Rupert Murdoch’s empire, new book

This video is called Hack Attack: How the truth caught up with Rupert MurdochNick Davies – Published 31st July 2014.

From daily The Guardian in Britain:

The pervasive power of Rupert Murdoch: an extract from Hack Attack by Nick Davies

In this first extract from his new book, the reporter who broke the phone hacking story looks at Rebekah Brooks’s 2009 wedding – and how it was a perfect display of the nature of Rupert Murdoch’s hold on British life

Friday 25 July 2014 14.00 BST

On a bright Saturday afternoon in the middle of June 2009, in the rolling green downland of west Oxfordshire, there is a wedding party. Several hundred men and women are gathered by the side of a great lake, 350 metres long, crowned at the far end with an 18th-century boathouse disguised as a Doric temple. The sun pours down. The guests sparkle like the champagne in their gleaming flute glasses. The bride arrives to the sound of Handel’s “Rejoice!”, written for the arrival of the Queen of Sheba. Among the onlookers, two men lean their heads towards each other.

“So what do you make of all this?” one asks quietly.

“It is a statement,” says the other, in an equally discreet whisper, “of power.”

The man who wants to know what he should make of all this is a senior member of Gordon Brown’s Labour government, one of a small group of ministers scattered through the gathering. Alongside them is a group of other senior politicians from the Conservative opposition, including its leader, David Cameron. The other man in the whispered conversation is a famously aggressive national newspaper editor, a creator of storms, a destroyer of reputations – and just one of a substantial collection of editors, former editors, political editors, political consultants, newspaper executives, TV presenters, political lobbyists, political PR specialists and political correspondents, all now pressed together by the lakeside. This is a gathering of the country’s power elite, and yet the power that is being stated here is not that of the guests.

As the Christian wedding blessing begins, there is an extraordinary interruption. A large car with dark windows arrives at the top of the slope that leads down through the trees to the lake and, instead of halting there with all of the Bentleys and Mercedes (and the chauffeurs slowly baking in the sun), it ploughs on down the hill, its engine horribly loud, its presence horribly wrong, and when several hundred heads turn to understand the commotion, they see the doors of the intruding vehicle open to reveal the familiar form of the prime minister, Gordon Brown, arriving late.

Brown starts to move among the guests, but his body language screams his discomfort. He shakes hands, offers a rictus smile and moves on, obviously ill at ease and out of place. Other guests watch and conclude that he simply does not want to be here. He has just attended the Trooping the Colour ceremony. He is due back in London to meet President Bush. But the fact is that he had to be here, to show respect.

An alien intruder would assume naturally that this respect is being shown to the bride and groom. The groom is Charlie Brooks – easy-going, clubbable, a trainer of racehorses and a liver of the good life, a man who only a few weeks earlier had explained to Tatler, the posh socialites’ magazine, that he liked nothing better than to wake up in the morning in his two-bedroomed, taupe-painted converted barn with his bride-to-be by his side, and for the two of them to fly off to Venice for lunch at Harry’s Bar, followed by some sightseeing and shopping by the canals, and then to fly back to London for dinner in the famously elegant surroundings of Wilton’s oyster bar in Jermyn Street. A perfect day. Charlie is from old English money – nothing flash, nothing vulgar, just solid, comfortable, horse-loving, home counties country folk.

But, for the most part, it is not the amiable Charlie who catches the eye in this gathering. His bride captures far more attention. Rebekah is beautiful, with her red hair falling in crazy corkscrews around her elfin face. She is also charming – really quite famous (among this power elite) for her ability to make anybody feel that she is their special friend, that she is part of their team, always ready with a favour, always willing to confide. She is particularly good with men, her fingers resting gently on their forearm and her gaze resting direct on their eyes. Not quite sexual, not quite romantic, but so intimate that a well married, conservative kind of man, several decades older than her, reflects that sometimes he finds himself sighing and wondering whether “maybe, if things had been a little different, maybe we would have been together”.

This is Rebekah who was so close to Tony Blair when he was prime minister that Downing Street aides recall Blair’s wife, Cherie, finding her in their flat and hissing privately: “Is she still here? When is she going?”; Rebekah who then effortlessly transferred her affection to the next prime minister, Blair’s great political rival, Gordon Brown, who showed his own affection for her by allowing his official country residence, Chequers, to be used one night the previous summer for an all-girls pyjama party and sleepover to mark her 40th birthday; Rebekah who now spends her weekends swapping canapes and gossip with Brown’s newest political rival, David Cameron, who could possibly be prime minister within a year, and who is said to sign off his notes to her with the words “Love, Dave”. Everybody (who is anybody) is Rebekah’s friend.

There are those who say that this is not entirely natural, that they have seen her, for example, on the eve of an important dinner, studying the table plan like a schoolgirl actress with her script, spending several hours revising until she knows all the names and the partners’ names and the children’s names and the personal interests and the important topics; and then she goes out and performs. And everybody feels so special. Some say that, in truth, Rebekah has no friends at all, only contacts; that all these charming conversations she holds with all these guests are really nothing more than transactions; that all of her relationships are simply a means calculated to attain an end for “the World’s Number One Networker”. Her obvious and immediate end would be journalistic. She is the editor of the Sun, the biggest-selling daily newspaper in the country, and, of course, she wants contacts, to give her the stories she needs to succeed. So, in these transactions that pass as conversations, clearly she has more than her charm to offer. She also has power – the power to make and break a reputation; quite an incentive for those who are offered her friendship.

And she will break as well as make: she is famous not only for her charm but also for her tornado-like temper. Some at the Sun remember the morning she woke up to discover that the rival Daily Mirror had beaten them to a particular story, and how she expressed her feelings by walking into the office and targeting the news desk with a well aimed missile, hastily identified as a heavy glass ashtray. One of the guests at this wedding, who has been close to her for years, says that here in Oxfordshire Rebekah is a country wife, riding horses and organising shooting parties, but in London, where the real transactions take place, she is “the beating heart of the Devil”.

The word that follows Rebekah around is “ambitious”. Most of the journalists who have worked for her love her. In the language of Fleet Street, she has earned the highest accolade – she is “an operator”. When she wants a story, nothing will stand in her way. Years ago at the News of the World, she once dressed up as a cleaning lady to infiltrate the office of the Sunday Times and steal their story. But some of those who know her say that it is not really journalism that moves her – that she knows exactly how it works, how to pull in a story and turn out a headline, but that she has no real love for it, no pulse of excitement at the very idea of it. They say that, for Rebekah, journalism is simply a ladder reaching from her not particularly well-off middle-class origins in a village in Cheshire, up through her first humble jobs in various newsrooms, then rapidly up the next few rungs to the editor’s office at the News of the World, and then to the editor’s office at the Sun – and then higher and higher, as far as the eye of her ambition can see. This summer day in 2009, she is still only 41, still climbing. For her, they say, the power of an editor is simply a mechanism for acquiring still more power. “Where there is power,” says one of those who acts as her friend, “there is Rebekah.”

