about the BSkyB takeover became public. The fact that the Daily Torygraph initially left out Cable's comments about BSkyB, and that the paper was in the alliance of media owners against the BSkyB takeover, 'was a cause of concern for us' said Murdoch. 'We thought it was pretty inappropriate.' His comments on the issue were later revealed by the BBC's Robert Peston and Cable was subsequently removed from the process and the decision given, instead, to the vile and odious rascal Hunt. The inquiry heard that Michel spoke to Nick Clegg's office in the wake of Vince Cable's 'war on Murdoch' comments. Michel said in an e-mail: 'Just spoke. [Clegg] is absolutely furious.' Murdoch said that he 'sought to discover what was the best channel to liaise with the department for culture, media and sport' after Cable was stripped of oversight of the BSkyB bid. Jay said informal contact took place 'secretly' between Michel and the vile and odious rascal Hunt's special adviser. Murdoch claimed this was 'acceptable and part of the process.' Jay noted that further e-mails would raise the question whether they 'fell into the appropriate box or the inappropriate box.' Another Michel e-mail, on New Year's Eve 2010, said about Ofcom's report on the bid: 'We already know privately Jeremy will not look at it before next Wednesday.' How they knew, privately or otherwise, unless the vile and odious rascal Hunt told them, they don't say. Murdoch claimed that there was 'lots of selective leaking' about the BSkyB takeover bid. Jay said News Corp was also being passed insight into private conversations between Ofcom chief executive, Ed Richards, and the secretary of state. Murdoch claimed this 'might have just been trying to make nice' while in public following a separate course. He added that he took this information 'with a grain of salt.' Murdoch said that most of the e-mails detail News Corp's concern its opinion was heard during the regulatory process. 'This is a large-scale process that is in the hands of the Department for Culture, Media and Sport and it was entirely reasonable to try and communicate with policymakers about the merits of what we were proposing.' On 23 January 2011, the vile and odious rascal Hunt believed it was 'almost game over' for those who opposed News Corp's takeover of BSkyB, according to e-mails read by Jay. In another Michel e-mail following discussions with the vile and odious rascal Hunt's special adviser, Murdoch was given information about timetables and the vile and odious rascal Hunt's view of the merits of your case. 'His view is that once he announces publicly he has a strong UIL [undertaking in lieu] it's almost game over for the opposition,' Jay read from the e-mail. The vile and odious rascal Hunt, he continued, 'was still acting in a quasi-judicial role, he is letting you know what his view is. There's a difference between you having that view and the judge behind the scenes [the vile and odious rascal Hunt] telling you that he has that view as well.' Murdoch maintained that he took what the vile and odious rascal Hunt's advisers were telling him 'with a grain of salt.' Jay pressed Murdoch on whether he knew that the vile and odious rascal Hunt, as the 'judge' of the takeover, approved of News Corp's BSkyB bid. 'Let's accept you had a brilliant case, but there's a difference between you having a brilliant case and the judge thinking you had a brilliant case,' said Jay. Murdoch replied: 'I took all of that with a grain of salt. It may have just been his office saying it will all be fine. He only took advice of Ofcom and OFT at every turn.' In an e-mail on 11 January 2011, Michel said the vile and odious rascal Hunt 'wants us to take the heat with him in the next two weeks' and 'he shared our objectives.' Murdoch was given a detailed briefing on what the vile and odious rascal Hunt was planning to say to parliament on 23 January. Murdoch maintained that he was 'very worried' about the prospect of the BSkyB bid, despite the positive signals he was receiving from the office of the vile and odious rascal Hunt. In another e-mail on 23 January 2011, Michel said: '[The vile and odious rascal Hunt] is keen for me to work with his team on the [the vile and odious rascal Hunt] statement and offer some possible language.' Separately Michel said that he had managed to get some information about the vile and odious rascal Hunt's proposed statement 'although absolutely illegal.' To gasps in the courtroom, Murdoch claimed that this is, merely, 'a joke', but then suggested that he was 'not so sure' whether this is illegal. (It, actually, is.) Jay described this as a 'sneak preview' as the secretary of state's planned statement to parliament. Murdoch said the takeover was 'hotly contested' and he imagined that the vile and odious rascal Hunt's office was 'in contact' with 'all the relevant parties.' In another e-mail, Michel told James Murdoch on 25 January after the vile and odious rascal Hunt's statement to parliament: 'JH believes we are in a good place tonight.' Jay suggested that Michel was attempting to 'obtain private documents' that had not yet been published. The vile and odious rascal Hunt went to see Swan Lake with his special adviser Adam Smith, the inquiry heard, as Michel told Murdoch he 'managed to get JH' before he went to the theatre. Michel told Murdoch on 11 February that Alex Salmond's adviser had 'agreed' to call the vile and odious rascal Hunt about the BSkyB deal 'whenever we need him to.' Murdoch denied any imputation that Alex Salmond was given 'positive coverage' in the Scottish Sun in return for help lobbying the vile and odious rascal Hunt on the BSkyB deal. 'That was absolutely not News Corporation's policy and I would not do business like that,' Murdoch claimed. He continued that he wanted the vile and odious rascal Hunt to understand that News Corp shareholders were restive over the length of the transaction period. In another e-mail, Michel refers to a dinner with Alex Salmond and the editor of the Scottish Sun, which had just decided to back Salmond at the next Scottish election. In the e-mail, Michel says: 'Alex was keen to see if he could help smooth the way for the process', referring to the BSkyB takeover bid. Murdoch was told in another e-mail following a debate in the Commons about the takeover that the vile and odious rascal Hunt was 'very happy with the way today went and with the absolutely idiotic debate' by Tom Watson (power to the people!) and John Prescott. Jay suggested this was another example of News Corp 'getting the inside track' on the vile and odious rascal Hunt's decision. Murdoch said: 'I guess so, but this is a debrief after the public debate, nothing particularly new is disclosed.' On 7 July, James Murdoch was given private information about a meeting between David Cameron and the vile and odious rascal Hunt to discuss setting up the Leveson inquiry. Jay asked Murdoch whether the vile and odious rascal Hunt carried out his quasi-judicial review of the BSkyB bid in a proper way? Murdoch claimed the vile and odious rascal Hunt 'consulted widely, he took advice from all sides and it was an incredibly rigorous process in an environment that was uncharted territory. At every step he followed the independent advice that he said he was going to.' On News Corp's conduct, Murdoch claimed with such a large takeover you would see an active public affairs engagement but this is separate to questions over ethics of the press. 'I really can't see. I don't know the ins and outs of Westminster but we were receiving feedback and information through our public affairs channel,' he added. Jay suggested that Murdoch was 'somewhat blind' to the apparent 'horse trading' between the Sun's support for the Conservative party and that party's subsequent support for the BSkyB takeover. Murdoch rejected this suggestion. He said there was 'absolutely not a quid pro quo for that support.' Murdoch said that he has had 'cause for reflection' on the effectiveness of regulation of the press. As the subject of media coverage, Murdoch said he has questions about the prominence of corrections and right of reply. He claimed that the Gruniad has made 'more than forty corrections in last ten months' about News Corp. (The Gruniad immediately questioned exactly where he got that figure from.) Murdoch said that Leveson should ensure 'stronger enshrining of speech rights' coupled with stronger consequences for those who fall outside the boundaries. He said: 'The things to weigh up are a stronger enshrining of speech rights, coupled with a stronger set of consequences. Just as one of the great learnings for us has been not to allow an operating company to investigate itself without absolute transparency to the corporate centre, it is also difficult to allow an industry to control itself on a voluntary basis given the concerns we obviously all have.' Murdoch was asked about the future of media regulation in the UK. He said: 'There will be fewer newspapers in the future than there are today. Plurality continues to be enhanced by breaking down of barriers in digital environment. You have one person with a laptop on one side and Google on the other. Where do you draw the boundaries? What is the discourse you are trying to control, construct a set of rules around?' Lord Justice Leveson pointed out that Google is an aggregator. Murdoch replied: 'The way search algorithms work, I shouldn't say unbiased, affects the results in terms of what's presented, the way in which aggregators approach the set of data it is compiling is relevant editorially, I'm sorry to say.' Murdoch said that there are other ways to guarantee independence other than profit – harking back to his infamous MacTaggart lecture in 2009 – but that making money is the most durable of these. Like this blogger has noted, 'greed is good', basically. Murdoch was then asked questions put by core participants. Jay asked whether James discussed the ongoing phone-hacking saga with his father at any time between 2008 and 2009. Murdoch said that he did discuss the phone-hacking scandal with Rupert in 2009 following the Gruniad story about the Taylor settlement. Lord Justice Leveson asked Murdoch about the Press Complaints Commission. Murdoch said he would 'like to have more comfort' of training around the PCC code. 'Having people in and around the PCC who are outside the current working press may be a good thing to have,' he added as his day long evidence closed. The Leveson inquiry has published one hundred and sixty three pages of correspondence between the vile and odious rascal Hunt's office and News Corp over the BSkyB takeover here. Makes quite fascinating reading.

