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If Cameron does not order broader press inquiry it will expose lack of leadership and moral courage

Posted on 5 July 2011 | 10:07am

The latest phone-hacking allegations are without doubt THE media story of the week, and possibly the tipping point which will make it one of the media stories of the decade, which ushers in a genuine inquiry into the practices of newspapers, and forces change amid the extensive criminality.

As I said here last night, the disgust and revulsion felt by decent people at the idea of a murder victim’s phone being hacked, and messages deleted which gave her family some hope she might still be alive, takes this whole murky saga to a new, hideous and, frankly, quite evil depth.

I was with Boris Johnson this morning to launch a London to Lisbon bike ride being done by four teenagers for Leukaemia and Lymphoma Research. There were some hard-bitten and experienced Fleet St photographers there to record the event. These men know a thing or two about what newspapers get up to in pursuit of a story. They were revolted at the latest revelations, and so is every other person I have heard speak about it.

The police having made such a hash of the first investigation into phone-hacking, News International having handled the issue so badly and so dishonestly, and politicians having been reluctant to get too involved, the strategy of all three seems to have been ‘let’s just will it away’. But as I have been saying for a long time, this was a story that was going to keep going until all three got to the very bottom of it. We thought the bottom of the barrel had already been reached. But no, every revelation takes us a little bit further towards somewhere marked absolute amorality.

Back when I was a journalist, I can remember then Culture Secretary David Mellor warning the press they were ‘drinking in the last chance saloon.’ The Press Complaints Commission was born, a body of the press, by the press, for the press, and one of the reasons self-regulation has failed, and the press have been drinking away merrily in many saloons since.

But the Milly Dowler revelations, and the now entirely believable suggestions of similar activity concerning the Soham murder victims, mean there is no way David Cameron can avoid ordering some kind of broader inquiry into the culture and practices of newspapers once the police investigations are complete. If he does avoid doing so, it will be an enormous failure of leadership and moral courage.

  • Colchester1648

    This whole episode leaves a bad taste in the mouth. It was bad enough when the likes of Sienna Miller and John Prescott were hacked, but this is beyond the pale. Unfortunately I fear Cameron may be too defensive tomorrow, and if Ed brings it up, will just accuse him of jumping on bandwagons again. I hope that Cameron at least acknowledges the severity of these allegations, and that a full inquiry will be launched. I think it’s important that this isn’t made a party issue by all sides, but something they can all agree needs to be sorted.

  • Cravenwalk

    I completely agree – he needs to keep Murdoch sweet for his own obvious ends; but the balance has been shifted by this abomination. Going against public opinion on this would have a more detrimental effect on his election hopes than even Murdoch could! Could this affect Murdoch plans for BSKYB?

  • Ed has at last spoken out. Andrew Neil has brought the P.C.C. to book very well on Daily Politics.
    Hopefully visceral disgust will bring about statutory regulation of the press where platitudinous reviews have proven themselves to be beyond useless.

  • The best way forward is for an investigation on all hacking allegations from phone hacking to computer/ twitter hacking.  

  • Olli Issakainen

    Rebekah Brooks was the editor of the NoW in March 2002. Andy Coulson was the deputy editor of the NoW in March 2002.
    The phone-hacking of Milly Dowler happened then.
    Did Ms Brooks and Mr Coulson know what happened in their newsroom? If they did not know, they were incompetent.
    Rebekah Brooks is now, of course, the chief executive of News International.
    She hired Greg Miskiw who in turn hired the private investigator Glenn Mulcaire.
    Under Ms Brooks´s watch the NoW also hired another private investigator who ran a network which stole confidental information from British Telecom.
    23 journalists from the NoW hired the investigator on a total of 228 times.
    In 2003 Ms Brooks admitted that “we have paid the police for information in the past”.
    According to a journalist use of private investigators was OFFICIALLY sanctioned. One reporter has said that ANDY COULSON actively encouraged him to hack into voicemail.
    And according to journalists under the editorship of Ms Brooks cash bribes to police officers were paid on behalf of the paper.
    Time for the truth has now arrived!

  • Chris lancashire

    Let’s just keep  a sense of proportion shall we? This is most certainly not “the story of the decade”. Revolting, certainly and requiring police action, yes.

    And let’s not try to turn it into party politics. All three party leaders are wary of News International and understandably wish to keep their distance. Pity Mr Blair didn’t when he was visiting News Corps bashes on exotic islands.