And yet, any intruder who imagines it is the power of Rebekah Brooks that is being stated here today has entirely missed the point. She is merely an avatar. It may not be immediately obvious, but the man with the real power is the elderly gentleman, aged 78, with the avuncular smile and the clumsily dyed orange hair, chatting quietly in the crowd. He is entirely undistinguished in this gathering, but it is he who has raised Rebekah up the ladder of her ambition, and it is his presence that makes the simple, central statement to the members of this power elite: “You need to be here.” He is one of a small global group who have reached that special position where they are commonly identified simply by a first name. It may be Rebekah’s wedding, but this is Rupert’s day. Since 1979, no British government has been elected without the support of Rupert Murdoch. Between then and this wedding, all those who have been prime minister – Thatcher, Major, Blair and Brown – have consistently cleared their diaries and welcomed him to the inner sanctum of their governments (and then disclosed as little as possible of what passed between them). It is certain that other national leaders have done the same, in Beijing and Washington and Canberra, and in numerous capitals across the planet. This is the current state of the democratic deal: each man has one vote; this man has power.

The fact of the power is clear. Even here, at the wedding, it colours every move around him. At one point, for example, Tony Blair’s former media adviser, Alastair Campbell, strolls up to David Cameron and tells him that, although naturally he hopes Cameron will lose the general election that is due next year, he would support the Conservative leader if, on winning office, he tried to do something about the press. Campbell starts to unwind a well rehearsed speech about the mendacity and negativity of so much political coverage, and Cameron focuses and is in the process of saying that he does think that newspaper behaviour has got even worse, when suddenly he catches his breath and freezes, like a schoolboy spotted by the teacher, as Rupert materialises at his shoulder, smiling. When Murdoch smiles, respectable politicians burst with appreciation.

Why? That is less clear.

Outsiders often misunderstand the power of a man like Rupert Murdoch. They look at him and they see the very model of a media megalomaniac. Certainly, by fair means and foul, with cleverness and cunning, he has built a vast media organisation – News Corp – with more than 800 subsidiaries and total assets worth some $60bn. He and his family trust directly own 12% of the shares (although a subtle legal manoeuvre means that they control 39.7% of the votes). On this day in June 2009, News Corp owns one of the world’s big six film studios, Twentieth Century Fox; one of the world’s 20 biggest book publishers, HarperCollins; and what was once the world’s most-visited social networking site, MySpace. But, most important of all, News Corp owns TV channels and newspapers.

Murdoch creates media triangles. Country by country, he has bought a downmarket tabloid (the Sun in the UK, the New York Post in the US, the Herald Sun and the Telegraph in Australia); then he has found himself a quality title (the London Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Australian); and alongside them, he has locked in a TV network (BSkyB, Fox in the US, Foxtel in Australia). Each triangle in its own way is the foundation of great wealth and political power.

News Corp’s reach is enormous. Through News International, it owns the four titles that together capture 37% of Britain’s newspaper readers; plus 39.1% of the BSkyB satellite TV business, beaming movies and sports and the Sky News channel into 10m homes in the UK and Ireland. It supplies 60% of Australia’s daily papers and 70% on Sundays. Its TV holdings have spread across Europe (west and east), across southern Africa and into Latin America. Its Asian TV network, Star, reaches all of India and China, most of the rest of Asia and now, through Star Select, the Middle East, too. News Corp’s TV channels broadcast movies made by its own studios and then reviewed by its own journalists in any of its hundreds of magazines. News Corp broadcasts sports whose rights it owns, played by sportsmen whose teams it owns, in games whose results are published by newspapers it owns.

Seeing how Murdoch has hoarded media outlets like a miser gathers gold, outsiders often imagine that he behaves like a caricature media boss, who jabs a finger in the face of the dependent politician and dictates “how things are gonna be if they wanna stay healthy”. In this version of events, the mogul forces the government to cut a deal. He agrees not to attack the government’s policies (and not to expose the grubby personal secrets of its members); in return, the government agrees to reshape its policies to suit the mogul’s ideology; the mogul then whips his compliant reporters into line, and they produce the political propaganda he requires; the government rewards the mogul with lucrative favours for his business.

And yet government ministers, special advisers and civil servants who have dealt with Murdoch, and executives, editors and journalists who have worked for him, tell a different story. The difference between the two stories is itself a clue to one part of the mogul’s method. Those who know him say that this is a man who loves information: he uses his journalists as a network of listeners; he taps up every contact for the inside story; he collects political gossip; he is given secret briefings by intelligence agencies; and he has made a fortune out of selling news. But with his own life, and particularly with his business life, he is well walled and secretive: the outsiders are there to be misled.

The insiders say that his use of power is far subtler than the outsiders imagine. They say first of all that there is something very deep that drives him very hard – maybe, some suggest, that he grew up believing that he could never be good enough for his father, Sir Keith Murdoch, a towering patriarch who built businesses and broke opponents; and so, all his life, Rupert has been compelled to make his own business bigger and bigger, as though one day his dead father might finally signal that it was enough. With that in mind, they say that his primary interest in politicians is not political; it’s commercial. He may be a highly political animal, they say – obsessed with the details of life in the corridors of power and personally possessed of some extremely right-wing opinions – but what he most wants from politicians is favours for his business. He’ll betray his own principles, he’ll embrace politicians for whom he has very little respect, just as long as they have the power to help the company get bigger.

In practical terms, this comes down to a repeated demand to be freed from regulation. He and his senior journalists all sing from the same song sheet on the virtues of deregulated free markets, in the UK and the US and Australia, wherever Murdoch owns outlets: theirs is the world’s loudest voice calling for the state to be cut back to make way for private enterprise. They do this as though it were simply a point of political philosophy. Clearly, however, it is a matter of overwhelming commercial interest for a businessman who wants to expand, to beat competitors and to dominate the very markets whose freedom he so often proclaims. Democratic governments across the world create regulators to speak up for the public interest – to protect their markets against the power of dominant corporations, to stop them crushing the competition or setting unfair prices or otherwise abusing their position. Repeatedly Murdoch has had to find ways to beat them, and to sideline the public interest in order to advance his own. Legal fences obstruct him – so he looks to friendly politicians to quietly open gates and wave him through.

The outsiders may assume that this involves striking a deal. The insiders again say it is subtler than that – not so much a deal (finite, static, a conscious agreement) as a somewhat cynical relationship (each side pretending friendship but seeking advantage, both offering a little more than they hope finally to give, neither side ever quite sure of the outcome). And that special relationship, they say, is born and brought up and free to flourish in places like this wedding.