Colin Myler's editorship of the New York Daily News, one of the most prominent newspapers in America, has come under renewed scrutiny following allegations that he attempted to intimidate members of the UK parliament investigating phone-hacking at the Scum of the World at the time he led the disgraced and disgraceful tabloid. Media monitoring groups and experts in journalistic ethics in America have described the allegations raised against Myler as 'horrifying' and 'abhorrent.' New York magazine has also published a five thousand-word profile of Myler in its current issue, putting a spotlight on Myler within the US media which he has assiduously tried to avoid – until now with relative success. Myler was the final editor of the Scum of the World from 2007 until it closed last July. In January he was appointed editor-in-chief of the New York Daily News, a job that puts him on the high table of American journalists. Media monitors in the US have reacted to claims that Myler attempted to bully British MPs investigating the Scum of the World as anathema to journalistic standards in the US. Eric Boehlert, senior fellow of the progressive watchdog Media Matters, said that the allegation 'would put any American newspaper editor in a very uncomfortable position. Anything like it would be seen as completely horrifying and beyond the realm of responsible journalism.' Edward Wasserman, Knight Foundation professor of journalism ethics at Washington and Lee University, said that if the allegations were proved to be correct, it was 'such a transparent breach of ethics in that it's hard to imagine the very idea even being discussed in a US newsroom. Even the most politically zealous journalist would find it abhorrent.' In his position as editor of the Scum of the World, Myler is alleged to have instructed a team of six reporters to 'dig for dirt' on every member of the Commons culture select committee that at the time was investigating phone-hacking at the British tabloid. Reporters were asked to find out if any of the members had had illicit affairs or were gay. The allegations were made last week by Tommy Watson (power to the people!) who has been at the forefront of the exposure of phone-hacking and other illegal activities within Rupert Murdoch's UK newspapers. At the launch of his new co-authored book, Dial M for Murdoch, Watson claimed that he had been told of Myler's attempted intimidation of MPs by Neville Thurlbeck, former chief reporter at the Scum of the World. Thurlbeck later confirmed that reporters had been asked to 'monitor' committee members, but added that he had 'no evidence' that it had come from the editor's office. Myler himself declined to comment on the accusations. Mort Zuckerman, the business tycoon who owns the New York Daily News and who brought Myler across the Atlantic to lead it, also declined to comment on whether the new allegations cast doubt on the wisdom of the appointment. In the New York magazine profile of Myler, Zuckerman tells writer Steve Fishman that he had 'no qualms' about Myler's role in the phone-hacking scandal. 'He's not involved,' Zuckerman said. Watson's new book may not be the last time that Myler faces serious allegations arising from his tenure as Scum of the World editor. Discrepancies in his evidence to parliament over phone-hacking could feature in the final report of the culture select committee that MPs are currently completing. In July 2009, when he was still Scum of the World editor, Myler appeared before the culture select committee and told MPs that he had 'personally supervised' a trawl through thousands of e-mails and had found 'no evidence' that phone-hacking went beyond a single 'rogue' reporter at the newspaper. Yet it has since been revealed that more than a year previously, in May 2008, Myler had engaged in internal correspondence with the Scum of the World's lawyer Tom Crone, in which Crone made clear that other reporters had also been involved in hacking. And, that illegal activities were 'far more widespread.' MPs will also need to consider apparent contradictions in evidence given to the committee by Myler and Crone, on the one hand, and James Murdoch on the other. Last November, Murdoch the small openly disputed the testimony that Myler and Crone had given the committee. Murdoch told MPs that contrary to what Myler and Crone had told parliament, the pair had failed to inform him of wider illegality at the paper. 'I believe their testimony was misleading and I dispute it,' he said. Tom Rosenstiel, director of the Pew Research Center's project for excellence in journalism, said it was not clear how the new allegations surrounding Myler would affect his New York position. Rosenstiel said he was struck by how the phone-hacking scandal had 'remained a British scandal despite the size of News Corp operations over here.'

