The Murdochs at the Select Committee: what you missed

July 19, 2011

Committee member: What is your name?

James Murdoch: That’s a very good question, and I intend to answer it in full. I’m afraid I don’t have the full answer to hand at the moment. You must remember that my name is one of a many number of names that I have to remember at any given time. I was given my name soon after my birth in December 1972, but I have no direct knowledge of what name may or may not have been given to myself. News International have set up an internal investigation to ascertain exactly what the name on my birth certificate was, and I am afraid that I am unable to give a fuller answer to that question until that investigation has reported back to me.

Member: What is your favourite colour?

James Murdoch: I do not have any direct knowledge of what colours I prefer to others. I may have given the Committee the impression that I preferred blue to green, but that was a statement given without full knowledge of the facts. When I gave that answer I was relying on assurances given to me by a police investigation, and I think it would be inappropriate for me to comment more at this stage.

Member: What is your quest?

James Murdoch: I have no direct knowledge of that. There is no evidence that I, or anyone else at News International, knew anything about the nature of the quest. We are presently fully engaged with the police to find out exactly what our quest is, and will of course fully co-operate with them in their enquiries to find out this information.

Member: Thank you James Murdoch. You may pass. If I may, I’d like to talk to your father. What is your name?

Rupert Murdoch: I’d just like to say that this is the most humble day of my life.

Member: Thank you for that, sir. Now would you please answer the question?

Rupert Murdoch: (Pause) What?

Member: What is your name?

Rupert Murdoch: (thumps table) I wasn’t told that information by my senior colleagues at News Corp!

Member: What is your favourite colour?

Rupert Murdoch: How was I supposed to know? Thinking about colours only takes up 1% of my time. I had no idea such categorising of colours was going on. I wasn’t told anything about any colours.

Member:  What is the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow?

Rupert Murdoch: That’s the first I’ve heard of swallows. I wasn’t told anything about the velocity of swallows at the time. Now, of course, I know all about the velocity of unladen swallows. We are co-operating with the police on this matter and any swallows found to have committed any serious crime should face the full force of the law.

Member: I’m afraid that’s the wrong answer.

*trapdoor opens, Rupert Murdoch falls off bridge, only to have his fall broken by a pie-wielding idiot from a prominent group of pie-wielding idiots*


Guest post by God: His resignation statement over phone hacking

July 18, 2011

God called a Press Conference in Heaven today, in which he resigned over his role in the phone hacking scandal. Paperback Rioter reproduces the full text of the statement below. You can read more from God here.

It is with deep regret and a heavy heart that I resign from my position as God and Supreme Being over life on Earth.

I am very proud of my achievements in my role, which I have held for about 5000 years (but who’s counting?). I created the universe. Saw it through some tough times (like the Bodyline controversy). There are many things I will look back proudly on.

However, I must accept responsibility for the phone hacking scandal that happened on my watch.

I can honestly say, though, that I had no idea of the scale of the phone hacking that was going on at News International.

I know I am meant to be an omnipotent being, all-seeing and all-knowing, and therefore it is right to ask me why I had no knowledge of the scale of the abuses at the News of the World and other newspapers. The fact is that the Metropolitan police conducted an investigation and concluded that the phone hacking was merely the work of one rogue reporter. There was no reason for me to disregard their professional opinion.

What I find particularly distressing is the link between myself and Andy Coulson. People keep saying that I should have done more to warn David Cameron about appointing Andy Coulson as his Director of Communications.

Yet I am not sure what more I was supposed to do. I sent three wise men to warn him of the dangers of hiring Coulson. Nick Clegg, Alan Rusbridger and Paddy Ashdown.

All of whom were sent by Me to warn Cameron. But he took no heed of My warnings. I accept My responsibility, but it seems that Cameron does not accept his.

Nevertheless, I must accept my role in this affair and must therefore reluctantly resign. I do not wish to comment on the rumours that a News International paper hacked into my voicemail.


Hackgate: When Life Imitates Yes, Minister

July 17, 2011

Events are unfolding too quickly for them to be written about. At the moment all I can think to do is to post this from Yes, Minister. It’s from The Whiskey Priest. If you don’t have it on DVD I’m sure you can find some dark corner of the internet where you can watch it:

Bernard Woolley: So what do we believe in?
Sir Humphrey Appleby: At this moment, Bernard, we believe in stopping the minister from informing the Prime Minister.
Bernard Woolley: But why?
Sir Humphrey Appleby: Because once the Prime Minister knows, there will have to be an enquiry, like Watergate. The investigation of a trivial break-in led to one ghastly revelation after another and finally the downfall of a President. The golden rule is: Don’t lift lids off cans of worms. Everything is connected to everything else. Who said that?
Bernard Woolley: The Cabinet Secretary?
Sir Humphrey Appleby: Nearly right. Actually, it was Lenin.


So let me get this straight…

July 11, 2011

The police are investigating both the police who were investigating the journalists and those journalists themselves. And those journalists were bribing police officers and hacking phones. The police, or the journalists, or neither, covered up the bribes and the phone hacking. And it now turns out that the journalists were hacking the phones of the police officers who were investigating them in the first place. As well as apparently hacking the phones of 9/11 victims, Gordon Brown and the Queen. And this somehow also involves David Cameron because he appointed one of the chief hackers his head of communications and is good friends with another one of them.