Here, beside this lake, Murdoch and his executives and senior journalists enjoy the first privilege of power: that they are given for free the kind of access for which unscrupulous lobbyists will pay fat packets of cash. The prime minister, his likely successor and their respective followers queue up to hear his views, to pick up the signals, to understand what he wants, to send him their own signals, to bond. Some 46 million voters in the UK might like that kind of access to their leaders, but it is this foreign billionaire – who does not even have the right to vote in the UK – who enjoys it and the special relationship with governments that it brings.

So he moves among the wedding guests, casual and relaxed, chatting quietly. He does not display his power in any overt way – no bodyguards, no sitting apart and holding court like some silver-screen godfather. There is no hint of threat or enforcement. Effortlessly, and with some charm, he harvests the respect of those around him. But …

Ultimately, of course, there is something else at work here. It is not respect. It is fear. It is a curious fact that Murdoch holds no fear for ordinary people: most could not care less about him; the few who do care, tend to hold him in contempt as a model of avarice with his seven homes around the globe and his annual income touching $22m. But among those who play the power game, certainly, beneath the courtesy and the conversation, there is a quiet fear.

That, in turn, is a little to do with his character. He can show his charm, he can tell a blue joke to the lads, but the truth is that many of those who shake his hand can see the snarl behind his smile. An Australian associate recalls what happened one day when he suggested to Murdoch that he might like to rebuild bridges with a businessman with whom he had argued and who had since seen his business empire collapse. As he remembers it, the snarl pounced out as Murdoch explained: “I didn’t like talking to that cunt when he had money, and now he’s broke, he can get fucked.” One member of this powerful gathering recalls a much gentler but equally revealing comment from the Queen, who asked about Rupert’s son, James, and then added, sotto voce: “The father is awful.”

The man’s character, in turn, is at the heart of his approach to business. Rupert Murdoch is a man who will crush an opponent like a beetle beneath his boot, and he will do it for one simple reason – for News Corp. One of the guests who is closest to him says: “Rupert does not discriminate – he does not care about anybody more than he cares about the business. That includes himself, his kids, his political allies. The business comes first. His plan is “kill or be killed”. Every single corporate battle that he’s fought over the last 50 years, he’s gone head-to-head to win. You have to win. You don’t acknowledge that politics is a higher power. You don’t yield to the law of the land. You don’t submit to any higher code than your own.”

Notoriously, in 1975, Murdoch abused his position as a newspaper owner to support a plot that ousted the democratically elected prime minister of Australia, Gough Whitlam, who had dared to wander away from the mogul’s path. Murdoch is the man who threw 6,000 men out of work when he broke away from the printing unions in London; who dumped his own citizenship as an Australian in order to become an American so that he could own more than 25% of a TV network; who pushed the Daily Telegraph and the Independent to the edge of destruction in a UK price-cutting war which doubled the circulation of The Times; who adopted Christianity like a new suit and then dumped it when he tired of it.

But above all, the fear is generated by the people he hires to work for him. “He loves thugs,” as one of his senior executives puts it. Roger Ailes at Fox TV; Kelvin MacKenzie at the Sun; Col Allan at the New York Post; Sam Chisholm at Sky TV: they all came out of the same box, marked “bully”. And when Murdoch’s men bully, their victims really feel it. All these members of the power elite have seen what Murdoch’s news outlets can do, using their stories in the same way muggers in back alleys use their boots, to kick a victim to pulp. “Monstering”, they call it – a savage and prolonged public attack on a target’s life, often aimed at the most private and sensitive part of their existence, their sexual behaviour, inflicting maximum pain and maximum humiliation.

Very often, this will have nothing to do with Murdoch’s own manoeuvres; it will simply be a matter of filling news space at the expense of some hapless individual who has caught the tabloid eye. Most journalists will refuse to do it, just as most men would refuse to be torturers. But some of those who carry press cards are like the droogs in Anthony Burgess’s A Clockwork Orange: they kick their victims because they love it. It sells newspapers, it pays well, it’s fun.

A monstering from Murdoch’s droogs is a terrible experience. If the damage they did were physical – visible – the courts could jail them for years. As it is, they inflict grievous emotional harm, the kind of injury from which some victims simply never recover. Indeed, there are some who have been left suicidal by the experience. It can come out of nowhere, picking on some off-the-cuff statement or some tiny detail that has caught nobody else’s eye, least of all the victim’s, and suddenly the violence begins. It can be completely arbitrary in its choice of target. If Miss Muffet abandons her tuffet because of the approaching spider, the droogs can choose to attack her for cowardice; or to attack the spider for indecency and threatening behaviour.

Once it starts, the monstering cannot be stopped by the victim. If the spider says he meant no harm, he was simply looking for somewhere to sit, then “an unrepentant spider last night threatened to spread his regime of fear”. Apologising will not work – “a humiliating climbdown”. Nor will refusing to apologise – “an increasingly isolated spider”. There is no end to the potential angles. The droogs will call everybody who ever sat next to the spider until they find somebody else who didn’t like him. They will comb through arachnophobes everywhere, in search of alarmist quotes and calls for action. They can keep it going for days. A little distortion here, some fabrication there. The fact of the focus is itself a distortion: the relentless return to the same victim, the desire to destroy that corrupts normal editorial judgement. Often, other newspapers and broadcast bulletins will join in, so that simple commercial competition encourages the hunt for a new angle. The spider is helpless – if he speaks out, he fuels the story; if he stays quiet, the story tramples him.

Eventually, the monstering stops, usually because some new target has arrived; or because the target has been destroyed. Sometimes, even destruction is not enough. In his diary, Alastair Campbell recalls the ferocious monstering that was given to the then transport secretary, Stephen Byers, in the spring of 2002, which continued even after he had resigned: “It’s like they get a corpse but then are disappointed there is nothing left to try and kill, so they kill the dead body too.”

The fear of this monstering generates power far beyond the relatively small number of victims who are attacked. All those in the power elite are prone to fear Murdoch, because none can be sure that they will not be next to be kicked by the tabloid boot. They all saw what happened to the former Labour minister Clare Short. Several times she criticised the Sun’s use of topless women to sell the paper and found herself denounced to millions as “killjoy Clare”, “fat”, “jealous”, “ugly”, “Short on looks”, “Short on brains”. At various points, the paper offered readers free car stickers (“Stop Crazy Clare”); sent half-naked women to her home; and ran a beauty contest to ask their readers whether they would prefer to see her face or the back of a bus. Separately, the News of the World ran two bogus stories suggesting she was involved with pornography; tried to buy old photographs of her as a 20-year-old in a nightdress; and published a smear story that attempted to link her to a West Indian gangster.