A Tory MP has described David Cameron and George Osborne as 'two arrogant posh boys' with 'no passion to want to understand the lives of others' and who 'don't know the price of milk.' No, tell us something we don't know. Nadine Dorries told the BBC's Daily Politics their 'real crime' was to show 'no remorse' about their lack of insight beyond Westminster. So, you see, it is true. Even a broken clock's right twice a day. One imagines that yer actual Nadine is unlikely to feature in the next cabinet reshuffle. Last year, Cameron apologised to Dorries for the way he had responded to her at PM's questions. But, he said he did not 'accept' her latest criticism. Earlier this year, Mid-Bedfordshire MP Dorries - a full-of-her-own-importance gobshite, frankly - told the Financial Times that government policy was 'being run by two public school boys who don't know what it's like to go to the supermarket and have to put things back on the shelves because they can't afford it for their children's lunch boxes. What's worse, they don't care either,' she added. Cameron later described her comments as 'nonsense.' And, threatened to do to her what they used do to the mouthy first years at Eton and use her as The Toastrack of Shame. Probably. Not that any such thing should occur, of course, because that would be terrible. Speaking to BBC2's Daily Politics on Monday, Dorries was asked whether she still believed the prime minister and chancellor were 'two posh boys who don't know the price of milk.' She replied: 'There is a very tight, narrow clique of a certain group of people and what they do is they act as a barrier and prevent Cameron and Osborne and others from really understanding and knowing what is happening in the rest of the country. Unfortunately, I think that not only are Cameron and Osborne two posh boys who don't know the price of milk, but they are two arrogant posh boys who show no remorse, no contrition, and no passion to want to understand the lives of others - and that is their real crime.' In an interview with the BBC's political editor Nick Robinson, Cameron replied: 'I don't agree with Nadine. She's got a very strong view about a number of things. You're always going to have MPs who don't agree with you. and you can either spend your entire time trying to appease them in some way, or you can actually say, look, you may not agree with everything I'm doing, but I'm doing the right job on behalf of the people of this country.' The prime minister said that he did 'a lot of the family shopping' and often went to Sainsbury's in his Chipping Norton constituency 'on a Friday or a Saturday.' Asked if he actually did know the price of a pint of milk, he replied: 'Just under 50p.' Speaking later to BBC Look East, Dorries said her words were 'a shot across the bow' of the Tory top brass. 'What I said was speak directly into the heart of Number 10, and to the leadership who have become slightly disconnected from the rest of the people who are working very hard for true Conservative values and causes.' She said the main problem was that Cameron saw himself as 'a social liberal' and 'I don't think there's a Conservative councillor in the land who describes themselves as a social liberal.' However, Dorries denied any suggestion she was considering a defection to the UK Independence Party. Following her comments, the MP's local Conservative Association chairman Paul Duckett said in a statement: 'Nadine Dorries MP has expressed her personal opinions and it would have been courteous of her to advise the association prior to expounding them.' Ooo, get him! That's you gonna get a right good chastising next time you're back in your constituency, Nadine. Not that any such thing should occur, of course, because that would be terrible. Last September, Dorries campaigned for an amendment to the Health and Social Care Bill, which would have stopped abortion providers giving NHS-funded counselling to women. She claimed Cameron dropped his support for it after pressure from Nick Clegg, and during PMQs, urged the PM to show his deputy 'who's the boss.' The prime minister, struggling to get his reply out amid laughter from Labour MPs, replied: 'I know that The Honourable Lady is extremely frustrated about the ... perhaps I should start all over again ... I am going to give up on this one.' Downing Street insisted the prime minister had not intended any innuendo in his reply to Dorries, and she later told the BBC's Newsnight he had contacted her personally to apologise. After which, presumably, he told her to make sure her husband's tea was on the table when he got back from work or there'd be trouble. Not that any such thing should occur, of course, because that would be terrible.

