Tuesday 10 December 2019

Public queue for eight hours to catch glimpse of Murdoch

Sam Marsden and Rosa Silverman

Rupert Murdoch's historic appearance before British MPs generated huge interest, with some people queuing eight hours to be in the same room as the media tycoon during his grilling.

The first members of the public arrived outside Portcullis House in Westminster at 6.30am and within hours the line extended along the side of the building.

Those in the queue included students, off-duty foreign journalists gripped by the phone hacking story, and even a Canadian theatre producer who described the Commons Culture, Media and Sport Committee hearing as "the best show in town".

Politics student Max Beckham, 21, got to Portcullis House for 6.30am and was the second person in the queue.

He said: "It's a historic day. I can't remember anything like it.

"I've always been interested in media and politics, and I live so close, that I thought it's a great opportunity to get the atmosphere and listen to the Murdochs in person."

Mr Beckham, from London, who is studying at York University and has just returned from a placement in Hong Kong, has been following developments in the phone hacking scandal for several years.

But he was particularly struck by yesterday's revelation that News of the World reporter-turned-hacking whistleblower Sean Hoare had been found dead in "unexplained circumstances".

"The turning point for me was last night, when the ex-News of the World journalist was found dead," he said.

"I thought that added a real dimension to it. I immediately thought of Dr David Kelly, although I'm not thinking of a conspiracy."

Andy Thompson, 40, managing director of Canadian theatre company The Virtual Stage, was on a working holiday to London to see West End shows and visit friends.

He decided to attend today's hearing after friends told him it was open to the public.

"This is the best show in town this afternoon," he said.

"How often do you get a chance to sit in a room with the Murdochs and Rebekah Brooks while they get grilled by MPs? It's a completely historic day to be in London.

"The Murdochs initially refused to come today, and now they're here."

Mr Thompson, from Vancouver, Canada, arrived in London on July 4, the day the first allegations emerged about murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler's phone being hacked.

He said he was fascinated by the theatricality of the committee hearing.

"What's interesting to me is the politics of it all - the MPs looking to impress the public with how amazingly angry they are," he said.

"I think it's going to be a very interesting spectacle.

"I'm not convinced about the truth being revealed. I think what will be interesting will be just watching people sweat, and what they don't say.

"I think what they don't say will probably reveal more than what they do say."

PA Media

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