British phone hacking scandal - News Of The World
The chief executive of a newspaper company resigns after allegations that her colleagues have hacked into the phone accounts of murder victims and their families; a Prime Minister moralises noisily in Parliament, trying to distract attention from the fact that he has been spending family holidays with this disgraced CEO, and that he appointed as his director of communications a man who employed those phone hackers; meanwhile, the country's most senior police officer is forced to admit that he, too, engaged someone implicated in the scandal -- a ruthless and abrasive tabloid journalist from the same newspaper company -- as his personal adviser. This is the United Kingdom we are talking about, not one of those southern European countries whose corruption Britons have traditionally found so amusing. It will be a long time before we can make any more jokes at the expense of Italy or Greece. After the revelations of the past week, the whole world has learned the shameful truth about modern Britain: that its leading politicians and policemen have been lining up to have their palms greased and images burnished by executives of a media empire guilty of deeply criminal -- and morally repugnant -- invasions of personal privacy. Rebekah Brooks, the former News of the World editor who stood down as chief executive of News International yesterday, has at least belatedly recognised the role she played in nurturing this culture. David Cameron, in contrast, has thrown Andy Coulson to the wolves rather than explain precisely why he admitted to his inner circle a man who, when he was editor of the same paper, presided over reporters who hacked the Royal family's mobile phones. The Prime Minister has also done his best -- unsuccessfully -- to deflect attention from the fact that he spent Christmas with Mrs Brooks and her husband, and that Mr Coulson visited Chequers as recently as March. In addition, he is planning a long-term diversionary strategy that could impose state regulation on all newspapers, including those that, unlike the News International titles, did not shower him in hospitality. Such a move will no doubt delight Gordon Brown, whose claim that Mrs Brooks had invaded his privacy -- delivered with theatrical fury to the House of Commons on Wednesday -- was undermined by the fact that he had subsequently attended her wedding and invited her to a slumber party at Chequers. In the middle of this chaos, Rupert Murdoch was forced to withdraw his bid for BSkyB. Mr Cameron duly attempted to take credit for this decision; but the truth is that it was his Government that allowed the bid to advance in the first place. Indeed, ministers gave every impression -- in between mouthfuls of canapÃ©s at News International parties -- of hoping that it would succeed. Our senior policemen, too, were determined not to miss out on the hospitality of Murdoch employees. Between September 2006 and June 2009, Sir Paul Stephenson, now the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, had seven dinners with Neil Wallis, a former deputy editor of the News of the World at the time hacking is alleged to have gone on. They must have been agreeable occasions, for in October 2009 Mr Wallis was engaged as Sir Paul's personal adviser -- an appointment the Commissioner failed to acknowledge publicly until he was forced to this week. Mr Wallis also advised John Yates, the police officer previously in charge of the Met's investigation into phone hacking. Even in Palermo, this would raise eyebrows.