Former Icelandic PM Gottle of Geir Haarde has been found not guilty of negligence over the 2008 financial crisis that saw the island's economy go into meltdown. A special court in Reykjavik said Haarde would face no punishment and his legal expenses would be paid for. But he was found guilty of one of the four charges: not holding cabinet meetings when things turned critical. Haarde is thought to be the first world leader to face criminal charges over the financial crisis. Iceland's three main banks including the excellently named Landsbankki - collapsed during economic turmoil and the failure of online bank Icesave hit thousands. The collapse led to a dispute over compensation between the UK and the Netherlands and Iceland, which remains unresolved. Some Icelanders have seen the trial of Haarde as scapegoating, while others have argued that public accountability is essential following the country's financial collapse. The main points of the five hundred-page verdict were announced on Monday by the court's chief Judge Markus Sigurbjornsson. He said that - despite being found guilty on one charge - 'Geir Haarde will not be punished.' The proceedings were held at the Landsdomur court - the first case of the special court founded in 1905 to deal with criminal charges against Icelandic government ministers. The panel consisted of fifteen members: five supreme court justices, a district court president, a constitutional law professor and eight people chosen by parliament. Haarde later described the verdict as 'absurd, laughable, risible and silly. It is obvious that the majority of the judges have found themselves pressed to come up with a guilty verdict on one point, however minor, to save the neck of the parliamentarians who instigated this,' he told reporters.  Haarde, who led the country's government in 2006-09, had argued during the trial that he was only doing what he thought was best for the country at the time. Before the case opened he had tried unsuccessfully to have all charges dismissed, calling the proceedings 'preposterous' and saying that his conscience was clear. Many Icelanders are angry that none of the men in charge of the banks that collapsed in 2008 have been tried, despite long investigations and charges being brought in several cases.

