Pie and machinations on FCC's Murdoch night menu

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 24 July, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 24 July, 2011, 12:00am


The lagers were flowing and the drama ran high as all eyes were glued to the big screen. Perhaps a sight to be expected in Wan Chai on the night of the World Cup final.

But Tuesday night's spectators, huddled in a packed bar at the Foreign Correspondents' Club, had gathered for a rarer sight - the live broadcast of Rupert Murdoch's fall from grace.

High-profile figures from the worlds of finance, business and, of course, journalism were not going to miss the quizzing of the media baron.

After all, it is not every day you get to see one of the world's richest and most powerful people, exposed, questioned and scrutinised live on television.

Also facing the music before a UK parliamentary committee were his son - and expected heir to the media empire - James, and former News of the World editor Rebekah Brooks.

'The emperor's lost his clothes. A month ago he was this terrifying figure,' said a prominent shipping lawyer perched at the bar.

'Now he's an old man,' his friend, a hedge fund manager, interjected.

Around the watering hole, many felt it ironic that the tables had finally been turned on Murdoch.

'It just shows that democracy works. Whatever the outcome, it's a good thing if it just shows that nobody's sacred in this world,' Kerry McGlynn, former press secretary for governor Chris Patten, said.

'It was irresistible for me to witness such a dramatic episode in the history of journalism.'

One veteran journalist, listening intently among a group tucked against the back wall, reached the same conclusion.

'It's a transformational moment,' he said. 'The British press is never going to be the same again - hopefully' For many, the only other times they'd witnessed a news event broadcast live in the FCC - on the big screen with the volume up - was for 9/11 or the 1997 handover. And everyone had a take on the drama.

When Murdoch sombrely told the committee, 'This is the most humble day of my life,' a chorus of cackles burst out. Outside, the analysis and speculation continued during a cigarette break. Did Murdoch have dirt on all the MPs questioning him? Did you see how James was defending his father whenever he could?

One member summed up the thought on everyone's mind by asking: 'Who's winning?'

'Wait until they get to that redhead,' came the reply, referring to Rebekah Brooks.

But it was another fiery woman who stole the show that night. Close to the stroke of midnight, a commotion happened all too fast.

Soon, Wendi Deng's diving right hook to the head of a comedian who threw a foam pie at Murdoch was being replayed endlessly in slow motion as onlookers jeered.

'Top girl!' exclaimed shipping executive Tim Huxley. 'This is riveting TV...' And by then, the show really had it all - tension, irony and a shaving foam pie.