Rupert Murdoch's News International launched a campaign of bullying against senior Liberal Democrats in an attempt to force through the company's bid for BSkyB, high-level sources have told the Observer.If this is true, and if the reports of the company conducting surveillance on the lawyers of people it had wronged are true, it suggests that News International's activities went far beyond anything that can be described as journalism.
Lib Dem insiders say NI officials took their lobbying campaign well beyond acceptable limits and even threatened, last autumn, to persecute the party if Vince Cable, the business secretary, did not advance its case.
According to one account from a senior party figure, a cabinet minister was told that, if the government did not do as NI wanted, the Lib Dems would be "done over" by the Murdoch papers, which included the now defunct News of the World as well as the Sun, the Times and the Sunday Times.
The accounts are only now coming to light, say sources, because the minister involved feared the potential for damage to the party, which was already suffering a dramatic slide in popularity after going into coalition with the Tories.
As Phillip Blond tweeted the other day, it sounds more like Sicily than London.