Former footballer Robbie Savage's hip-thrusting performance on Strictly Come Dancing last year did not breach broadcasting guidelines, the BBC Trust has ruled. Almost five hundred people with nothing better to do with their time complained to the BBC over the routine, danced to Michael Jackson's 'Bad', in November. They have been told, collectively, to grow up, fer God's sake, and not be such a stupid bunch of knobheads in future. Which is nice. The BBC Trust's editorial standards committee said it 'understood' viewers may have found the routine 'tasteless and vulgar.' But it ruled that the routine met 'generally accepted standards.' The episode in question featured Savage emulating Jackson's pelvic thrusts as part of a Hallow'een special, finishing his performance by leaping onto the judges' desk. The BBC editorial complaints unit initially dismissed the complaints by saying viewers would have been familiar with Jackson's trademark move as 'a humorous punctuation rather than something that has sexually explicit overtones.' But two especially tight-arsed and thick-as-pigs-shit viewers contacted the BBC Trust to appeal the decision, arguing that the performance was 'in bad taste' and 'inappropriate in a programme shown at 7pm during family viewing time.' The Trust's editorial standards committee ruled that the routine did not cause harm or offence to children because the routine 'was not sexually aggressive and would be viewed more as pantomime behaviour' and 'did not exceed audience expectations. The committee concluded that the dance routine met "generally accepted standards", but that the final hip thrust on the judges' desk was at the margins of acceptability in a programme appealing to a wide family audience,' it added. Meanwhile, the Trust also ruled that a sex scene in an episode of Torchwood also did not breach BBC guidelines. More than twelve hundred viewers - homophobes, basically - complained about the scene, which featured the characters of Captain Jack (John Barrowman) and Angelo Colasanto, saying that it was screened 'too close' to the 21:00 watershed and was 'inappropriate' for children as it featured two men. Like I say, homophobes. The Trust said the scene was 'appropriately handled' and 'was not prurient or exploitative and was not sexually explicit. The committee believed that most viewers are aware of the purpose of the 9pm watershed and, given the nature of the drama and its scheduling, it did not exceed audience expectations,' it said. It added that while a warning would have been useful beforehand, 'the development of the scene and the established context of the programme meant that viewers would have had sufficient information to make a decision.' It really does do the soul a bit of good that here we are in 2012 and we're at a stage in our society's development where homophobic fucks can be told exactly where to go and what to do with their shitty, nasty little prejudices.

