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Yesterday, I wrote a blog post about how, in my view, Louise Mensch was misrepresenting the contents of the contents of the DCMS report into phone hacking.

One of the thrusts of her argument was that “no one is accusing Rupert Murdoch of misleading Parliament”. My assertion was that, in paragraph 228 of the report, it did just that when it said that he gave:

a misleading account of his involvement and influence with his newspapers.

Bear in mind that this paragraph, although not all Conservatives supported the (Paul Farrelly) amendment that inserted it into the report, was not, they claimed, an assertion they could not accept. Only paragraph 229, Tom Watson’s amendment that included the “not a fit person” led them to disavow the whole thing.

Which they did. Mensch herself called the report “fatally flawed” and “essentially worthless” (Newsnight, 1st May, 2012).

So, the key question, to my mind is: does the assertion that Rupert Murdoch gave a misleading account to Parliament necessarily mean that he misled Parliament?

Fortunately, someone asked just that at the press conference when the report was launched (start from 57:19 in the video below if it doesn’t do it for you).

The question was asked as to whether or not giving a misleading account amounted to misleading Parliament. Paul Farrelly, who proposed the amendment that contained the paragraph, and who should know if anyone does, dodged the question.

He said:

You’ve got the text there.

And then he moved on to raise the wider point of the corporate misleading of Parliament for which the report holds both J and R Murdoch responsible.

Which doesn’t really answer the question.

The report clearly says that Rupert Murdoch gave the Committee:

a misleading account of his involvement and influence with his newspapers.

And yet not only do the Labour members of the Committee allow other Committee members to present the report as if no such allegation has been made, but they refuse even to explain clearly what it implies when asked directly.

We get a hint that it means what it says (“You’ve got the text there”) but an unwillingness to expound on it, clarify it, or even to insist that others mention it when describing the report.

So, I’ll ask again. In the eyes of Tom Watson, in the eyes of Paul Farrelly, and in the eyes of Louise Mensch does giving a misleading account of your activities to a Parliamentary Select Committee amount to misleading Parliament or not?

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So, the DCMS Select Committee report on phone hacking came out today.

Of particular interest is paragraph 228, which reads:

228. Rupert Murdoch told this Committee that his alleged lack of oversight of News International and the News of the World was due to it being “less than 1% of our company”.306 This self-portrayal, however, as a hands-off proprietor is entirely at odds with numerous other accounts, including those of previous editors and from Rebekah Brooks, who told us she spoke to Rupert Murdoch regularly and ‘on average, every other day’. It was, indeed, we consider, a misleading account of his involvement and influence with his newspapers.

Which seems pretty clear. Rupert Murdoch gave “a misleading account of his involvement and influence with his newspapers.” Now, I’m no lawyer, but it seems that if you ‘give a misleading account’ to a Select Committee of Parliament then you are, in effect, ‘misleading’ that Committee.

In the conclusions, however, this isn’t taken up again. Paragraph 275, says that Les Hinton misled the Committee, Tom Crone misled the Committee, Tom Crone & Colin Myler misled the Committee, and that the News Of The World and News International as a whole misled the Committee, wilfully blinding themselves to internal evidence for which the companies’ directors—including Rupert Murdoch and James Murdoch—should ultimately be prepared to take responsibility”. So Rupert and James Murdoch wilfully blinded themselves to instances in which their company misled the Committee.

On the accusation that James Murdoch had misled the Committee over the ‘for Neville’ email, or whether Tom Crone and Colin Myler did (as their stories were incompatible), the Committee “simply cannot adjudicate with confidence either way.” (para. 161) So, either James Murdoch misled the Committee or Tom Crone and Colin Myler did (again), but the Committee has no way of determining which is true.

All of which seems pretty clear. Rupert ‘gave a misleading account’, Rupert and James presided over an organisation that misled the Committee, James may have misled the Committee, but they cannot be sure either way.

Got that? Good.

Because, apparently Louise Mensch didn’t.

Or, rather, she did at first, but then she forgot. During the press conference presenting the report she said :

Every one of us [Conservative members of the Committee] while we share different views about the culpability of News Corporation, and the degree of culpability of James Murdoch in particular… [emphasis mine]

Again, pretty clear. At least some of the Conservative members of the Committee felt that James Murdoch was at least partially culpable.

However, within seconds, she appears to have forgotten that entirely, appearing on Sky News saying, when asked about whether James or Rupert Murdoch had misled the Committee:

As far as that is concerned, they are in the clear.

Well, they are in the clear in as far as it looks unlikely that the Committee will call for any Parliamentary sanction. The report, however, goes nowhere near absolving them of having misled Parliament.

It says one definitely gave ‘a misleading account’, they are both responsible for an organisation that persistently misled the Committee, and that they had no way of discerning whether the other misled the Committee in his evidence, but that they found his story ‘astonishing’ and ‘surprising’. This is not the clean bill of health Louise Mensch would have you believe.

Later, on Twitter, she was at it again. When asked why she hadn’t supported the report, she said:

we hadn’t heard one iota of evidence re fitness or otherwise; he didn’t lie to us; is outside SC remit. 3 good reasons.

You’ll see that she recasts ‘misleading’ as the slightly stronger ‘lying’ as she did in the press conference when she demanded that Parliament clarify its procedures for ‘people who lie to Parliament’.

“He didn’t lie to us.” Perhaps, but he did give you a misleading account, and oversee and organisation that misled you an a wide scale. And you all find the story of the Murdochs’ ignorance ‘astonishing’.

Louise Mensch may well just not understand paragraph 228 of the report. She may be angling for a ministerial post. She may just be shilling for the rich and powerful. Or she may be doing all three.

What she is not doing is being open and honest about the findings of the report. Indeed, she seems to be trying to distract from its content, by saying it’s ‘fatally flawed’ because she disagrees with one sentence.

If her line is “No one is accusing Rupert Murdoch of misleading Parliament”, then that’s simply not true. Her Committee is. In its report. In paragraph 228.

The only thing that’s fatally flawed here is Mensch’s integrity.

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