Murdoch at Leveson - ready to make Blair & Cameron squirm

Apr 23, 2012
Linda Palermo

News Corp CEO's evidence to press ethics inquiry this week expected to spare no blushes

RUPERT MURDOCH'S appearance before the Leveson Inquiry this Wednesday - and Thursday if it is deemed necessary - could be hugely embarrassing for Prime Minister David Cameron, according to seasoned observers of the 81-year-old media mogul.

The News Corporation CEO arrived back in Britain on Saturday to prepare for his forthcoming trip to the Royal Courts of Justice and immediately took to his new favourite medium Twitter to launch a few prize salvos at the coalition government.

"Back in Britain. Govt sending IMF another ten bn to he euro [sic]. Must be mad. Not even US or China chipping in. Same time taxing hot food." He moved on to blast wind farms, calling turbines "ugly bird killing windmills" before saying that the "EU can be saved, but not Euro if we act in time. Extremely unlikely."

As Twitter users sought the meaning of his pronouncements, Andrew Neil, whose tenure as editor of The Sunday Times from 1983 to 1994 marks him as a savvy interpreter of the Kreminology of the Murdoch family, saw the remarks as bad news for the PM.

"Suspect Murdoch will come out swinging at #leveson. He's had enough of humble. Will now try to destroy..." Neil observed on Twitter, suggesting that on Wednesday we should "Expect him to reveal just how much PMs courted him."

If Murdoch does open up about the influence he enjoyed over Britain's political leaders before the phone hacking scandal made him a pariah, there's little doubt it will have prime ministers past and present squirming.

To what extent Tony Blair kowtowed to Murdoch will be intriguing, but the bigger headache will be for Cameron, who has had a tortuous relationship with the News Corp chief.

As The Guardian's Nicholas Watts pointed out on Friday, Murdoch has always seen Cameron as a "lightweight" and is currently pouring buckets of the brown stuff over the coalition through the pages of The Sun.

Watts also notes that the prospect of Murdoch making the PM squirm will be something that a "surprisingly large number of Conservative MPs relish", indicating the depth of Cameron's problems with his backbenchers over divisive coalition policy, reform of the Lords being just the latest example.

The only winner on the political landscape is likely to be Ed Miliband, who made a point last summer of pursuing the Murdochs over their suitablity to run BSkyB in the light of the hacking scandal.

With son James Murdoch slated to appear on Tuesday, Leveson promises to be the hottest ticket in town this week. A small number of first-come, first-served tickets will be available on both days.

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