  • Stevo

    So-just who was signing the cheques for these “investigators”? They must have been huge.Are wthey really saying that the editor or deputy editor knew nothing?Where are the cheque requesition forms and who signed them off?I bet Call-me Dave is wondering just who is going to enjoy his turkey with this Christmas……Once again monumental lack of judgement-but I bet Ed lets him off again……

  • Stevo

    Me again-for the first time ever I have written to mylocal  MP-Dominic Grieve QC MP (the Attorney General)about this matter.I have asked him what he proposes to do? I wonder if he will reply? (I have never written to my MP before……………..) I will keep yopu informed(but I will not hold my breath)!

  • MicheleB

    Spot the possibilities!
    “And according to journalists”

    not to mention the mis-labelling 🙂

  • tess

    Rebekah Brooks was editor at the time, Andy Coulson under her command (or thumb as the case may be), and the journalists involved on the bottom tier. IF they did not know what was going on re:phone hacking, then at the very least they are guilty of bad judgement (hiring journalists capable of pulling the wool so far over their eyes they were blinded) or they were incompetent (not knowing what journalists employed by them were up to). Either way, it is not looking good. When I worked as a journalist, my Editor knew at all times what stories I was working on and indeed, where they came from. That RB and AC knew nothing of it seems inconceivable to me but I am doubtful we will get to the bottom of this, it seems Murdoch and his organisations just hold too much power. DC SHOULD do the right thing and call for a full investigation and the PCC SHOULD be given a set of gnashers so it can bite hard but what should happen isn’t always what does. Before we get anywhere, the cosy camaraderie (or Cameronaderie if you like) at the very top needs to be smashed. DC has been good pals with RB for years and passionately defended A Coulson until his resignation. Will this be the ConDem leader’s biggest u-turn yet? Let’s hope so, for the sake of the poor Dowlers and others like them but I remain doubtful, not only does our PM seem to lack the courage of his convictions, he seems to lack any convictions at all where his friends are concerned. We’re all in this together eh? Yeah, righto!

  • SG

    Would like to echo all of Chris Lancashire’s comments. Trying to turn this into a political issue is really quite pathetic.

  • MicheleB

    News this lunchtime that even despite last night’s news, Jeremy Hunt still can’t stop Murdoch taking over BSkyB because of the way Vince Cable has drafted legislation.

    More re the latter, wouldn’t it have been in his remit to make sure Bombardier got the contract that’s gone to Siemans?  As the job has gone abroad due to cost differences could he really have done nothing?
    Mr Clean to Mr Hasbeen ?

  • Hoping for a tipping point on this. 38 degrees, who achieved much at the time of the forestry farce, are petitioning re Murdoch’s Empire.
    Hugh Grant’s experience is doing the rounds again – surely Andy Coulson, Cameron and not “just” Rebekah Brooks are absolutely in on this.

  • tess

    In response to SG:
    I agree that trying to turn this into a political issue would be pathetic however, as the victims of this scandal are not only celebrities but pubic figures (including high ranking police officers and politicians of all political leanings) and worst of all, it seems ordinary members of the public who would never have come under media scrutiny otherwise, I believe it SHOULD be a political issue. Questions need to be asked about the sway Murdoch holds, not only with this Government, but with the previous Government too. I think the alleged hacking of Milly Dowler’s phone by NOTW is nothing short of evil, the lowest of the low and all involved should be punished and held to account.
    However, my personal opinion is that it will be very difficult for the ConDems to be impartial when dealing with this matter, especially given the close ties between our PM and News International execs.It needs a full public inquiry led by impartial people who know how to investigate thoroughly and will leave no stone unturned in the quest for the truth.

  • Watoop

    What an ugly, ugly mess. Police, politicians, journalists “all in it together” to keep unlawful acts buried. The whole thing reeks to high heaven. How can we ever get back to a situation where we have any faith or trust in those who rule, represent or report on our lives?

  • Gilliebc

    Chris, a whole proper and I think a good comment from you.  So please feel free to disregard much/most of my comment in reply to yours on a previous blog.

  • MicheleB

    Another in response to SG (and Chris Lancashire)

    The main reason some (including myself) are putting a Con spin on this is that the nature of the latest revelations is of a very different sort to a few celebs and their gossip.  Nope, today’s is nothing to do with the Cons but were they convinced (or even bothered) about the integrity of Coulson’s character?  Were Coulson’s own reasons for being in post anything to do with what he could influence in the BSkyB matter?

