Evidence of what looks suspiciously like a Grand Bargain between the Tories and the News empire could wreck the PM's career. RUPERT Murdoch presented an impression of almost otherworldly innocence in Court 73 of London's Royal Courts of Justice: harmless, cuddly, a bit forgetful for sure, but nevertheless a man of definite integrity. It was a charming event in its way. But watching this Oxford-educated showman, it was easy to forget one important truth. The newspapers Murdoch owns are under investigation on suspicion of crimes that include bribery, perversion of the course of justice, destruction of evidence, interception of emails, phone hacking and perjury.
No fewer than 16 of his editors or senior journalists, along with one chief executive and 10 reporters, have been arrested. There are three active police investigations, as a result of which four police officers have been arrested, as have 15 others, including civil servants and members of the armed forces. In all, nearly 50 people have been arrested.
A criminal culture stretched right across Murdoch's News International, if the police are right. Indeed, it is very important to stress that we are not just talking about the case of one rogue cell, as so often when corporate law-breaking occurs. All across Murdoch's UK media outlets - The Sun, the now-closed News of the World, The Times and Sky Television - there are allegations of serious criminal misconduct.
And in an important development, it has emerged that Hunt spent five days at the News Corp headquarters in the United States shortly before James Murdoch personally told Cameron he would be swinging his newspapers behind the Tories at the looming election.
At this stage the evidence is only circumstantial, but the charge that the Cameron government has done commercial favours for the Murdochs in return for political support is very serious. This, if true, would amount to corruption. Certainly, if proven, it would force Hunt's resignation.
But it is not impossible that the government would fall. Hunt is one of Cameron's closest friends in the cabinet, and would never have set out on the course he did without the agreement of the Prime Minister.
The investigation into the Murdoch organisation has slowly exposed a network of suspected influence peddling, bribery and general criminality stretching way beyond the News International HQ in Wapping. The police are investigating evidence that Murdoch's reporters corrupted members of the armed forces and the civil service, and above all the Metropolitan Police....read more