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.

The really sinister message behind “Winnergate”

April 27, 2011

Today was the first PMQs held after the Easter recess. Among the topics discussed were the NHS reforms and the economy. I assume that at some point MPs got close to discussing the issues, but to be honest I couldn’t tell what was being said because of all the shouting and jeering.

The most talked-about part of PMQs occurred when David Cameron told Angela Eagle to “calm down dear, just calm down”.

The wonderful Paul Waugh, as usual, has quickly gotten the inside take on what happened:

It seems that Angela Eagle was the Labour frontbencher who was targeted by Cameron because she was heckling him over his NHS answers.

In particular, Eagle was shouting that the PM had got his facts wrong over ex Labour MP and GP Howard Stoate, a rare left-of-centre supporter of the Coalition’s health reforms.

Cameron had claimed that Stoate had been defeated at the last election, but Eagle pointed out that in fact he had stood down at 2010 general election.

“He stood down! He stood down!” Eagle told the PM.

Clearly irritated, Cameron then issued his now infamous ‘calm down dear!’ edict. Cue uproar.

It was thought for a bit that it was Yvette Cooper, not Eagle, who was told to calm down. That’s demonstrably not the case, because otherwise Ed Balls would have leapt across the chamber, shouted “Don’t you talk to my missus like that”, and eviscerated the entire government front bench. You know that he could if he wanted to.

You can see a clip of the exchange here, on the BBC website. Keep an eye on Nick Clegg’s face after Cameron says “calm down dear” for the first time. Very stoney faced. He looks like he’s trying not to cry, bless him.

And while we’re on the subject of Nick Clegg, doesn’t he look so old now? It’s like his face has melted in a year. Also, all the colour has drained from his face and gone to David Cameron’s, who was looking very red in today’s session. He was redder than a red-breasted Communist robin reading from Das Kapital.

Inevitably, the storm in a teacup has begun. Labour have said that it was sexist, and that Cameron would not have said such a remark to Ed Balls. Too bloody right. Nobody patronises The Balls and gets away with it.

On the other hand, the Tories have been quick to say that it was just a humourous remark, nothing to see here, and that Labour left us with a massive budget deficit. So they have no right to complain about jokes:

I think you will find it is a popular advert. I think you are maybe over-analysing a humorous remark. Labour seem desperate to talk about anything other than the economy after the good news on growth figures and Miliband’s weak performance today.

To be honest, I don’t think this little exchange tells us anything we didn’t already know about Cameron. His default position at PMQs is always “cavalier and patronising”, he loses his temper far too easily and gets really irritated by Ed Balls. We’ll need a bit more than that to get an entry in the Bumper Book of Political Revelations.

What it does mean now is that Cameron will get associated with Michael Winner. That’s not a great feat of political posturing. Also, as David Aaronovitch pointed out, “The next time David Cameron looks flustered at PMQs the whole Opposition bench is going to chorus “calm down dear”. What an own goal.”

Meanwhile, there were no questions on Libya, and the debate on the economy and the health reforms will get ignored as we debate the really serious issues, such as “Who’s cleavage was that behind Ed Miliband?” And we wonder why the public aren’t interested in politics.

Yet all of this would still miss the main story behind Winnergate, which isn’t being covered anywhere. And that is the contracting out of political soundbites.

It seems that this government is so desperate to reduce the deficit that they are putting subliminal advertising messages in their speeches, just to raise a bit of money.

I wonder what will come next? Maybe George Osborne will say “We need these massive cuts to reduce the deficit. Simples.”

Or Michael Gove will say “My free schools programme will mean that Britain gets exceedingly good academies.”

Andrew Lansley’s next speech about NHS Reforms will go, “There are some who have said that my proposed reforms will lead to the privatisation of the NHS and mean that hospitals are subjected to EU Competition law. To them I say this: vorsprung durch technik”.

This is even more evidence that there is nowhere this government will stop the private sector from taking over. Not even in our language.

You heard it here first.

That resignation blog post in full

January 21, 2011

It was surprising/inevitable/necessary/amazing

that Alan Johnson/Andy Coulson resigned, because these:

continuing revelations/unusual circumstances/scandals

just showed that:

he was useless at his job/he was too good at his job/his position was untenable/the speculation would never stop/it was a wonderful day to bury bad news.

Furthermore, the resignation casts doubt on the judgement of Ed Miliband/David Cameron since he:

should have known he was a liability/looks like one of the chickens from Chicken Run/should never have appointed him in the first place.

Now Ed Miliband/David Cameron will have to find someone else who can:

remember what the tax rate is/suck up to Rupert Murdoch/do his sums/run communications at Number 10/attack the spending cuts with the savagery of a pack of psychopathic hounds on speed.

