Steerpike Steerpike

The rumble of the Thunderer

Steerpike is back in this week’s Spectator, and here’s a little taster from Wapping:

James Harding, the ousted Times editor, left with a £1.3 million payoff in his pocket and the praise of Fleet Street ringing in his ears. But why did he go? A chap who polishes the executives’ shoes at News International tells me that just before the hacking scandal blew up, Rupert Murdoch was planning major changes at the Times. He’d decided to pull the newspaper out of the Press Complaints Commission, just as Richard Desmond had done with the Express. Then he’d pull it out of the Audit Bureau of Circulations, which he felt didn’t reflect the new digital world. And he’d put an end to its softish editorial line, directed by George Osborne’s close friend Danny Finkelstein.

Murdoch, my mole tells me, concluded a while ago that Cameron bends to pressure — so he wanted the Times to pile on the pressure, as the Sun has done. Instead, to his dismay, it has acted like a propagandist for the taxman — understandably, given Finkelstein’s role as unofficial chief adviser to the Chancellor. All this was interrupted by the Leveson inquiry, but Murdoch —like the papacy — thinks in decades rather than years. The Dirty Digger may be about to resume Plan A.

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