Her fellow Labour MP, the former Anglican priest Chris Bryant, provoked the full wrath of the Murdoch papers when he trapped Rebekah Brooks into admitting that her journalists had paid police officers for information at the media select committee hearing in March 2003. Immediately afterwards, Bryant was warned by a reporter from the Sun that “they will get you for that”. They got him a little bit a few months later when he told the House of Commons that he opposed the idea of a referendum on the new EU constitution and found the Sun telling its readers that he was a “Euro fanatic” who thought they were too stupid to vote. They got him more severely that December when the Mail on Sunday exposed his sex life, complete with an embarrassing photograph of him wearing only a tight-fitting pair of briefs, and Brooks at the Sun and Andy Coulson at the News of the World joined in a vicious monstering. Brooks made it very clear that this was personal, sashaying up to Bryant at a subsequent Labour party conference to deliver a sharp dig at his sexuality, calculated to remind him of the embarrassment of one of his former colleagues who had been accused of cruising a London park for gay sex: “Oh, Mr Bryant, it’s after dark. I’m surprised you’re not out on Clapham Common.”

The punishment was equally harsh for the American writer Michael Wolff. In March 2009 he found himself on the receiving end of a thorough monstering by the New York Post when he was working on a biography of Murdoch. By some unexplained means, the mogul’s people had laid hands on an unpublished typescript and started to send clear warnings that the boss was not happy with some its contents. Wolff recalls a senior executive calling to ask him to make changes before the book was published.

“What will you do if I don’t?” Wolff asked.

“Then we will not support the book.”

“How bad is that?”

“It could be bad.”

And it was bad. The New York Post discovered that Wolff had been having an affair, and ran stories on 2, 3, 6, 25 and 30 March, and 3 and 9 April, publishing along the way a secondary story that accused Wolff of evicting his mother-in-law from her apartment, as well as a cartoon of Wolff in bed with his lover, portraying the Jewish writer in a style which might reasonably be described as antisemitic.

At its worst, everybody in the power elite has heard that the punishment can amount to crude blackmail. They have all heard the stories about how Murdoch editors have safes containing dossiers of evidence about the private lives of politicians and competing businessmen; and that Murdoch and his people agree to suppress these gross embarrassments in exchange for yet more favours. There are specific rumours – about a senior figure in British sport who is said to have complied with Murdoch’s plans for TV rights when he was informed that the Sun was ready to tell its readers that he had had sexual relationships with young men; and about a middle-ranking Labour politician who is said to have spoken up on behalf of Murdoch’s UK newspapers after journalists obtained a video of him having sex with a prostitute while the prostitute’s husband watched. It is true that the sports administrator and the Labour politician offered their support to Murdoch. Whether they did so out of fear of the dossiers – or whether the dossiers even exist – is not so clear. The power is in the belief and in the fear it engenders. Which is widespread.

Certainly, many have come across a gentler version of this, something more like whitemail – a favour done rather than a threat made. There are senior politicians, police officers and others who know that senior Murdoch journalists have privately put in a word for them, to help with a promotion, to defuse some threat. Most of the wedding guests know that Rebekah worked a clever piece of whitemail with the deputy prime minister John Prescott when, as editor of the News of the World, she got hold of the story that many years earlier Prescott’s wife, Pauline, had given up a baby for adoption. This had happened before the Prescotts had met, but now the long-lost son had made contact. Prescott pleaded with Rebekah not to publish the story until his wife and her adult son had had a chance to get to know each other. She agreed – a decent act, and one that earned her a sense of indebtedness from Prescott who later, when his family were ready, opted to take the story to her at the Sun, where she had become editor. Favours are valuable currency in the corridors of power.

Rebekah Brooks and Tony Blair

The power to conceal or reveal sensitive personal information turns out to be just like the power of the bully in the school playground. The bully need only batter one or two children for the fact of his power to be established: fear will then ensure that the others do all they can to placate him. In the same way, the really big power that Murdoch is said to wield – that he can swing the result of elections – does not have to be entirely real. What matters is the fear that it could be real. Far safer to be an ally, or even to join the shuffling queue of current and former members of the power elite who take his money, writing columns for his newspapers or selling their memoirs to HarperCollins: the then Speaker of the US House of Representatives Newt Gingrich; the daughter of the then leader of the Chinese Communist party, Deng Xiaoping; the former Conservative leader William Hague; the former Metropolitan police commissioner Sir John Stevens; the former Labour minister David Blunkett; the former Downing Street press adviser Alastair Campbell; the former Metropolitan police assistant commissioner Andy Hayman; and so on and on.

Nobody is sure whether an aggressive newspaper really can decide the outcome of a national ballot. The newspapers like to claim that they can; politicians claim not to believe it; psephologists argue about the impact of news on voters and the distribution of any newspaper’s readers among the swing voters in marginal seats that dictate results. In the best-known UK case, Kelvin MacKenzie’s Sun in 1992 bloodied its toecaps all over the political career of the then Labour leader Neil Kinnock, and loudly claimed to have won the election for the Conservative leader, John Major. MacKenzie’s claim was widely seen as unfounded, if only because of his notorious estrangement from the truth.

There is no doubt that the droogs can cause grievous political harm. A cynical newspaper that targets a political party – in or out of government – can inject it with chaos. All debates become splits, all problems become crises, all changes become climbdowns, all setbacks are humiliating, all successes are ignored. It can change the news agenda so that on any day, the party or government is diverted into managing some crisis that the newspaper has manufactured. It can ruin reputations, with falsehood as easily as with truth. It can wreck the public debate of whole subjects by pumping it full of distortion. (Britain’s relationship with the European Union, for example, has been fundamentally shaped by a relentless sequence of notoriously false stories about the EU supposedly banning the British army, Scottish kilts, pints of beer, bent bananas, charity shops and Christian teachers, as well as supposedly suffocating daily life with an imaginary set of petty regulations.) The impact is like the effect a screaming brat has on a family: the family may not break up, but ordinary life becomes impossible.

Murdoch controls his company’s money with obsessive care, checking daily “flash reports” from every subsidiary to ensure they are sticking to the budget he has laid down for each of them. But very little of the editorial distortion in his empire comes directly from him. He intervenes in the round by requiring his outlets to work within the boundaries of policies that will favour businesses like News Corp: cut taxes, cut welfare, cut government, cut regulation – all the essentials of neoliberalism. From time to time, he directly intervenes in particular stories – to help an ally, to promote his business, to reflect some random personal bias. His senior journalists admit privately that this is unacceptable – a clear form of editorial corruption – but they insist that he intervenes far less often than outsiders imagine. The vast bulk of Murdoch’s news output, including the huge majority of any falsehood and distortion, is simply the spontaneous product of his highly commercialised newsrooms. It sells.

In the same way, very little of the aggression needs to be directed by Murdoch himself. The fear is all. In the balance of power, a government wins easily over a newspaper group with its vast budget, its military and police, its bureaucracy and all the limbs of the state. But in the balance of fear, the outcome is the opposite. The government lives in fear of what the mogul might do to its collective standing (and perhaps to some individual reputations) by causing chaos in its coverage. The mogul has little to fear from the government. For the most part, politicians will step round him and, in the unlikely event that they do attack, he has the ultimate sanction: he can sell up and leave, avoiding everything they throw at him, taking his investment and his jobs with him.