    You HAVE to admit there is a different temperature about recent revelations nd today’s.

    This follows MONTHS of Con in Chief having to have both arms literally twisted up his back and out of their sockets before he would get rid of Andy Coulson.

    Now that might be because he has some unlikely level of loyalty to an employee or it could equally be bacause of the value Coulson gave that nobody else could.

    You work it out.

  • MicheleB

    I’m sure it was quite easy for NoW hacks to explain the ‘exclusives’ they managed to get hold of.

    They didn’t claim expenses for an already-dishonoured and jailed private ‘tec’ they called it inside info from the Police.

    Oh there I go ….. guessing.

  • MicheleB

    Follow-up to mine of a few minutes ago; the approval/Liking  throughout this thread for any mention of the Police being as corrupt as NoW hacks and ‘tecs’ is stupefying.

  • Dave Simons

    I definitely agree with your second sentence. We’re only eighteen months into the decade so it’s a bit early to judge.

  • Robert

    Only when we see a nice long list of Conservative politicians whose phones were hacked……….and not before then………will it be a non-party political scandal.

  • Quinney

    When it was “cash for honours” it was dawn raids and people arrested in pyjamas!
    Ed Milliband should go for the jugular over this one, he should demand a public enquiry, he should demand that parliament will now be judge and jury re the press He should also demand that Ofcom block the BSkyB bid on the grounds that Murdoch is not a fit and proper person.

  • KDouglas

    Why stop there?  The government is complicit – it has rolled over for the BSkyB takeover by Murdoch, in the full knowledge that his empire is one completely without ethics.  Cameron has been unashamedly close to the main players in the phone hacking scandal.  Each day brings some new revelation as to how far the corruption extends.  He will have some trouble explaining this one away.  

  • ambrosian

    Maybe this should not be a party political issue and one would hope that all parties would support some form of public inquiry.
    However, whilst virtually all Labour MPs supported Chris Bryant’s request for an emergency debate tomorrow (which was granted), most Tory MPs sat on their hands.

  • Robert

    So Ford have pulled their advertising from the News of the World.

    But at the time of posting the Co-op are still in there. I have already e-mailed Co-op customer services to ask if they approve of NOTW hacking the phone of a murdered girl – approve by giving NOTW advertising revenue.

    And my dad’s ghost (187431) and the ghost of my uncle Bill (into Normandy on D-day plus 4 and worked all his life for the Co-op) will be hanging their heads in shame if Co-op adverts appear in the NOTW before heads roll.

    Come on Co-op – do the right thing by Milly Dowler, Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman.

    Oh – and yes – my Co-op membership card is sitting by the scissors as I type.

  • Gillian C.

    This story as awful as it is, is just another smoke-screen and distraction to give people something real and tangible to talk, write and generally twitter about.
    Does anyone seriously believe that Murdoch, with all the power over the MSM that he holds would have allowed any of this to become public knowledge if it didn’t suit his own purpose?  So what if he looses the NOW and the Brookes woman?  That’s a minor detail to him and his Ilk.  This will in no way affect their big and more important plans.  Whilst most people, not all, by any means are whittering-on about this one albeit serious issue, other more important changes are occuring right under our noses!
    Here’s one example.  Party politics in this country no longer exists on any meaningful level.  As the old saying goes, they are all the same, and now this is all too obvious.  I think it is quite telling that Murdoch pulled the rug from under Labour when GB was in charge.  Perhaps GB wouldn’t have followed orders as easily as Cameron and it has to be said TB before him!  Sorry AC but over the last year or so the scales have really fallen from my eyes and the eyes of many others also.  Most of the sheeple have yet to catch-on though!

    What we have in this country now is a one party state, totalitarianism.  The same applies to the USA.  I just happen to think this alone is much more important than “phone hacking” disgusting as that undoubtedly is.  But then it would need something fairly serious in order to distract and divert the attention of the easily led masses.  I would urge anyone who is fearful about the future not to dismiss my comments out of hand, but to stop thinking and talking about what you have been programmed to think, talk and write about.  Just think about things for yourself and weigh-up the situation yourself.  This does require thinking out-side the box you have been allocated though and may be difficult or nigh-on impossible for some, but please give it a try, for your own sake and that of your families.  There is much serious stuff going on, right now.

  • guest

    There are 11,000 pages of meticulous notes, all cross reference-able, and all with the instigator in the last column.

