Monday News Review

Rupert returns

Rupert Murdoch put on an extraordinary show of support for Rebekah Brooks yesterday – apparently unconcerned about her imminent interview under police caution. Flying into London to take personal charge of the phone-hacking scandal, the billionaire flaunted his confidence in his News International chief executive. Mrs Brooks, who has twice offered to resign over the controversy, was seen entering Mr Murdoch’s Mayfair apartment at around 5.30pm yesterday. Later, when asked what was his top priority, the 80-year-old media mogul gestured to Mrs Brooks. ‘She is,’ he replied.  The pair spent an hour in the apartment discussing the scandal on the day the final edition of the News of the World hit news stands. Then, in front of hordes of photographers, Mr Murdoch walked her out of the block of flats with his arm firmly around her. They had beaming smiles as they crossed the road to the Stafford Hotel, where they were expected to dine together and were later joined by Mr Murdoch’s son, James, the chairman of News International. Pictures of the ‘Rupert and Rebekah show’ will infuriate the victims of phone hacking and those who question her denials. – Daily Mail

For more than 30 years now there have been two truths about Rupert Murdoch’s increasingly infrequent visitations to the British outpost of his media empire. The first: anyone who is anyone in the world of politics and business angles for (and is delighted by) any kind of audience with the great man. The second is the chill his visit engenders amongst his senior editors and executives in Wapping. Yesterday as Mr Murdoch’s corporate Boeing 737 jet, complete with a boardroom and double bed, touched down at Luton Airport, it was clear how much has changed in the last week. The chill in Wapping is still there – worse than ever – but the audiences for Mr Murdoch have dried up. He and his company – feted by David Cameron and Ed Miliband just two weeks ago at the News International Summer Party – have become a political liability. To paraphrase the famous quote: “It was News of the World wot lost it”. Yesterday Downing Street made it very clear that Mr Cameron would be neither meeting nor speaking to Mr Murdoch on this visit. Privately Government sources are blunter. They are incandescent at the political damage done by the phone-hacking scandal and angry that News Corp has not voluntarily suspended its attempted takeover of BSkyB in the wake of the allegations. – the Independent

Hinton could be the moat senior casualty

Les Hinton, Rupert Murdoch‘s lifelong lieutenant and closest adviser, faces questions over whether he saw a 2007 internal News International report, which found evidence that phone hacking was more widespread than admitted by the company, before he testified to a parliamentary committee that the practice was limited to a single reporter. News of the existence of the 2007 report – the conclusions of which were kept hidden from the public, MPs and police – came as Murdoch, chairman and CEO of News Corporation, arrived in the UK to deal directly with the rapidly developing crisis. The collection of memos that formed the inquiry were sent to the Metropolitan police earlier this year. This step came after executives who had joined NI more recently discovered its existence and sent it to the Operation Weeting team investigating News of the World phone hacking. Despite the alleged conclusions of the memos, NI executives repeatedly went on the record to say hacking was confined to a single “rogue reporter” – and gave evidence to parliament that that was the case.  The Guardian understands that Hinton was among five NI executives who had access to the report. The then News of the World editor, Colin Myler, and legal counsel, Tom Crone, are also understood to have seen it. Hinton – an employee of Murdoch for 52 years – was succeeded by James Murdoch, who it is understood had no knowledge of the 2007 internal inquiry until recently. He joined NI from BSkyB, where he had been chief executive. Also in the dark was Rebekah Brooks, who at the time was editing the Sun. – the Guardian

Rupert Murdoch’s right hand man could become the highest-profile casualty of the scandal engulfing News Corp. Dow Jones chief executive Les Hinton looks set to be dragged into the firing line after it emerged a report was commissioned in 2007 – on his watch – showing that phone hacking may not have been restricted to royal reporter Clive Goodman and private investigator Glenn Mulcaire. Hinton, who after 52 years at the company is seen as a key Murdoch henchman, faces tough questions over whether he saw the report before he testified to a parliamentary committee that the phone hacking scandal was carried out by a “single rogue reporter”. Sources close to News Corp have been forced to deny that James Murdoch or Rebekah Brooks had knowledge of the report, which was carried out by law firm Harbottle & Lewis on behalf of the News of the World. The memo was finally handed over to police last month – four years after it was penned. Brooks was editor of sister publication the Sun at the time, which was not implicated in the scandal, and James Murdoch was at BSkyB. It now looks likely that heads will have to roll over the report. – City A.M.

