Allison Pearson, in the Telegraph, used a Harry Potter theme to turn the proceedings of the Murdoch hearing into comedy, but she did get off several good lines. I liked the “Galapagos turtle old” bit, and she properly paid tribute to the formidable Wendi Deng.
[O]ur first glimpse of the legendary media mogul was a huge anticlimax. Good grief, could that really be him? He was shockingly old. I mean, Galapagos tortoise old.
Despite the sharp pinstripe suit and fashionably strobing, chunky tie, the octogenarian Murdoch looked less like a master of the universe than one of those Ukrainian pensioners who is dragged from obscurity to testify about a suspected past as a war criminal.
â€œNope.â€ â€œNope.â€ And â€œnope.â€ Those were the News Corp chairmanâ€™s first three answers to a fusillade of passionately incensed questions from Tom Watson, who knows a great deal more about the News of the World and its reporting practices than its owner seemed to.
Seated at the right hand of the father was James Murdoch, who kept stepping in to speak for his faltering parent. â€œWe were not in full possession of the facts,â€ explained James.
Never mind the facts, in the opening 10 minutes Murdoch Senior seemed to be scarcely in possession of his faculties. In the interminable and embarrassing silences between question and answer, you wondered whether our star witness, with his head lolling forward, had actually nodded off.
The only sign of the force he once was came when Rupert began to bang out his answers on the pine table in front of him with flattened palms; a defiant, almost contemptuous sound that was perturbingly at odds with the words of regret and contrition coming out of his mouth.
At one point, Wendi Deng, who was seated just behind her husband, leant forward to try to stop him hitting the table. She just couldnâ€™t help herself; Rupertâ€™s unconscious drumbeat of defiance was clearly spoiling the carefully calibrated performance that both men were putting on to reassure their shareholders and save their business.
Wow, Wendi! Trust me, you donâ€™t want to mess with the Chinese-born third Mrs Murdoch. Immaculate in a coral pink jacket and polka dot skirt with killer heels, Wendi is two parts care nurse to three parts Ninja.
With her lovely head cocked alertly and her laser eyes drilling into Rupertâ€™s impertinent interrogators, you could almost read the thoughts running through her mind:
â€œHa! In my country, you take the fat Scottish MP man, leave him tied to bamboo in sun for five days, cut out his liver then serve him with soft noodle!â€ Weâ€™ll come back to scary Ninja Wendi in a minute. …
[Then, comes the pie attack]
There was uproar in the committee room. Louise Mensch was caught mid-question, her mouth forming a horrified O of astonishment when, suddenly, came a flying, vengeful form. Pow! Kaboom! It was Ninja Wendi.
For over two hours, Mrs Murdoch had looked like she was longing to punch someone and here was a chance. Not Tom Watson, sadly, but the next best thing. A fantastic hook to the assailantâ€™s jaw left you in no doubt that the killer Murdoch instinct has not passed to the son, but to the missus.