Hell, if that makes sense, I don’t want to BE sober. *brain melts, reaches for absinthe*


The power of cricket

July 5, 2011

I have never understood those who belittle the importance of sport. Often these people tend to be irritable lefties who write about how football is the opiate of the masses, and a distraction from more important issues. This piece from Laurie Penny is a quintessential example of that genre. If that doesn’t make you sufficiently annoyed, there’s another similar piece, also from the New Statesman, here.

Anybody who doubts the power of sport, and specifically cricket, to do good, or who thinks that somehow sport and politics can be kept apart, should probably read Beyond a Boundary for starters. The core of the book is about Learie Constantine, the great West Indian cricketer, and about how he “revolted against the revolting contrast between his first-class status as a cricketer and his third-class status as a man”. In a similar vein, although I haven’t seen the film, you could probably do a lot worse than watch Fire in Babylon.

Alternatively, a good place to start would be Kumar Sangakkara’s Cowdrey Lecture, which he gave at the MCC yesterday. You should listen to it if you have a passing interest in any of the following:

  • Cricket
  • Politics
  • Terrorism
  • Class
  • National Identity

And not necessarily in that order.

Sangakkara is one of Sri Lanka’s greatest ever cricketers, and the first Sri Lankan to be invited to give the Colin Cowdrey Memorial Lecture, which began in 2001. As a Sri Lankan he is well-placed to talk about the role of politics in sport. After all, as Sangakkara says in his speech (p. 13) no Sri Lankan team can take the field without the approval of the Sports Minister. Which sounds incredible doesn’t it – imagine if Jeremy Hunt had the final say in England’s team selection, rather than Fabio Cappello. Yet this shows the enormous power cricket has had to unify Sri Lankans behind a common cause.

It is this power that I want to touch upon in this blog. Sangakkara spoke very courageously against the “partisan crones” running Sri Lankan cricket, and has generated both headlines here and enemies back home. He also spoke movingly about the history of Sri Lanka, about their struggle with civil war, and of how the Sri Lankan team bus was attacked by terrorists when touring in Pakistan. However, these are all topics that shall be left for another day, for this blog is about the power of sport. Sangakkara said that during the 1980s the Sri Lankan government was fighting the terrorist LTTE. “Each and every Sri Lankan was touched by the brutality of that conflict.” Many thousands died. Parents travelled separately so that if one of them died, the other could look after the children. He goes on: (p. 6)

People were disillusioned with politics and power and war. They were fearful of an uncertain future. The cycle of violence seemed unending. Sri Lanka became famous for its war and conflict.

It was a bleak time where we as a nation looked for inspiration – a miracle that would lift the pallid gloom and show us what we as a country were capable of if united as one, a beacon of hope to illuminate the potential of our peoples.

That inspiration was to come in 1996 [with Sri Lanka's win in the Cricket World Cup of that year].

Sri Lanka’s captain was Arjuna Ranatunga, who battled the elitism that had existed in Sri Lankan cricket. Before getting Test status in 1981, Sri Lankan’s cricketers hailed mainly from the elite schools that had been funded originally by British colonisers. Sangakkara notes that before 1981 80% of Sri Lankan cricketers came from these privileged English schools, but the 1996 World Cup-winning side contained not a single player from one of these schools. The victory in that competition opened up cricket to the masses even more so that had happened previously. These players played cricket the Sri Lankan way:

We were no longer timid or soft or minnows. We had played and beaten the best in the world. We had done that without pretence or shame in a manner that highlighted and celebrated our national values, our collective cultures and habits. It was a brand of cricket we were proud to call our own, a style with local spirit and flair embodying all that was good in our heritage.

Most importantly of all (and this is a long quote): (p. 9)

The 1996 World Cup gave all Sri Lankans a commonality, one point of collective joy and ambition that gave a divided society true national identity and was to be the panacea that healed all social evils and would stand the country in good stead through terrible natural disasters and a tragic civil war.

The 1996 World Cup win inspired people to look at their country differently. The sport overwhelmed terrorism and political strife; it provided something that everyone held dear to their hearts and helped normal people get through their lives.

The team also became a microcosm of how Sri Lankan society should be with players from different backgrounds, ethnicities and religions sharing their common joy, their passion and love for each other and their motherland.

It is the passion of ordinary Sri Lankans, as well as the knowledge that cricket has the unique power to unite a society divided by civil war, that Sangakkara has in his mind every time he walks out to bat when wearing his distinctive helmet. It’s a fantastic story, of triumph over civil war as well as race and class divisions. What’s more, (p. 16)

[T]he conduct and performance of the team will have even greater importance as we enter a crucial period of reconciliation and recovery, an exciting period where all Sri Lankans aspire to peace and unity. It is also an exciting period for cricket where the re-integration of isolated communities in the north and east opens up new talent pools.

The spirit of cricket can and should remain and guiding force for good within society, providing entertain and fun, but also a shining example to all of how we all should approach our lives.

Hopefully it shall be a story with a happy ending.

Could Laurie Penny really look Kumar Sangakkara in the eye and say that “Mistrust of team sports as a fulcrum of social organisation comes naturally to me”? I hope not.


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