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Sunday, July 10, 2011

End of the World

Jonathan Calder has already cornered the line that the News of the World has made its excuses and left, however that is clearly not the end of the matter.

Wherever one looks today everybody is talking about the newspaper and the phone-hacking saga that centred on its offices but is apparently not the sole and exclusive preserve of that title. From behind its firewall, the Sunday Times claims that at least nine journalists and three police officers could be jailed in connection with the News of the World phone hacking scandal. If they have committed a crime then that would be the appropriate way forward.

Of equal interest is the political fall-out. The Observer focuses on the judgement of David Cameron in hiring former News of the World Editor, with the claim by Paddy Ashdown that he had warned No 10 only days after the general election of "terrible damage" to the coalition if he employed Andy Coulson in Downing Street. They also say that Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg received similar briefings to those given to Ashdown before the election, which he raised with Cameron, only to be rebuffed by the prime minister, who insisted that it was right to give Coulson a "second chance".

However, if Ed Miliband thinks that he has an easy target in Andy Coulson's links with the Prime Minister, he needs to think again. Tony Blair and Gordon Brown of course, notoriously courted Rupert Murdoch, but more damaging is the leaked e-mail revealed by the New Statesman in which Ed Miliband's director of strategy, Tom Baldwin, warned Labour spokespeople to back off on the affair.

They say that an e-mail to all shadow cabinet teams warns Labour spokespeople to avoid linking hacking with the BSkyB bid, to accept ministerial assurances that meetings with Rupert Murdoch are not influencing that process, and to ensure that complaints about tapping are made in a personal, not shadow ministerial, capacity:

The circular, sent by a Labour press officer on 27 January, states: "Tom Baldwin has requested that any front-bench spokespeople use the following line when questioned on phone-hacking. BSkyB bid and phone-tapping . . . these issues should not be linked. One is a competition issue, the other an allegation of criminal activity."

It goes on: "Downing Street says that Cameron's dinners with Murdoch will not affect Hunt's judgement. We have to take them at their word."

Referring separately to the phone-hacking allegations, the memo states: "We believe the police should thoroughly investigate all allegations. But this is not just an issue about News International. Almost every media organisation in the country may end up becoming embroiled in these allegations."

It adds: "Front-bench spokespeople who want to talk about their personal experiences of being tapped should make it clear they are doing just that – speaking from personal experience."

The guidance concludes with the warning, "We must guard against anything which appears to be attacking a particular newspaper group out of spite."

There is no room for moralising politicians in this affair. As David Cameron said yesterday, they were all in it together. What needs to happen now is action to punish wrongdoers and install safeguards to ensure that abuse does not reoccur. Whether that happens is the real test of how sincere all of the politicians are being in their condemnation of the hacking activity.
This whole affair is so typical of how regulation does not work and which also created such a mess of world finance.
Is there anybody able to regulate anymore ?
Or oversee the regulators ?
Peter, I think you meant to refer to Ed Miliband, not Dsvid (though I still have difficulty believing that it's ed that's the leader too!)
Oops! :)
Jonathan Calder has already cornered the line that the News of the World has made its excuses and left
But I think I beat him to coining "Rebekah Brooks made her excuses ... and stayed".
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