The point about real power is that it does its own work, particularly among those who deal in power. Nobody in the power elite needs to be told. They all recognise the mogul’s power and, with few exceptions, they do everything they can to pacify him, to ingratiate themselves. The mogul, for the most part, does not have to make threats or issue instructions. He just has to show up. Not even that – he just has to exist, somewhere in the background. Everybody understands; the fact of power is enough. If there’s a bull in the field, everybody steps carefully. The fear gives him access; the access gives him influence. Real power is passive.

Hack Attack: How the Truth Caught Up With Rupert Murdoch is published by Chatto & Windus on 31 July, priced £20.

Phone hacking: Coulson asked if he has moved personal wealth to avoid costs: here.

Rupert Murdoch says ‘business knows best’: here.

Mail did not reveal to PCC or Leveson that News of the World hacked staff. Four Mail on Sunday journalists were told by the police in 2006 that their mobile phones had been hacked: here.

Why the hacking scandal isn’t a “load of middle-class wank”: here.

David Cameron’s United Kingdom for a Murdoch empire horse

This video from Britain says about itself:

Nick Davies on phone hacking, Murdoch and News of the World

11 July 2011

The investigative journalist Nick Davies on how the phone-hacking scandal has escalated, leading to News of the World‘s announced closure.

From daily The Independent in Britain:

Hacking Trial: Rebekah Brooks, Raisa and a new twist in the saga of a horse fit for a Prime Minister

In his book on the hacking scandal, James Hanning reveals more intimate details about the relationship between Cameron and Brooks

James Hanning

Monday 21 July 2014

David Cameron is likely to face fresh questions about his friendship with former News of the World editor Rebekah Brooks, recently cleared of charges relating to phone hacking, after it emerged that a retired police horse she was loaned by the Metropolitan Police was allegedly acquired by her partly for the Conservative leader’s use.

In 2012 Mr Cameron finally admitted – after sustained media pressure – that he had ridden the horse, following days of evasion from No 10.

But in my new book about the phone-hacking affairThe News Machine – I can reveal claims that one of the reasons for Mrs Brooks acquiring the horse in the first place was to allow Mr Cameron to ride.

When a Met officer visited Mrs Brooks at her home near Sarsden, Oxfordshire, to check on the conditions in which the horse, named Raisa, would be kept, she reportedly told him that she wanted the animal for the Conservative leader.

Alan Hiscox, the Metropolitan Police’s longest serving boss at Imber Court, the Met’s horse training centre, recounts the day he was called by his bosses: ‘I got a call a day or two after Ian Blair and Rebekah [Brooks] had seen one another [for lunch in 2007]. It was from his staff officer, I think. I was told Ian Blair had just had a meal with her and that she would like a retired police horse. I was told that this would ‘definitely be a good idea for the Met Police’.”

In September 2007, Mrs Brooks and Dick Fedorcio, the Met’s head of media, went to Imber Court to find a suitable beast. Mr Hiscox recalls that soon afterwards it became clear that “people in authority” were interested in the issue. In about October, Mr Hiscox went to the Cotswolds to meet Rebekah and Charlie Brooks to check on the riding and stabling facilities near their house. He declared himself satisfied with the conditions, and impressed by the stable manager who would be giving riding lessons to Mrs Brooks.

What happened next took him by surprise. He alleges: “As we were being shown round the stables, she told me that David Cameron would also be riding the retired police horse. At the time I did not think much of it, other than to wonder why she told me that. She may have been trying to show off, but it was a curious thing to say.”

Mr Hiscox returned to his office and told his boss that the stables were satisfactory and that he believed that Mr Cameron would be riding the horse. “This information would have been passed up the chain and I feel sure Dick Fedorcio and Ian Blair would have known,” says Mr Hiscox. The horse arrived in July 2008, but when it was clear it was hardly being ridden it was returned to Imber Court.

Mr Hiscox defends Mr Brooks against suggestions that he had not cared for the horse: “Clearly it had not been ridden or groomed much, but there was no suggestion by me that it had been mistreated, as was claimed in the press.”

He adds: “Why did David Cameron’s office not say he had ridden the horse in the first instance? It wasn’t clear to me why they were so embarrassed about it. It is possible, I suppose, that Rebekah Brooks was trying to ingratiate herself with Mr Cameron and that she had told him she was going to get it for him, but in normal circumstances it should not have been a big deal.”

In February 2012, the London Evening Standard reported that Mrs Brooks had been loaned the horse. The issue appeared to touch a nerve with the Tory leader. When asked if David Cameron had ever ridden the horse, the PM’s spokesman sought to portray the inquiry as not even deserving of a response. Two days later, Mr Cameron sought to clear things up with a denial. “Since becoming PM I may have got on a horse once, but not that one,” he said, ducking the issue of whether he had ridden the horse beforehand.

Eventually he confirmed that he had ridden Raisa and had known that the horse had been loaned by the Met. The lack of candour chimed with Downing Street’s denial a year earlier of a claim that he and Charlie Brooks had ever been riding together – which they had.

‘The News Machine’ by James Hanning with Glenn Mulcaire (Gibson Square, £12.99) is published on 31 July.

A JOURNALIST involved in the News of the World hacking scandal was spared from a prison sentence yesterday despite accessing the voicemails and text messages of hundreds of people: here.

Tony Blair in Murdoch’s phone-hacking scandal

Rebekah Brooks and Tony Blair in 2004. Photograph: Fiona Hanson/PA

From daily The Guardian in Britain:

Tony Blair advised Rebekah Brooks on phone-hacking scandal, court hears

Former prime minister suggested setting up ‘Hutton style’ inquiry, according to email from former News International chief

Read Rebekah Brooks’s email to James Murdoch in full (PDF)

Lisa O’Carroll

Wednesday 19 February 2014 12.45 GMT

Tony Blair advised Rebekah Brooks to launch a “Hutton style” inquiry into phone hacking at the News of the World at the height of the scandal over the issue, according to an email that has emerged at the Old Bailey trial.

The revelation emerged in an email that was read to the jury in the hacking trial on Wednesday, and followed what Brooks said was an hour-long phone call.

According to the email, sent the day after the News of the World‘s final issue and six days before Brooks was arrested, Blair also told her he was “available” to her and Rupert and James Murdoch as an “unofficial adviser” on a “between us” basis.

The advice was said to have been given on 11 July 2011 and contained in an email she sent at 4.20pm to James Murdoch, the then executive chairman of News International.

According to Brooks’s note, Blair advised her to set up an “independent” inquiry, suggesting it could have “outside counsel, Ken Macdonald [the former director of public prosecutions], a great and good type”.

