Dancing With the Devil: Rupert Murdoch and Russell Brand come to London

Rupert Murdoch - World Economic Forum Annual M...

Rupert Murdoch (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Rupert Murdoch and Russell Brand do not, on the face of it, have much in common. But this week they were both giving evidence to the great and the good of the British Establishment — Murdoch at the Leveson Enquiry, and Brand at a parliamentary Select Committee — and I found myself undergoing the alarming vision of the two of them meeting up to celebrate their respective appearances with a night on the town.

I saw them carousing the night away together in some of Soho’s less salubrious establishments, before being found at dawn splashing naked through the fountains of Trafalgar Square, or urinating through the railings in front of Buckingham Palace.

Because pissing all over the British Establishment is precisely what each of them, in his own way, did this week.

Brand was first. A committe of MPs, hungry for a little more of the limelight, were dumb enough to invite him to testify on drug addiction, hoping a little of his Hollywood star quality would rub off on them.

They were incensed when he had the temerity to play to the audience — an audience who had come to see him, not them — and use them as his stooges. He swanned into Portcullis House dressed like the girl with the dragon tattoo, called MPs “mate”, and generally sent the whole thing up. A Labour MP ill-advisedly heckled him: “This is not a variety show, Mr Brand.”

“Well you’re bringing some variety. You’re turning it into Dad’s Army,” Brand knocked him down.

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Russell Brand Arthur Premier

Russell Brand (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Rupert Murdoch may be a billionaire and dress a little more conservatively than Brand, but in his own way he is as much an outsider, still at heart the upstart Australian who bought up the British and American media. For all his wealth and influence, Britain has never taken him to its heart.

In his case, it wasn’t his immediate interlocutors, Lord Justice Leveson and Richard Jay QC, counsel for the enquiry, his testimony hurt.

It was the political Establishment that was all too happy to cosy up to him when it wanted the backing of his powerful newspapers, but cut him loose the moment it sensed danger from the News of the World hacking scandal.

His son James’ testimony had already knifed Jeremy Hunt’s political career, possibly fatally. Murdoch senior’s evidence set hearts racing in Downing Street

He told the enquiry he had met David Cameron five times more than Cameron has admitted, since he became Prime Minister — leaving Cameron to explain these “secret meetings” with the head of a company embroiled in the phone hacking scandal, at a time when his government was facing a decision over whether to approve its proposed takeover of BSkyB.

Jay asked him if he had found Cameron lightweight at an early meeting. “Not at that point,” Murdoch said acidly.

He told the enquiry how Gordon Brown, as Prime Minister, had “declared war” on his company. Brown issued desperate denials from his melancholy retirement, but it was too late, the damage was done. There was no way of comfirming or denying Murdoch’s account, it was a private phone call, and only the two men know what was said.

Murdoch’s evidence wasn’t comfortable listening for others who have got in his way, either. A former editor of The Times who was critical of Murdoch was today reduced to denying Murdoch’s claim that he once took the proprietor into a room and said “Tell me  what you want me to say and I’ll do it”.

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - JUNE 30:  Protesters ...

(Image credit: Getty Images via @daylife)

As Murdoch left serenely, his testimony complete, the British Establish that had summoned him to give an accounting of himself was scrabbling to repair the damage, and it was hard not to think of an old adage: if you dance with the devil, you dance to his tune.

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