Ofcom has confirmed that it is investigating complaints from viewers about Britain's Got Talent burlesque performer Beatrix von Bourbon. Von Bourbon's raunchy routine involved her stripping on stage to only her underwear, a corset and nipple tassels, while her breasts were obscured by gold stars. Her performance was broadcast before the 9pm watershed. Ofcom is checking whether the episode broke the broadcasting code's duty to protect children from 'material that is unsuitable for them.' ITV has defended the incident, describing it as 'suitably inexplicit.' A total of seventy complaints were made about the performance, which aired at 8.20pm on ITV on 31 March. It was broadcast twice more before the watershed on ITV2. ITV commented: 'BGT celebrates variety and showcases a wide range of different acts. Mindful of our family audience, Beatrix's stylised burlesque performance was carefully edited to ensure it was suitably inexplicit.' Von Bourbon, a professional model and dancer, is expected to feature in the live semi-final stages of Britain's Got Talent after getting four yes votes from Wee Shughie McFee, the sour-faced Scottish chef off Crossroads and the other judges what done the judging.

John Simm has denied that he will be returning to Doctor Who. The actor addressed rumours that he'd be reprising his role of The Master after his name appeared on IMDb's cast list for upcoming Doctor Who episodes. 'In reply to many, regardless of what it says on IMDB, no I'm not returning to Dr Who. Got absolutely no plans to do so,' Simm tweeted on Monday. The former Life on Mars star first appeared as The Doctor's nemesis in the three-part third series finale, later returning for David Tennant's final episodes in 2010. He spoke of an interest in returning to Doctor Who last summer, when he told The ONE Show: 'I haven't spoke to anyone about it, but I would definitely consider it [if asked]. It was such fun to do.' Sherlock's Benedict Cumberbatch has recently been linked to the role of The Master, but the current Doctor, Matt Smith, dismissed those rumours in February.

The Mill is up for an honour at this year's BAFTA Television Craft Awards for its work on Doctor Who. It has been shortlisted in the Visual Effects category against Bluebolt (for BBC1's Great Expectations), Philip Dobree, Sophie Orde and Dan Upton (Inside The Human Body), and Burrell Durrant Hifle (BBC2's Wonders Of The Universe).

The shopkeeper who allegedly inspired Ronnie Barker's Arkwright character in the sitcom Open All Hours has died. Brian Meecham stocked everything from carbolic soap to homemade ice-cream. He ran Meecham & Sons in Crewkerne, Somerset, from 1965 until his retirement in 1998, becoming renowned for the lengths he would go to for his loyal customers. Barker said that he was so impressed with the store's layout that he replicated it for his shop in Open All Hours, which was based in Doncaster. The show became a hit and turned Meecham into a local celebrity with residents nicknaming him Arkwright. Meecham and his wife Doreen, would often perform improvised impressions of miserly Arkwright and his busty fiancee, nurse Gladys Emanuel, in front of amused customers. Well, they said they were amused, anyway. He took over the store from his father George who had first opened the doors in 1928 - running it until his death in 1965 at the age of ninety. After retiring in 1998, great-grandfather Brian converted the shop into a sitting room, and lived out his years on the premises with Doreen.

Tom Jones says that he can't afford to lose his temper on The Voice – or he might die. So far the seventy one-year-old has been fine in his new TV coaching role. But the singer insists that his docile state is best for everyone. 'I have a temper that frightens me. When I was younger I got into fights. Now I'm older, I can't get into any bother. Some people explode and are cool again within five minutes. I can't be like that,' he said. Worried his rage is a health risk, music's elder statesman told the Radio Times: 'Now if I explode, I'm the one who's going to die. I'm an old man. I'm happy and everything's great, so leave me alone.' The perma-tanned star is refusing to dye his silver locks for the show even though some of his ageing contemporaries still hit the bottle. 'To each his own. It's not for me to tell others what to do. But you can't get to a certain age and have black hair. If some can, bless 'em,' he said. 'Every Christmas, I'd take two months off and never dye my hair. And when I started a new tour, I'd think, "It's not white enough, a bit patchy", so I'd dye it again. It must have looked pretty obvious. I should have let it go five years earlier.'