He said the inquiry would be “Hutton style” – a reference to Lord Hutton’s inquiry into the death of David Kelly – and would “clear” her, but warned that “shortcomings” would have to be accepted as a result of the report.

According to the email the advice was given in an hour-long phone conversation. Blair advised her to “tough up” and not to make any “rash short-term solutions as they only give you long-term headaches.” He also told her to “keep strong” and advised her to take “sleeping pills”.

Prosecutor Andrew Edis read out the entire email exchange between Brooks and James Murdoch to the jury as part of the formal conclusion of the Crown’s case.

After finishing in the email he turned to the jury to simply say “Well, that’s that” before moving on to the next piece of evidence.

Brooks told James Murdoch in the email: “I had an hour on the phone to Tony Blair” and then proceeded to outline the points he had allegedly made in the conversation.

“1. Form an independent unit that has an outside junior counsel, Ken Macdonald, a great and good type, a serious forensic criminal barrister, internal counsel, proper fact checkers etc in it. Get them to investigate me and others and publish a Hutton style report,” she said.

“2. Publish part one of the report at same time as the police closes its inquiry and clear you and accept short comings and new solutions and process and part two when any trials are over.

“3. Keep strong and definitely sleeping pills. Need to have clear heads and remember no rash short term solutions as they only give you long term headaches.

“4. It will pass. Tough up.

“5. He is available for you, KRM [Rupert Murdoch] and me as an unofficial adviser but needs to be between us,” she wrote.

See also here.

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Rupert Murdoch underling charged with corruption

This video, recorded in Britain, says about itself:

July 17, 2011

The former CEO of Rupert Murdoch’s British newspaper operation has been arrested by police investigating allegations of phone hacking and bribery. Rebekah Brooks is the tenth person to be detained in connection with the scandal that’s engulfed the now-defunct News of the World. For more on these latest developments, RT talks to Annie Mashon, a former intelligence officer for MI-5.

From daily The Morning Star in Britain:

Sun deputy ed charged

Wednesday 20 March 2013

Prosecutors said today that they will charge Sun deputy editor Geoff Webster for paying public officials £8,000 for information.

Mr Webster is accused of two counts of misconduct in public office in 2010 and 2011.

In the first case, he is accused of approving £6,500 in payments to an official between July 2010 and August 2011.

In the second, prosecutors allege that he approved a £1,500 payment to another official in November 2010.

Mr Webster will appear at Westminster magistrates’ court on Tuesday.

UK phone-hacking scandal spreads: here.

Cameron’s buddies’ illegal fox hunting

This video, from a garden in London, England, is called Fox Cubs Playfighting.

By Peter Frost in Britain:

Cameron’s hunt in the dock for fox killings

Tuesday 18 December 2012

Members of the Oxfordshire Heythrop Hunt have been convicted of hunting foxes illegally in a prosecution brought by the RSPCA.

This is not just any bunch of Tory toffs on horses chasing a fox.

It is David Cameron‘s and his notorious Chipping Norton set‘s very own local hunt.

The Prime Minister himself has hunted with the Heythrop in the past.

We would need to hack into Rebekah Brooks‘s phone to find out if she has ridden with the hunt recently – and the Morning Star doesn’t do phone-hacking – but we do know her husband Charlie Brooks is a keen and regular rider with the Heythrop.

Top Gear’s Jeremy Clarkson is reported to regularly welcome the riders and their pack of hounds to chase foxes on his land.

In court the hunt, Heythrop Hunt Limited, pleaded guilty to four charges of intentionally hunting a fox with dogs.

This is believed to be the first prosecution of a hunt itself under the fox-hunting ban, although there have been nearly 200 prosecutions of individuals for flouting the law.

In court Heythrop hunt member Richard Sumner and hunt servant Julian Barnfield both also pleaded guilty to four charges of unlawfully hunting a wild fox with dogs.

The RSPCA said the hunt was filmed killing foxes on several occasions.

Heythrop Hunt Limited was fined a total of £4,000 with £15,000 costs.

Barnfield, of Chipping Norton, Oxfordshire, was fined £1,000, with costs of £2,000.

Sumner, of Salperton, Gloucestershire, was fined a total of £1,800 with costs of £2,500.

The court case and conviction have rattled the Tory countryside Establishment.

The Countryside Alliance is shouting “Foul!”

Even the supposedly neutral judge made a surprising comment.

He described the amount of money the RSPCA spent on the prosecution as “quite staggering.”

Judge Tim Pattinson added: “Members of the public may feel that RSPCA funds can be more usefully employed.”

Most members of the public will disagree with the judge and congratulate the animal charity on money well spent.

The RSPCA explained it felt it necessary to bring the prosecution itself because in the past it had passed evidence of similar cases to the Crown Prosecution Service only to find long delays and a final decision not to take the matter to court.

After the hearing RSPCA chief executive Gavin Grant said: “These defendants were well aware that they were breaking the law in that their actions would lead to a fox being torn apart by dogs.”

The Heythrop Hunt, one of the most high-profile in the country, has been an important part of life for the notorious Chipping Norton set.

Each Boxing Day crowds gather to see the hunt and its famous faces in Chipping Norton Market Square. No doubt the guilty plea and fines won’t stop the bloody display this Christmas.

The RSPCA deserves praise for having the courage to bring this prosecution when the whole weight of the countryside Tory Establishment was against them.

Old Reynard the fox and all real country lovers owe them a huge debt of thanks.

Banning a blood sport

On November 18 2004 hunting with dogs was banned in England and Wales. Scotland had banned hunting in 2002.

Even before the Hunting Act came into law many hunters announced their intention to flout the law.

A “hunting declaration” organised by right-wing activist Roger Scruton scraped up 50,000 signatures from people prepared to break the law in the event of a hunting ban.

The Hunting Act was the culmination of many years of campaigning by the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), the RSPCA and the League Against Cruel Sports along with other groups and individuals.

The most recent surveys show that three out of four people in Britain think fox hunting should remain illegal and 72 per cent of those in rural areas do not want fox hunting legalised.

Cameron has pledged to hold a free vote on restoring fox-hunting, but is finding growing opposition to the so-called sport even in his own party.

The Blue Fox group of Tories, including a number of younger, mainly female Tory MPs, seem to have killed off any prospect of a Commons vote on reviving blood sports before the next election.

See also here.

Cameron in Murdoch phone-hacking scandal

This video from Britain is called More Cameron – Brooks texts revealed.

From daily The Morning Star in Britain:

PM left red-faced over texts to Brooks

Sunday 04 November 2012

While his government planned austerity Britain Prime Minister David Cameron was larking around with former News International boss Rebekah Brooks – even taking time out to ride Ms Brooks horses – text messages between the pair revealed today.

Mr Cameron said his horse was “fast, unpredictable and hard to control but fun” in one text to Ms Brooks, among a number of messages printed by the Mail on Sunday.

In another message during the 2009 Conservative Party conference Ms Brooks told the Tory PM he delivered a “brilliant speech. I cried twice.

