It’s taken him a few weeks, but David Cameron is beginning to show signs of rising to the challenge phone hacking has posed to him him and his government.
In remarkably noisy and at time angry exchanges in the Commons during PMQs, the prime minister showed he has now found an answer for most of Labour’s questions. These include:
- The public inquiry. All three parties now agree on this, and Cameron started the ball rolling today, announcing Lord Justice Leveson to head it.
- Rebekah Brooks’ position. Saying he would have accepted her resignation is not the same as calling for her head, but it is as close as Cameron can feasibly get.
- The BSkyB bid. Cameron still insts the legal processes have to be followed, but he now says he would like News Corp to drop the bid, telling them to “get their house in order”. To suggest Jeremy Hunt still has the freedom to accept the bid now seems unfeasible, but at least Cameron is on the side of public opinion.
- Media regulation. He says this should be “independent” rather than Ed Miliband’s preferred “self-regulation”. This coud even put him ahead of the Labour leader in terms of where the public is on the issue.
This is what happened to BSkyB’s shares just after the government announced it would back Labour’s motion on Wednesday calling for Rupert Murdoch to abandon his bid for the shares in the company he does not already own:
This live blog was published on Tuesday July 12th.
MPs on the home affairs select committee questioned senior members of the Metropolitan police service about phone hacking. This morning, John Yates and Andy Hayman were both questioned. Sue Akers, in charge of Operation Weeting, the current investigation into hacking, was the last to testify.
14.25: Akers has now finished. She had a much smoother ride than Hayward or Yates – unsurprisingly given her investigation is ongoing.
Here is the final roundup of what happened today:
- Yates admitted he spent only eight hours reviewing the 11,000 documents collated by the first investigation when deciding not to review it. He admitted “there was an element” of doing the bare minimum of work when making this decision;
- Yates refused to bow to calls for his resignation, saying he played a “tiny part” int he whole affair;
- Hayman rebutted claims he refused to push his investigation further because News International journalists had details of an affair he was having, calling the allegation “terribly grubby”;
- Hayman said his role as a columnist for The Times did not reflect on his role as a policeman, saying it had been a “boyhood dream” to be a journalist;
- Operation Weeting, the current investigation into hacking, will contact all the 4,000 people who appear in the notebook of Glenn Mulcaire, the private investigator previously used to hack phones by the News of the World. But only 170 have so far been contacted.
That’s the end of our live blog
The string of allegations made by the Guardian about the ways in which News International reporters and investigators targeted Gordon Brown are extraordinary. They include:
- Brown and his wife’s Sarah’s names appearing in Glenn Mulcaire’s notebook;
- the hacking of Brown’s accountant’s computers to obtain personal financial information;
- the conning of lawyers at top City firm Allen & Overy to hand over personal legal details;
- the blagging of Abbey National employee’s to get Brown’s bank account details.
Westminster is in tumult. In the last hour, allegations of phone hacking, corruption and other journalistic misdeeds at News International have developed significantly.
Here is the latest:
Andy Coulson, former head of communications to David Cameron in Number 10, has been arrested for phone hacking and corruption. This came less than an hour after a press conference at which David Cameron came close to calling for Rebekah Brooks’ resignation.
Andy Coulson (c) Getty Images
11.56: We’re going to shut down the live blog now, but keep an eye on the FT website for regular updates on this story throughout the day. Here is a final roundup of today’s events:
- Andy Coulson, the former head of communications to David Cameron, has been arrested on charges of phone hacking and corruption.
- David Cameron has defended his decision to appoint Coulson, saying he wanted to give him a second chance.
- But Cameron came close to calling for the head of Rebekah Brooks, News International’s chief executive, saying if he had been offered her resignation he would have taken it.
- There will be two public enquiries into phone hacking: one led by a judge looking at specific allegations of hacking; the other at wider media ethics.
- The second, broader enquiry will look at a replacement for the Press Complaints Commission, marking an effective end to the PCC.
Apparently sensational news from News International – this Sunday will see the last edition of the News of the World. Drastic action, so it seems, to distance the company once and for all from the hacking saga.
One note of caution: Michael White at the Guardian predicts this is a move to help the company streamline operations, and that it will launch a seven-day Sun, which would be the NotW in all but name.
I have no idea whether that is the case. But for now, here is NI’s full statement:
News International today announces that this Sunday, 10 July 2011, will be the last issue of the News of the World.
I wrote yesterday that David Cameron and the Tories in general are finding themselves on the wrong side of public opinion over phone hacking. Some think it is far worse than that.
Peter Oborne has written columns in both the Spectator and the Telegraph today ripping into Cameron and his government for their ties to News International. In a piece for The Telegraph headlined David Cameron is in the sewer because of his News International friends, Oborne says phone hacking will be as damaging for Cameron as Iraq was for Tony Blair. He says:
David Cameron, who has returned from Afghanistan as a profoundly damaged figure, now faces exactly such a crisis. The series of disgusting revelations concerning his friends and associates from Rupert Murdoch’s News International has permanently and irrevocably damaged his reputation.
David Cameron did not have an easy PMQs today. Ed Miliband took the most of the opportunity and made him squirm over phone hacking at the News of the World.
There is no reason Labour should necessarily be making the running on this: it is essentially a non-political matter that politicians could unite behind to give journalists a good kicking. And that’s what Cameron tried to do: backing calls for a public inquiry into the allegations and inviting the other party leaders for talks on how that inquiry should proceed.
The problem is that he is on the back foot about other elements of this story: the bid by News Corp for BSkyB and his relationship with both Andy Coulson and Rebekah Brooks.
Coverage as it happened of Wednesday’s prime minister’s questions and the parliamentary debate on phone hacking at the News of the World. The debate followed shock allegations that the tabloid hacked into the mobile phone of murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler.
The Guardian yesterday ran a fascinating story on their front page about how Sir Gus O’Donnell, head of the civil service, had “blocked” an attempt by Gordon Brown to hold a judicial review into phone hacking. We followed up the story on ft.com this morning.
Here are a few extra details which did not make the final cut and may be of interest:
So far the News of the World phone hacking affair has run largely along party lines. Labour MPs have lined up to call for various inquiries and investigations, while the Tories and Lib Dems have kept largely silent, with Number 10 issuing denials that Andy Coulson knew anything about the hacking that we do know took place.
Today that changed. A fired up Commons has voted unanimously to refer the matter to the committee on standards and privileges, the most powerful Commons committee, and one which has the power to subpoena witnesses.