The trend for reviving vintage dramas appears to be waning after it emerged that All Creatures Great and Small prequel Young James Herriot has been axed by the BBC. The much-loved vet has been put out to pasture days after the BBC took the axe to Upstairs Downstairs, which lost million of viewers across two series and struggled in the face of ITV's Downton Abbey. The BBC has decided not to recommission a planned Herriot spin-off that would have documented his early years in Glasgow. 'Young James Herriot will not be coming back,' said a spokesman for the BBC. 'It was a three-part event piece stripped across the week before Christmas.' Young James Herriot, which starred Iain de Caestecker, saw the Yorkshire Dales swapped for urban deprivation in Glasgow as the drama followed the young vet as he learned his trade at college. It was broadcast in three parts just before Christmas, with the first episode pulling in six million viewers. It's second episode, however, drew just 4.3 million. In January Ben Stephenson, the controller of drama commissioning at the BBC, said that no decision had been taken about whether the All Creatures Great and Small prequel would return for a second run. well, now it has. The inspiration for Young James Herriot originally came from Johnny Byrne whose credits included All Creatures Great and Small and Doctor Who. It was devised by Byrne and consultant producer Kate Croft and produced by Shed Media, whose credits include Waterloo Road. Byrne died in 2008 while the show was in development and it was co-written by Shed Productions senior executives Eileen Gallagher and Ann McManus. Young James Herriot was part of a trend for telling the back story of popular TV and film characters. ITV has made a prequel to Inspector Morse called Endeavour, which was quite successful and has gone to a full series. And the BBC put the early years of Only Fools and Horses in the spotlight in Rock & Chips. But the latter was, also, horseshit and nobody watched it.

A Brazilian actor has died after accidentally hanging himself while playing Judas in an Easter Passion play. Tiago Klimeck, twenty seven, was enacting the suicide of Judas during the performance on Good Friday in the city of Itarare. The actor was hanging for four minutes before fellow performers realised something was wrong. Klimeck was taken to hospital suffering from cerebral hypoxia but died on Sunday. The Passion play was being performed in Itarare, three hundred and fifty kilometres west of Sao Paulo. Klimeck was re-enacting the scene in which Judas commits suicide in repentance for his betrayal of Christ. Police are investigating the apparatus which was meant to support Klimeck. It appears the knot may have been wrongly tied. When the actors realised something was wrong, Klimeck was taken down and found to be unconscious. The Santa Casa de Itapeva hospital has confirmed the death and a post-mortem examination will take place on Monday.

Robin Gibb, who woke from a coma at the weekend, has been laughing and joking and wants to go home from hospital, his wife has said. Dwina Murphy-Gibb told ITV News that her husband was 'really happy. He just wants to get out.' Gibb's son Robin-John said: 'They gave him an under ten per cent survival chance and he has beaten the odds. He really is something else.' The sixty two-year-old singer fell into a coma last week after contracting pneumonia. He has also been battling colon and liver cancer. Gibb's son said that his father was 'completely compos mentis now.' The family - including Robin's son Spencer and daughter Melissa - had been playing Bee Gees tunes to the singer as he lay in a coma and noticed Gibb trying to mouth words to the songs. When his latest composition was played, Gibb began to come round, they said. 'He woke up while we were playing the track which is a movement from the Titanic Requiem we have just written,' Robin-John Gibb told ITV News. Robin was unable to attend the London premiere of his first classical work two weeks ago after contracting pneumonia. Robin-John Gibb added that two days before his father regained consciousness, 'they said they had thrown the kitchen sink at him, that it was time to make plans because he was in God's hands.' Earlier this week, doctors treating Gibb say they had been 'confounded' by his recovery since waking from a coma. The singer's physician Dr Andrew Thillainayagam said the 'exhausted' star had shown 'extraordinary courage, iron will and deep reserves of physical strength.' But he added: 'The road ahead for Robin remains uncertain but it is a privilege to look after such an extraordinary human being.' Gibb is being treated at the London Clinic in the centre of the capital. Gibb's wife added that her husband's brother Barry would go to see him on Thursday and that the pair had spoken on the phone.

