I know the Murdoch
inquisition gentle probing by the select committee had been analysed to death, but…
So, for the first twenty minutes or so under Tom Watson’s questioning – the bit that was actually quite incisive – Rupert Murdoch seemed in complete and utter meltdown. “Not so much a titan before whom all must tremble, as an elderly man on a day trip to the coast, mistakenly arrested for shoplifting” was one excellent description.
A lot of speculation since has been that this was mostly a put-on act with the cunning old bastard playing up to the Manuel defence they were running. But look at how he loosened up when the questioning got a lot more flabby and less detailed. Clearly he’s well past his peak, but the reason for the long pauses wasn’t general senility. He was desperately trying to remember his coaching, and what he could legally say – trying to work out how to bridge the gap between the PR necessity of appearing contrite and forthcoming, and the legal necessity of denying that he had any inkling that his newspapers were as ruthless and rulebreaking as he is. Obviously he was out of his depth and couldn’t think on his feet, but that was all about the specific context of the questions he was being asked.
Later on, when the questioning wasn’t forensic and detailed, he warmed up and was even quipping in places – he’s obviously a man who is used to saying what he thinks and being surrounded by sycophants, and not used to having to be careful or guarded. You could see more of a glimpse of what he’s really like when he was talking about how Singapore is the most open society in the world, or how he wishes Prime ministers would leave him alone. It’s a shame that the committee didn’t have the backbone to realise that he was taking the piss by making jokes about his influence and call the cheeky bastard out on it.
Even so, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Murdoch of the first half will stick in the minds of his investors – the toothless bear in abeyance – even if he isn’t as doddery as he seems, under tough questioning he was a man who wasn’t in control of the situation and was out of his depth. It’s looking today like James isn’t going to be so glad about all those questions that were asked after all, and it wouldn’t be out of the question for his father to be gently but firmly removed from post in six months or so – not so soon that it’s obvious, and ostensibly on his own terms, naturally…..