Another day, another slew of staggering developments in the News of the World phone hacking scandal: Rebekah Brooks revealed there will be “worse revelations to come”; The Guardian reported that “millions of emails” may have been deleted by News International executives to cover their tracks; Andy Coulson was arrested; David Cameron announced there will be a full judge-led inquiry; and Ed Miliband branded the PCC a “toothless poodle”.
More on the latest NI revelations later, but first to Mr Cameron, for whom this was another day to forget at the end of his week from Hell, forced into making a sheepish statement to the press in Downing Street, watching his former communications chief arrested and his premises searched, and harangued by the lobby for his judgement over Coulson.
Yet by this evening, it appeared the prime minister was distancing himself from the judgement call over Coulson, with Sky News’s Adam Boulton revealing that the “senior adviser close to David Cameron” that Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger had spoken to about Coulson’s probity was Steve Hilton – and, according to Boulton, “whatever was said, that was not passed on to the prime minister”.
At his morning press conference, journalist after journalist pressed him on the Coulson question, wanting to know what he asked him of his past; what Coulson told him; why he trusted him; why he’s still close to him; why he’s still friends with him; why, after further revelations post-2007, did he bring him into Downing Street in May 2010… Cameron’s “second chance” defence wearing thin, his slickness not washing – though he did, finally, say something about Rebekah Brooks, namely that he would have accepted her resignation.
The clear political winner, today as every other day this week, was Ed Miliband, whose demand for a judge-led inquiry Mr Cameron finally acceeded to this morning. Earlier, the Leader of the Opposition led the way with a call for widescale reform of media regulation – branding the Press Complaints Commission a “toothless poodle” that “cannot restore trust in self-regulation” and should be “put out of its misery”.
There has, however, been some criticism of Mr Miliband over his own links to the Murdoch empire – which he confronted head on today, insisting that he had asked chief spinner Tom Baldwin “whether he engaged in any illegal activities”, and asked him about Lord Ashcroft’s revelations of impropriety, which Baldwin “absolutely denies”; in contrast, the prime minister has still to disclose exactly what questions he asked Coulson, and what Coulson told him.
Back to News International, and Sky News’s Sophie Ridge – a former News of the World journalist – reported tonight that NI chief executive Rebekah Brooks told NotW staff worse revelations are on there way, and that was why they had to close down the paper, adding that “in a year you’ll understand why these decisions were taken”.
It has been reported that staff email and internet access has been limited, with staff reportedly saying they “don’t appreciate being treated like criminals”, telling Brooks to her face she “should be sacrificing her own job” instead of “sacrificing hundreds of journalists for herself” – to which she is said to have replied “you may be angry with me – I understand… but I’m really angry with the people behind this, I feel betrayed”.
The other main development tonight is the Guardian’s revelations that police are investigating the suspected deletion of millions of emails by a senior executive, contradicting claims from NI that they would be “co-operating fully with police”. As well as the deletions, the Guardian say NI have “infuriated police” by leaking sensitive information – despite telling them they would keep it confidential – and are at risk of prosecution for perverting the course of justice “by trying to hide the contents of a senior reporter’s desk” after he was arrested earlier this year.
Also today, there were further reports the News Corp/BSkyB takeover deal “could collapse” in the wake of the scandal, with institutional investors saying the prospect of a deal happening soon is “fading”; and on the campaign front, an appeal has been launched to fund a detailed poll of public opinion on Rupert Murdoch – you can donate to the campaign here.
• There will be a full recap of all the week’s momentous developments in Look Left tomorrow.