Channel Four News presenter Jon Snow has told MPs there is 'no leadership from the state' on cycle safety. Snow and The Times editor James Harding called on MPs to promote cycling and provide more funding to make roads for safer for cyclists. Harding has led a campaign to make roads safe for cyclists after Times journalist Mary Bowers was knocked off her bike and left in a coma. Transport ministers said the government had already made progress. Every city should have a cycling commissioner and there should be a cross-departmental cycling representative who would promote cycling in government, Harding said. Bowers, who crashed with a lorry last November, has not yet regained full consciousness, Harding told the committee. The newspaper editor said everyone in the newsroom had been 'emotionally affected' by Bowers' accident. 'The best way to fix these problems is to listen to cyclists. There's no-one in the room to look out for cyclists and we need that in the Department for Transport.' Harding said more separate cycle lanes were needed in UK cities. There will be antagonism between motorists and cyclists 'until we address the structural problems in our road system', he added. Cycling minister Norman Baker said the government had 'already made a lot progress' before The Times' campaign was launched. But Snow told MPs: 'There is paint on the road, which is not infrastructure. Cycling is good for the economy, cycling is good for the environment, cycling is good individual health - all of which save the exchequer money and yet the exchequer refuses to spend money. The fact is there has been no leadership from the state at all on cycling.' The Channel Four News presenter said he and Harding were 'asking for a lot' but called on the government to spell out how they planned to 'raise the profile and power of cycling in this country.' Giving evidence during the second part of the session, Baker said ministers could not micro-manage how cities promote cycling. He said the government was 'very keen to promote to cycling' but improvements were the responsibility of local authorities. Asked what funds were being made available for cycle lanes, the Lib Dem cycling minister said the government 'wouldn't ever get involved' in allocating funds at local level. Harding and Snow appeared alongside author and cycling campaigner Josie Dew who called for more dedicated cycle lanes, enforcement of speed limits and a 'massive education campaign' about the effects of speed. But Snow said it was 'no good just blaming motorists' and that some cyclists should have training before taking to the roads. He also called for cyclists to be allowed to turn left at red traffic lights. Calling for separate cycle lanes, he described roads for cyclists as a 'crazy jungle of a situation' where more female than male cyclists were killed because men were 'more aggressive.' Transport minister Mike Penning said all new lorries would have to install 'trixi' safety mirrors from March 2014 but that the government 'must not take responsibility away' from lorry drivers.

Hope Powell's women's football team will play New Zealand in the opening event of the Olympic Games at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff on 25 July. They will then face further group games against Cameroon and Brazil. The Team GB men's side will take on Senegal in their opening fixture, at Old Trafford on 26 July. Stuart Pearce's side also face United Arab Emirates on 29 July and Uruguay on 1 August in the group stage of the men's competition. 'Uruguay will be tough but I wouldn't dismiss anyone,' said Pearce after the draw. 'The addition of three overage players can contribute to a really strong side. It will be tough, tournament football always is. Everyone in the squad will have star quality but I'll pick the squad on merit. The squad may not reflect every home nation and celebrity but they will be the best eighteen players who have the best opportunity to deliver a gold. That's my only criteria.' Each team in the men's competition comprises eighteen players, with fifteen of them born after 1 January 1989. Pearce is set to meet David Beckham to discuss his possible participation. The overage option also means that Liverpool's Luis Suarez could play for Uruguay in the tournament, while Newcastle United duo Papiss Cisse and Demba Ba would be eligible to feature for Senegal, who were the last team to qualify for the competition, sealing their place with a play-off victory over Oman at Coventry on Monday. There are no restrictions for the women's competition and Powell said that she was looking forward to three exciting group fixtures. 'Brazil will be a great game at Wembley, they are always there or thereabouts in major tournaments,' said Powell. 'Now it is down to our preparations. We have every chance of progressing but we can't take it lightly. We played New Zealand in the World Cup last year and it was a very tough encounter. Cameroon are an unknown quantity. This gives us a great opportunity to showcase our sport, we open the Olympics and hopefully we can encourage more females to get into the sport.' The opening ceremony for the Games takes place on 27 July, but the two GB teams will have already played their first matches by then. Both GB teams already knew the dates and venues of their opening three fixtures but found out the identity of their opponents at the draw for group stage, which took place at Wembley Stadium, London, on Tuesday. The draw was hosted by Match of the Day presenter Gary Lineker, who believes the tournament could become a massive success. 'I feel the football in the Olympics could become huge,' said Lineker. 'If Team GB start going well there will be a real fascination and an interest in it.' During the competition, matches will be played at Hampden Park, St James' Park, Old Trafford, the Ricoh Arena, the Millennium Stadium and Wembley. The sixteen teams in the men's competition have been split into four groups, with the top two in each group advancing to the quarter-finals. After Pearce's men start with their Old Trafford fixture, they will then play at Wembley on Sunday 29 July before their final group match at the Millennium Stadium on Wednesday 1 August.

Which, brings us to today's Keith Telly Topping's 45 of the Day. And what else could it possibly be, dear blog reader? This one's for young James Murdoch the small. After all that Leveson malarkey, you must need a bit yer actual Chicory Tip, my son.

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