Murdoch squirms as the unions bite back at NI

While Rupert Murdoch was confronting the Leveson Inquiry, the unions were returning to Wapping. NORMAN GILLER hails the arrival of the cavalry, and bids farewell to another boxing champ

There was so much attention at the Leveson Inquiry on Rupert Murdoch’s weasly “it wasn’t me guv” cover-up that an important development at Wapping went largely unreported this week. The NUJ is back at News International, with a vengeance.

For those of us who were around in the dark days of the 1980s when the printers were smashed into oblivion by Murdoch, this is a sensational step back in time.

There could be proper trades union representation at NI titles for the first time in 25 years

It is 25 years since the NUJ had a voice at News International. But now what started out as a whisper is becoming a roar as more and more journalists sign up for the previously barred union.

I am told “several” sports journalists are among the recruits, with The Times chapel the strongest and showing the way to their Sun colleagues. And to rub it in for union basher, Rupert the British Association of Journalists has also laid a strong foundation behind the Wapping walls and are fighting the management on several fronts.

There has been increased interest since Murdoch pere made what many consider unnecessarily wounding remarks at the Leveson Inquiry about the News of the World, calling it an “aberration”. I wonder what exceptional sports room servants like Bill Bateson, Fred Burcombe, David Norrie and more recently Paul McCarthy and Neil Ashton would have made of that dismissal of their work?

It was like watching the Rumble in the Jungle when Murdoch came face to face with barrister Robert Jay on the second day of his testimony. Roop was on the ropes for much of the time, and was later accused of a “shameful lie” by long-serving News International lawyer Tom Crone.

Tom Hendy, a lawyer representing the NUJ, came in with some late rope-a-dope tactics and had Murdoch wriggling uncomfortably at the realisation that the Union he thought he had gagged was back with new-found muscle. Hendy pressed him on the NUJ’s absence from Wapping, and Murdoch earned only scorn when he cited the News International-funded “staff association” as a suitable buffer for unhappy staff.

Murdoch could not resist one final crass swipe at the union as he finished his evidence: “I’m sure the people who have been arrested were once members of the NUJ. It didn’t stop them doing what they did.”

It was as riveting as any TV soap. Confrontation Street. Murdoch conceded that a conscience clause – promoted by the NUJ – would be a good idea, giving reporters the right to refuse to submit copy that they considered unethical. If that is introduced, I wonder how many sports stories will not find their way into the paper?

We will soon have a new punctuation mark in our newspaper world: Post- and Pre-Leveson.


Spinks: Baby-faced but packed a punch

FAREWELL TERRY SPINKS, who was an Olympic flyweight champion with a heavyweight heart. He provided many a boxing writer with memorable stories, and in recent years battled against ill health with a champion’s courage.

Was it really more than 56 years ago when, as a copyboy, I came running from the Evening News tape-room shouting that Terry Spinks had won the Olympic gold in Melbourne?

Reg Gutteridge, who had campaigned along with the Evening Standard’s George Whiting and the Evening Star‘s Walter Bartleman for 18-year-old Spinks to be included in the British Olympic team, jumped – false leg and all – on to his desk whooping.

Terry and I became close pals, and I don’t mind admitting I have shed a tear at his passing.

For me, he will always be the Golden Boy. Rest easy, champ.


Thu May 10: SJA Ladbrokes Lunch with former England cricket captain Alec Stewart. Click here for booking details.