‘Mensch’s Men’ Show Characteristic Condescension

When Jonnie Marbles attacked Rupert Murdoch with a foam pie during Murdoch father and son’s appearance before a parliamentary committee last week, he chose a fine time to do it. It was just after Conservative MP Louise Mensch had asked James Murdoch a pointed question: “Can you just tell me whether or not the Taylor settlement included a confidentiality clause?” It turns out that the answer was yes, it did. Moreover, it has since turned out Murdoch’s testimony before the committee may have been “mistaken”.

The settlement in question referred to an out-of-court payout to Gordon Taylor, chief executive of the Professional Footballers' Association, whose phone was hacked into by News of the World reporters. But the answer was to be postponed as it was at precisely this moment that Jonnie Marbles walked onto history’s stage for his obligatory 15 seconds, thus immortalising Wendi Murdoch’s right fist, particularly in China. Here’s a 2006 New Yorker profile of Wendi Deng-Murdoch.

There is a literary angle to this story, and it is in the figure of Louise Mensch, MP, aka Louise Bagshawe, previously UK Young Poet of the Year (at the age of 18) and student of Anglo-Saxon and Norse at Oxford. According to the New Yorker, Mensch is not only married to the manager of Metallica and the Red Hot Chili Peppers, she’s also the pseudonymous writer of 14 chick-lit books under her maiden name, Louise Bagshawe. She makes no great claims for her books, most of which lately have been given catchy, one-word titles like Glitz, Passion, Desire and this year’s Destiny (review): “Obviously they have no redeeming literary merit at all,” she told The Times in a 2007 profile.

The Economist has dubbed Mensch the “surprise star” of the committee hearing, and this her finest moment:

Mrs Mensch, looking and sounding like a clever young prosecution barrister, reminded Mr Murdoch that he had said Les Hinton, a former chief executive of News International (News Corp’s British newspaper subsidiary), had resigned because he was the “captain of the ship” when wrongdoing took place. “Is it not the case, sir, that you are the captain of the ship”, she asked the elder Mr Murdoch? The magnate’s pride seemed piqued, and he rose to the bait. “Of a much bigger ship,” he rumbled.

Mrs Mensch did not blench. “It is a much bigger ship, but you are in charge of it. And as you said in earlier questions, you do not regard yourself as a hands-off chief executive, you work ten to 12 hours a day. This terrible thing happened on your watch. Mr Murdoch, have you considered resigning?”

“No,” said Mr Murdoch.

For all that, The Guardian’s Laura Barnett noted, both the New Yorker and The Economist couldn’t resist writing patronisingly of Mensch’s many accomplishments, as if she were “a mere flibbertygibbet whose every successful move as an MP deserves to be greeted with condescending surprise.”

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