“Will love ‘working together.'”

The latest batch of messages have left the PM red-faced about his close relationship with Ms Brooks, who is accused of overseeing the phone-hacking scandal that sparked the Leveson inquiry into media standards.

Labour MP Chris Bryant has written to Lord Leveson asking for all of the pair’s messages to be revealed.

A senior cop tried to sell information on the phone hacking inquiry to the now defunct News of the World tabloid: here.

Murdoch underling charged with bribing police

This video from Britain is called Rebekah Brooks and others charged with perverting course of justice (15 May 2012).

From daily The Guardian in Britain:

Rebekah Brooks charged with perverting the course of justice

Former News International chief executive, her husband and four others charged in phone-hacking inquiry

Sandra Laville, crime correspondent

Tuesday 15 May 2012 16.02 BST

Rebekah Brooks, the former chief executive of News International, has been charged over allegations that she tried to conceal evidence from detectives investigating phone hacking and alleged bribes to public officials.

The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) announced that Brooks, one of the most high-profile figures in the newspaper industry, would be charged with three counts of conspiracy to pervert the course of justice in July last year at the height of the police investigation.

And Scotland Yard later confirmed she had been charged along with her husband, Charlie Brooks, and four others.

Brooks is accused of conspiring with others, including her husband, a racehorse trainer and friend of the prime minister, and her personal assistant, to conceal material from detectives.

Brooks and her husband were informed of the charging decision – the first since the start of the Operation Weeting phone-hacking investigation last January – when they answered their bail at a police station in London on Tuesday morning.

They are among six individuals from News International, along with the company’s head of security, Mark Hanna, to be charged over allegations that they removed material, documents and computers to hide them from officers investigating phone hacking. The charge carries a maximum penalty of life, although the average term served in prison is 10 months.

In a statement, Brooks and her husband – who are both close to David Cameron – condemned the decision made by senior lawyers and overseen by Keir Starmer QC, the director of public prosecutions. …

Brooks is accused in one charge of conspiring with her PA, Cheryl Carter, to “remove seven boxes of material from the archives of News International”.

In a separate charge she is accused of conspiring with her husband, Hanna, her chauffeur and a security consultant to conceal “documents and computers” from the investigating detectives. All the offences are alleged to have taken place in July last year.

Alison Levitt QC, Starmer’s principal legal adviser, said the decision to charge six of the seven individuals arrested over the allegations came after prosecutors applied the two-stage test required of them when making charging decisions.

“I have concluded that in relation to all suspects except the seventh there is sufficient evidence for there to be a realistic prospect of conviction,” she said.

“I then considered the second stage of the test and I have concluded that a prosecution is required in the public interest in relation to each of the other six.”

Levitt said the televised statement had been made in “the interests of transparency and accountability to explain the decisions reached in respect of allegations that Rebekah Brooks conspired with her husband, Charles Brooks, and others to pervert the course of justice”.

She said detectives handed prosecutors a file of evidence on 27 March this year in relation to seven suspects: Brooks, her husband, Hanna, Carter, Paul Edwards who was Brooks’s chauffeur employed by News International, and Daryl Jorsling, who provided security for Brooks, supplied by News International.

See also here.

Tories’ panic mounts as Cameron’s chum Rebekah Brooks charged: here.

Of course, no objection at all to charging Ms Brooks, a rich and powerful criminal suspect and friend of David Cameron. However, compared to her boss Rupert Murdoch, Rebekah Brooks is just an organ grinder’s monkey. When will the police (sections of the police not yet bribed by the Murdoch empire, one should hope) do something about the organ grinder Murdoch himself?

Leveson inquiry: Damning evidence of political corruption of Labour and Conservative parties: here.

There have been over 800 complaints over police corruption in the last three years, a government-commissioned report has revealed: here.

Pressure mounted on Tory Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt on Thursday after a lobbyist and a former special adviser laid out the gory details of his office’s dealings with the Murdoch empire over its bid for broadcaster BSkyB: here.

Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt told his special adviser Adam Smith to quit after emails revealing the close relationship between his department and Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation were released, the Leveson inquiry heard today: here.

USA: Charles Koch + Roger Ailes = Ohio University? Robert Greenwald, Brave New Foundation: “Why would the esteemed Ohio University host a talk by the likes of Roger Ailes? Maybe we should ask one of the talk’s patrons, Charles Koch. Ailes, of Fox News fame, is giving his talk today. The guy who invited him says the point was to get ‘perhaps the most influential newsman in America’ to spark a discussion about ‘free speech and the media,’ particularly given OU’s ‘first-rate school of journalism.’ But Roger Ailes isn’t a newsman and doesn’t do journalism. He does political advocacy that’s (very) thinly disguised as journalism. As Eric Boehlert of Media Matters says, ‘places of higher learning shouldn’t help perpetuate the Fox myth while turning a blind eye to the lasting damage Ailes’s enterprise is doing to journalism and to our national discourse'”: here.

Police arrest Murdoch underling Rebekah Brooks

This video from the British Parliament is called Rebekah Brooks admits to paying police.

It says about itself:

9 April 2011

Rebekah Brooks (neé Wade) admitting to paying police for information, before Andy Coulson

Coulson is another Rupert Murdoch underling and David Cameron associate, involved in the phone hacking scandal

silences her. This was in front of a select committee in March, 2003.

“We have paid the police for information in the past.”

From daily The Guardian in Britain:

Rebekah Brooks among six arrested in phone-hacking investigation

Former Sun editor held by Operation Weeting detectives on suspicion of conspiracy to pervert the course of justice

Vikram Dodd and Josh Halliday

Tuesday 13 March 2012 11.00 GMT

Rebekah Brooks is among six people arrested by Scotland Yard detectives on suspicion of conspiracy to pervert the course of justice, as part of the investigation into phone hacking.

The former News International chief executive was arrested at her home in Oxfordshire by detectives from Operation Weeting. Sources also said that her husband, racehorse trainer Charlie Brooks, was arrested.

The Metropolitan police refused to confirm the names of those arrested, but said that a 43-year-old woman and a 49-year-old man had been held. News International and the lawyer for Brooks declined to comment on the reports.

This morning’s arrests took place between 5am and 7am at addresses in London, Oxfordshire, Hampshire and Hertfordshire. …

Brooks was also previously arrested on 17 July last year on appointment at a London police station on suspicion of conspiring to intercept communications, contrary to Section1(1) Criminal Law Act 1977 and on suspicion of corruption allegations contrary to Section 1 of the Prevention of Corruption Act 1906.

The former Sun and News of the World editor was held in the summer 48 hours after she resigned as News International‘s chief executive.

Rebekah Brooks became editor of the News of the World in 2000, before moving to the same position at the Sun in 2003. A close confident of Rupert Murdoch in her time at the titles, she was elevated to become chief executive at News International in 2009, until she was forced to resign in July of last year as hacking allegations mounted in the wake of the revelation that a phone belonging to missing schoolgirl Milly Dowler was targeted.