What this means is that life will go on as normal, but with:

more Balls/less phone-hacking/fewer gaffes

and the whole sorry affair will be:

swept under the carpet/quietly forgotten about/pursued by certain journalists and bloggers to its unseemly end.

This coalition government is a sinister story of revenge

December 15, 2010

Imagine you’re David Cameron for a minute.

I’m sorry to have put that thought into your head. Just stop screaming and try and imagine you’re the Tory leader on May 5th, this year. What the hell would be going through your mind?

You were leader of the Opposition against a party that was morally, intellectually and financially bankrupt. They were led by a leader whom most of the country despised, and the rest grudgingly admitted was just not up to the job. Your party has been 10-15 points ahead in the opinion polls for about 18 months before the election.

Even with a massive swing needed for an overall majority in the Commons, attaining that majority still seemed possible. You would become Prime Minister on a handsome majority, vindicating your decision to tack to the centre ground during your leadership, and go down in history as an electoral genius.

Just to make sure of your victory, you get the leaders of the other main parties to take part in a series of TV debates. You might not have many policies, but the fact that you’re a much better communicator than the Prime Minister should come across easily.

Then it all goes wrong!

There was only one major flaw. You’d forgotten that a third man would have to be part of the TV debates. You didn’t even know his name until he introduced himself as “Nick” before the start of the first one. Then the cheeky bugger only goes and wins the debate, by looking at the camera and addressing questioners by their name.

Suddenly there’s a Lib Dem surge in the polls, your momentum vanishes, and you spend the final 48 hours of the campaign touring Britain non-stop to try and get that elusive majority that looked so certain at the start of the campaign, but to no avail.

There’s a hung Parliament: you haven’t won the election. You are miserable, but then a plan begins to form in your mind.

Obviously you must take your revenge on the upstart Clegg, but you know your political history. Sulking and being bitter won’t do any good, and will just make you look foolish (c.f. Ted Heath, Gordon Brown). Instead, you devise an even more cunning strategy. You will kill Clegg with kindness; drown him in candy floss.

First, you make a full, comprehensive offer to the Liberal Democrats, knowing they have little choice but to join you in a coalition.

Then you have Clegg where you want him, and you can systematically start making him the most hated, most ridiculous man in Britain.

For instance, when he says that this will be the greenest government in Britain’s history, you announce a plan to sell off Britain’s forests, raise train fares by 10% and water down emissions standards for coal power stations.

When he says that Britons will be “more liberal” at the end of this government’s term of office in 2015, you revive plans to spy on everyone’s e-mails and text messages, whilst also retaining control orders.

Then you find out that Clegg signed a pledge before the election to vote against any rise in university fees:

So you immediately annouce plans to triple them. Then you say to Clegg that it’s fine for him to abstain against the rise if he likes, knowing that if he does then he will be hated by everyone.

Then when Clegg says he is agonising with his conscience about the cuts, everyone unanimously replies that he can’t have a conscience. (note: except Peter Oborne, but you can deal with him later).

Clegg is now being pilloried by everyone. You have had your revenge. And it feels so, so sweet.

The Liberal Democrats: An Obituary

December 10, 2010

In affectionate remembrance of
Who died at the House of Commons
THURSDAY 9 DECEMBER 2010, at 5.41pm.
Deeply lamented by a small circle of
grieving friends and acquaintences
(although loathed by many more)
N.B. The body will be cremated and the Ashes distributed between
The Conservatives, Labour and the Greens (according to their wishes)

A friend put it best on Facebook yesterday:

Vote passes by 21 votes. This means that if the Liberal Democrats had honoured their pledge to vote against the rise in tuition fees, we would have defeated this legislation. This is an absolutely unforgiveable betrayal of their voters by Liberal Democrat MPs. I hope every one of them who ignored their election promises loses their seat. They will deserve it.

‘Nuff said.

(any relationship of this post to this may not be entirely coincidental)

I am a genius (and other outbreaks of hyperbole)

November 21, 2010

Because my procrastination knows no bounds, I’ve been re-reading some of my old articles for Redbrick. [modesty blaze] Some of them are rather good [/modesty blaze]. I like this one, my satirical column from just over three years ago (although Lembit Opik may have read my comments about how personality matters more than policy nowadays rather too seriously, seeing as he is currently campaining to be Mayor of London in the I’m A Celebrity jungle).

In the column, I preview the impending Lib Dem leadership contest:

Nick Clegg is a trendy, David Cameron-type. But if you were going to vote for a David Cameron type, wouldn’t you just vote for David Cameron?

Bow down and worship my soothsaying skills, all of you.


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