Cameron’s ‘power to the people’ proposals

Virtually all public services would be privatised under “wrecking ball” plans to be unveiled today by David Cameron. The Prime Minister is to announce that companies will get the chance to run everything from elderly care and bin collection to schools and hospitals. Only the Armed Forces, the police and the courts system will escape Mr Cameron’s huge shake-up. In a speech today outlining his plans, he will accuse public servants of running “old-fashioned, top-down, take-what-you’re-given” services that are “just not working for a lot of people”. Sources close to the Prime Minister say all public services will be opened up to the private sector and the Government will be “neutral” on who runs them. But union leaders attacked the plans. Unison’s Dave Prentis said: “The Tories are now turning their wrecking ball on to the entire public sector.” But the PM, stung by criticism that he has made too many U-turns, has vowed to press ahead with the idea regardless of opposition. But Labour, which has backed the Mirror’s Save Our Services campaign, has accused the Tory-led Government of relying too heavily on private firms. – Daily Mirror

David Cameron will today set out “urgent” plans to boost significantly the role of charities, community groups and private companies in running services such as health, child care and education. Under the reforms, outside organisations could bid for work including ”mutual’’ companies formed by public sector workers and based on the John Lewis Partnership, the department store chain partly owned by its staff. Publishing the Open Public Services White Paper, the Prime Minister will insist he is not going to back down on his plans for reform, despite the doubts of some senior Conservatives. The Daily Telegraph understands that the paper will commit ministers to examine the case for a new “overarching” right to choice for all public services. The new law could be modelled on existing rules in education, which ensure that parents are given a choice of schools by their council. Such a choice could then be extended to anyone who uses state-funded services. Government sources say that the “right to choose” would mean that public sector bodies – including councils – would be forced to consider letting outside organisations provide public services. The John Lewis-style “mutual” companies would allow staff to have a say on how their service was run. Outside bodies running services will operate on the basis of “payment by results” contracts, giving them a clear financial incentive to deliver. – Daily Telegraph

Labour braces itself for Baldwin attack

A senior News International journalist warned Labour that the company’s papers intended to “turn on Ed Miliband and his staff” days before allegations were published in The Sunday Times and The Sun about his strategy director Tom Baldwin. The Independent understands the warning was made to a Labour spokesman hours after Mr Miliband had called on Wednesday for the resignation of News International’s chief executive Rebekah Brooks. Three days later, The Sun carried a story claiming that Mr Baldwin had been a heavy user of cocaine. Yesterday, The Sunday Times carried a story which said he had been accused – in a previous job – of hiring a private investigator to “blag” the bank details of the Conservative donor Michael Ashcroft. The broad theme of both allegations had been made in a book by Lord Ashcroft, which was published five years ago.  But the decision by The Sun and The Sunday Times to attack Mr Baldwin has caused tensions at The Times, where he was formerly chief reporter until he accepted the job with Mr Miliband in December last year. In his previous role, Mr Baldwin would not have been able to sanction such payments – suggesting that if the allegations were correct, someone higher up at The Times during the period in question would have had to sanction it. The last thing Rupert Murdoch would want is a sister paper of The Times precipitating a fresh investigation into the Ashcroft affair. – the Independent

Jarvis Cocker gets in on the act

Pulp frontman Jarvis Cocker has celebrated the demise of the News Of The World at T In The Park. Ending its run after allegations of phone tapping were proved to be endemic, the newspaper’s demise has delighted some vociferous critics. Pulp took to the stage at T In The Park fresh from the knowledge that the newspaper would end production. Clearly in a gleeful mood, Jarvis Cocker opened the set with a passionate rendition of ‘Do You Remember The First Time?’. Later, the singer told the crowd to remember the last time the News Of The World was published. Holding the final edition aloft, Jarvis Cocker then proceeded to use the newspaper as toilet roll. With the crowd egging him on, the frontman then told the T In The Park audience “that’s the only thing that piece of shit has been good for in 168 years”. – Clash Music

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