Both Rebekah and Charlie Brooks are close Oxfordshire neighbours of David Cameron. Their friendship with the prime minister came under fresh scrutiny recently after Cameron admitted he did ride a retired police horse lent to Rebekah Brooks by Scotland Yard in 2008. Cameron described his fellow Old Etonian Charlie Brooks as “a friend of mine of 30 years’ standing“, but attempted to draw a line under the so-called “Horsegate” saga when he said he had not been riding with Brooks since the 2010 election.

See also here. And here.

Sun reporter claims Rebekah Brooks gave him tips before criminal trial: here.

From the Financial Times in Britain:

Two senior reporters at The Sun have apparently attempted to commit suicide as the police intensify their scrutiny of alleged illegal journalistic practices at News International.

Five UK phone hacking defendants, including Rebekah Brooks and Andy Coulson, lose bid to block their prosecutions: here.

‘My personal life was a bit of a car crash’, Rebekah Brooks tells phone hacking trial: here.

Hacking trial: Rebekah Brooks challenged over her role in company ‘cover-up’: here.

Phone hacking trial: Rebekah Brooks questioned over affair with deputy: here.

Brooks a ‘complete fool’ if she did not realise payments were for public official. Sun editor ‘must have known’ about identity of reporter’s number one military contact, Old Bailey jury told: here.

Rebekah Brooks about to be rehired by Rupert Murdoch for US operation: here.

In another move calculated to show how he is able to act with impunity, billionaire oligarch Rupert Murdoch, the media magnate behind Twenty-First Century Fox and News Corp, has reinstated Rebekah Brooks as CEO of News UK: here.

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Rebekah Brooks free on bail

British police have arrested Rebekah Brooks of the Murdoch media empire.

From Al Jazeera:

Brooks quizzed in phone hacking probe

Former News International chief executive questioned by police as UK’s top policeman quits over phone hacking scandal.

Last Modified: 18 Jul 2011 00:43

Rebekah Brooks, the former head of media mogul Rupert Murdoch’s British newspaper wing, has been released on bail after being questioned over the phone-hacking scandal.

British police arrested the 43-year-old Brooks earlier on Sunday as part of an investigation into allegations of illegal voicemail interception and police bribery.

This video from Britain is called Dowler Lawyer Mark Lewis ‘The Timing of Rebekah Brooks Arrest Stinks’.

From British daily News Line today:


Brooks is due to appear before the House of Commons Culture and Media Committee tomorrow. The lawyer for murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler’s family said the timing of the arrest ‘stinks’.

Mark Lewis said: ‘The arrest was made by appointment. One has to ask when the appointment was made because obviously Mrs Brooks has said she is due to appear before the select committee on Tuesday.’

He added: ‘Undoubtedly she will have the opportunity on Tuesday at the select committee to say I’m sorry I can’t answer that because of the fact I am under police investigation.’

He said: ‘One has to ask the police when that appointment was made.’

He insisted: ‘The timing stinks. It gives the impression that questions can’t be answered.’

Commentators were saying yesterday that Brooks’ arrest was a case of the police getting their own back over allegations of Commissioner Paul Stephenson’s relations with ex-News of the World executive editor Neil Wallis.

Home Office minister James Brokenshire said yesterday that Home Secretary Theresa May is planning to make a statement to parliament today about the relationship between the Met Police and Chamy Media, the firm run by Wallis, who was also arrested last week.

Brokenshire said that May ‘does have some concerns still in relation to the Metropolitan Police’s relationship with Chamy Media’.

Murdoch’s Sunday Times reported yesterday that Met Commissioner Stephenson and his wife accepted 20 nights on full board, free, at luxury health spa Champneys as he was recuperating from hospital treatment earlier this year.

Stephenson says he was unaware that the Champneys publicist was Neil Wallis.

Shadow home secretary, Yvette Cooper, told the Andrew Marr show: ‘There is a cloud created over the Met as a result of this. And I do think both the Met leadership and also the home secretary need to take some action now.

‘She should be demanding full disclosure. She should be setting out what action the Met needs to take in order to restore that confidence.’

British journalists protest against the Murdoch empire

Britain’s senior police officer, Sir Paul Stephenson, was forced to resign following the exposure of corrupt relations between Rupert Murdoch’s media empire and the London Metropolitan Police: here.

Arrest of Rebekah Brooks takes hacking probe one step closer to the Murdochs: here.

The Tommy Sheridan trial and the Murdoch criminal empire: here.

Rupert Murdoch’s media empire has had a “dangerous” influence on British politics and must be broken up, Labour leader Ed Miliband urged: here.

Parliament set to be recalled as Cameron’s Coulson links face fresh scrutiny: here.

Rupert Murdoch, a Secret Chomskyite? How Marxism is Influencing the News of the World Phone Hacking Scandal: here.

Murdoch underling Rebekah Brooks arrested

Rupert Murdoch, Rebekah Brooks and the phone hacking scandal

About this cartoon, see here.

From daily The Guardian in Britain:

Rebekah Brooks arrested over phone-hacking allegations

Metropolitan police say 43-year-old woman, believed to be Rebekah Brooks, was arrested by appointment at a London police station

Vikram Dodd, crime correspondent

Sunday 17 July 2011 13.43 BST

Rebekah Brooks has been arrested by police investigating allegations of phone hacking by the News of the World and allegations that police officers were bribed to leak sensitive information. The Metropolitan police said a 43-year-old woman was arrested at noon on Sunday, by appointment at a London police station.

Brooks, 43, resigned on Friday as News International‘s chief executive. She is a former News of the World editor and was close to Rupert Murdoch and the prime minister David Cameron.

Brooks was due to give evidence before MPs on the home affairs select committee on Tuesday.

An arrest by appointment on a Sunday by police is unusual.

In a statement the Met said: “The MPS has this afternoon, Sunday 17 July, arrested a female in connection with allegations of corruption and phone hacking.

“At approximately 12:00 a 43-year-old woman was arrested by appointment at a London police station by officers from Operation Weeting [phone hacking investigation] together with officers from Operation Elveden [bribing of police officers investigation]. She is currently in custody.

“She was arrested on suspicion of conspiring to intercept communications, contrary to Section1(1) Criminal Law Act 1977 and on suspicion of corruption allegations contrary to Section 1 of the Prevention of Corruption Act 1906.

“The Operation Weeting team is conducting the new investigation into phone hacking.

“Operation Elveden is the investigation into allegations of inappropriate payments to police. This investigation is being supervised by the Independent Police Complaints Commission.

“It would be inappropriate to discuss any further details regarding these cases at this time.”

Now, how about arresting James and Rupert Murdoch, Rebekah Brooks’ bosses?