Having myself been subject to select committee interrogation amid a media firestorm, I developed a low opinion of the format. During the David Kelly affair the Foreign Affairs Committee, under a Labour toady chairman, Donald Anderson (since rewarded with a peerage), allowed itself to become Alastair Campbell’s tool in attempting to hound David and discredit my story. The questioning was low-grade, unfocused and grandstanding. Typically, they would suggest some phrase they had dreamed up to get a soundbite on the news and invite you to agree with it.
Today, however, the questioning is much better – mostly sensible and specific. And what has been striking has been the poor performance of those being questioned. Rupert Murdoch’s hesitations, and his clear (and probably genuine) difficulties of recall must mark the final end of his authority. James has been better, but still not terribly clear. What strikes me is how two men at the helm of one of the world’s greatest communication empires can be such poor communicators.