Former Liberal Democrat MP Chris Huhne, who earlier this year spent two months in jail for perverting the course of justice, has slammed Rupert Murdoch’s media empire over its role in putting him behind bars.
In the first instalment of a new weekly Guardian column, the one-time energy secretary claims the Australian billionaire tycoon “has used his media muscle to bulldoze a way for his business interests”.
Huhne was jailed in March alongside his ex-wife Vicky Pryce over a 2003 speeding incident. In the article, he says he is “not proud” of his own behaviour, but adds that a “new aggression” in the tabloid press contributed to his eventual imprisonment.
The News of the World, which was shut down in 2011 amid the phone hacking scandal, allegedly hired a retired policeman to put Huhne under “extensive surveillance”, after the newspaper heard he was having an affair.
Huhne adds that another of Murdoch’s title, the Sunday Times, “groomed” his ex-wife until she released details of his speeding points. Political editor Isabel Oakeshott “bought [Pryce] dinners, sent flowers, offered breaks at smart hotels, and reassured her that she would not face any unpleasant consequences (such as prison)”.
The former MP told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme that in his eyes, the events surrounding the Murdoch press were “payback” for his backing of the phone hacking investigation.
His article concludes, “Ultimately, the new media aggression is not just a problem for those individuals directly affected, it is a problem for us all.
“Media ownership must be more diverse because it is the lifeblood of public debate. If competition policy is not enough, then we should have statutory limitations or even help for small media outfits (as other countries do).
“It is not only votes that make a democracy, but voices too.”