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Leveson inquiry: did James Murdoch really warn Myler over the Mosley story?

Category : Business

What a day to return to the blog face with Rupert Murdoch about to take the stand at the Leveson inquiry amid a political storm created by his son’s evidence yesterday.

On flying in from Los Angeles yesterday evening I picked up a London Evening Standard that was splashing on James Murdoch’s denial of having read the crucial 2008 email from former News of the World editor Colin Myler that suggested phone hacking had been “rife” at the paper.

But I soon caught up on the damaging evidence about the relationship between the Murdochs’ company, News Corporation, and culture secretary Jeremy Hunt over the BSkyB bid.

By the time I was able to read the full Leveson inquiry Q&A,I then discovered that James Murdoch was distancing himself from the News of the World’s disgraceful exposure of Max Mosley.

Given the ramifications of the Hunt story, there has been little attention paid to this part of Murdoch’s evidence. So let me put that right.

James M dumped all over Myler. According to him, with the collapse of the paper’s public interest defence and the subsequent loss of the court case that resulted in Mosley picking up £60,000 in damages for intrusion into his privacy, Myler was given a warning.

Well, a sort of warning. Here’s the exact quote:

“Certainly getting it wrong, spectacularly as that was, is something that was, you know, made clear to Mr Myler and with a strong indication that it shouldn’t happen again.”

Really? Did that happen? If so, Myler gave no indication of such corporate disapproval in the aftermath of the trial. In several statements, he gave no clue that his boss had been in the least bit critical.

For example, in May 2009 – some 10 months after Mosley had won his high court case – Myler was defending publication when appearing before the Commons culture, media and sport select committee.

He stood by his public interest defence for running the article by telling MPs: “We are who we are and I make no apologies for publishing that story.”

No apologies, note. So, despite having been told by his chairman that he had got it “spectacularly” wrong, he felt confident enough to say the opposite in public.

When Myler was questioned at length about the Mosley story at Leveson, he made no reference to James Murdoch having given him “a strong indication that it shouldn’t happen again.”

The Hunt imbroglio is obviously of overriding interest, but we should not overlook the Mosley matter.

And, I wonder, did Rupert Murdoch agree with James or with Myler? Perhaps Lord Justice Leveson might like to ask him today or tomorrow.

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