26th April 2012.
The point of the cross-examination, in the Leveson Inquiry between the Lead Counsel and Rupert Murdoch, was to discover the amount of influence the British Press have over Government.
Richard Littlejohn in the [London] Daily Mail Today in 2012, parodied the exchanges between Robin Jay Q.C. and Rupert Murdoch, by substituting the powerful press baron, for another, Lord Beaverbrook and his close relationship with Churchill.
Whilst Beaverbrook was Canadian, not Australian, they were both gravel-voiced, Murdoch reinforced his answers with head jerking up, down, right and left and a mouth clenched after each utterance. The flavour of the non-committal answers, is confirmed by the Author who sat through the whole Leveson proceedings.
‘You are William Maxwell Aitken, first Baron Beaverbrook born in Ontario, Canada, proprietor of the Daily Express, Sunday Express and the London Evening Standard.’
‘When did you first meet Mr. Churchill’?
‘How many meetings did you have over 50 years’?
‘I met on a few occasions.’
‘In 1916 you bought a controlling interest in the Express and later received a peerage.’
‘No recollection of that.’
‘At this time as well as your friendship with Churchill you also had several meetings with Lloyd-George.’
‘I don’t remember but my father might.’
‘Did Lloyd-George later appoint you Minister of Information and Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster’?
‘I don’t recall.’
‘In 1918 did you agree to throw the weight of the Daily Express behind the Chancellor of the Exchequer and Lloyd-George’s campaign in the coming election’?
‘Politicians let’s be clear always seek the support of all newspapers after consulting with my editors.’
‘Lord Beaverbrook would it be fair to suggest that you gave them the support of your newspapers as a quid pro quo for knighthoods and subsequently peerages’?
‘I never asked a Prime Minister for anything.’
‘Is it not true that you and the Chancellor of the Exchequer [Churchill], were frequent dining companions’?
‘I have no recollection of any dinners with Churchill but that might be the brandy.’
‘Do you recall a dinner party at the home of Mr and Mrs Duff Cooper’? (1)
‘I don’t remember, but my wife says I was there.’
‘In November 1924 you dined with Churchill on the evening he became Chancellor and you attended his 52 birthday in November that year.’
‘Absolutely no idea.’
‘Allow me to jump to WWII. After Churchill became Prime-Minister he appointed you Minister of Aircraft production.'(2)
‘I have no memory of that whatsoever.’
‘You also accompanied Churchill on a number of over-see trips. Was that an appropriate relationship between a sitting Prime Minister and the man known as the first baron of Fleet Street’?
‘If an editor or publisher has an opportunity to meet with a Head of Government you go. It would be rude not to.’
‘Lord Beaverbrook in 1945 General Election you once again threw the support of your newspapers behind Churchill. Was this in exchange for a promise of a favourable consideration of your ambition to buy the News Chronicle’?
‘I don’t ask any politician to scratch my back.’
‘But you were seeking to influence the Head of Government’?
‘If I were seeking influence I would have supported Attlee not Churchill. Labour won by a landslide’.
‘After the war you continued to lavish hospitality upon Churchill at your homes in Britain, Jamaica and the South of France.’
‘I don’t recall it was a long time ago.’
‘Did Churchill ever go riding on a horse you had borrowed from the Metropolitan Police?'(3)
‘I beg your pardon…’
At this point Leveson adjourned for lunch at his club!
(1) Influential Tory at the time.
(2) Beaverbrook was Minister of Aircraft Production.
(3) Obvious reference to Murdoch’s protege, Rebekah Brooks, who was supposed to have done so when riding with friend P.M. David Cameron.
Ref: Daily Mail/article/ 26.4.2012.