    Like a sort of excel spreadsheet in handwriting, detailing how murdoch basically runs the country

  • Km

    Guys whilst I share all your disgust it may be a bit niaive saying it isn’t a political issue when the gov have done an astonishing amount of covering up/ protecting. I feel just as critical of the party currently in opposition who used to be much better than they are now at gauging public mood and speaking for the populous, they should be as outraged as the rest of us. This isn’t just the decline of reporting and investigation, or the appalling abuse of a family’s suffering, it’s a demonstration too of how out of touch from ‘the people’ both sides of party politics are. Very very sad.

  • MicheleB

    Sorry to be all over another thread.
    I’ll throw up if we find any ‘tecs hacked the McCanns.

    You were very correct on Newsnight tonight AC, I felt so sorry for the journo opposite (sorry I can’t recall his name, it’s been another long day) as he’d come to realise that the project and the unity that had been part of it all really hadn’t been worth what it took, I hope he’s got someone to give him a hug.

  • MicheleB

    Gilliebc “This story as awful as it is, is just another smoke-screen and
    distraction to give people something real and tangible to talk, write
    and generally twitter about.


    Does anyone seriously believe that
    Murdoch, with all the power over the MSM that he holds would have
    allowed any of this to become public knowledge if it didn’t suit his own
    purpose?  ”


    I’m very grateful Gillie for your summary of what you, someone that
    doesn’t know me (just as I hope others that you don’t know are similarly
    grateful) think I/we should be thinking.

    I don’t believe Murdoch has been engineer of what we are hearing about.

    I don’t think he directed people in the ‘hows of’ as I’m not that stupid 
    …. he just tasked them with end results and left the ‘how to’ up to
    them; he set them up to be responsible for their own actions.

    Clever?   Culpable?


    Oh I can’t help adding that some women have really gone for him because of all this.

  • Ehtch

    Westminster has run scared of News International’s set of monkeys, included those monkeys in the dark shadows employed by them, semi-off or totally off the books.

    Now the public is beginning to get educated by these bunch of total shits, and perhaps Westminster now will finally get off its backsides and really hammer them. The PPC? Give it a rest! Overpaid cowards. They were frightened to death of News International too, and did next to zilch. Look what went on with these reported FA stories from Lancaster Gate or Soho Square, or wherever they are based now? All frivellous tittle-tattle obtained, maybe by same means.

  • Ehtch

    As an aside, how was Boris yesterday? I like Boris – don’t like his politics, but I like him a lot, has a sense of humour I like. My type of Tory….

    This phone-hacking stuff is a Pandora’s Box, and has been so insiduous in the last decade, it has got to all corners and levels in its activity. It is as if modern technolgy has overpowered common sense and basic human dignity, and left it far behind in its dust.

  • Stevo

    No no no-lets make it party political-TB never employed Coulson as his press officer(effectivly his eyes ,ears and confidante) even though these reports were already in the media……and then was gutless enough not to sack him.Wonder i
    f Dave called Rupe to ask his permission to be outraged today???

  • Stevo

    Morning all-could be an interesting day-quick update-no reply from Dominic Grieve QC MP-my consituancy MP-not even an acknowledgement-wonder if he is busy drafting arrest warrants???

  • Nick smegg head

    According to NI this morning, they handed the payment to police emails in January. Andy Coulson resigned on 21 January. I think that Cameron knew about it and lied to the parliament to protect his own backside.

    I wrote to my MP, a Tory minister, if he believed in democracy he should ask for full public inquiry.

  • MicheleB

    Have you named the wrong person in your first line or am I missing an irony?

  • Gilliebc

    MicheleB,  I am not telling you or anyone else what they “should be thinking” that’s not my place.  I am getting a little tired of you mis-quoting me.  This is about the third or fourth time you have mis-quoted me.  You have mis-quoted other commenters also!  Please try and be more observant in the future.  Oh and you can cut-out the sarcasm as well, it demeans you/your comment.

  • MicheleB

    Your arrogant
    ……………..”Most of the sheeple have yet to catch-on though!”………….

    inspired the characterisation Gillie.

    Calm down dear.

  • MicheleB

    Wow!!!  No more NoW!  

    just more bleddy Sun

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  • Ehtch

    Nick Clegg is no Gerry Anderson’s Joe 90, not in a million years,

  • Ehtch

    Nick Clegg is no Gerry Anderson’s Joe 90, not in a million years,