Friday, July 22, 2011

Hacking: what did they know?

If the Murdochs thought their appearance before the parliamentary culture committee would have sated those waiting for their blood, they are wring. Today's revelations that James Murdoch knew about the payments to Gordon Taylor when he claimed otherwise is likely only the start of an unravelling of their defence.

What Rupert Murdoch, James Murdoch and Rebekah Brooks said they knew abut hacking in public seems flimsy. What David Cameron knew about what Andy Coulson knew also isn't clear and poses questions about why the then prospective PM was so desperate to employ the ex- News of the World man when it was clear there were doubts about his suitability.

The Tories have tried to divert attention to Labour and Ed Miliband's press chief Tom Baldwin. There is no evidence that The Times acted improperly, or that Baldwin did. That he worked at a News International title isn't enough to sling mud. It is quite different to Andy Coulson who had already been forced to resign from his editorship of the News of the World because of phone hacking. The Tory attacks on Baldwin smack of desperation.

The questions about the Murdochs will continue and so will those to Cameron. Why wasn't Coulson properly vetted? Again, the suspicion that Cameron knew more than he is letting on still smoulders. Hacking has damaged Cameron's credibility permanently and has awakened Miliband from his slumber. The political sparring between the two should be different now. The Telegraph is no longer unconditionally supportive of Cameron. 

While it is clear that those at the top of News International, the police and government probably knew more about this than they have let on, who ends up paying the ultimate price for hacking is unclear. The police have paid a heavy price and that will only get worse as the investigation into bribes uncovers more corruption. The price for Cameron hasn't been set.

Cameron can only hope that what he gained in employing Coulson, the support of News International and a helping hand into government, is worth what he could lose when eventually the dirty laundry has all been aired in public. 

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