Can British Prime Minister Cameron Shake Phone-Hacking Scandal's Taint?

By Marquand, Robert | The Christian Science Monitor, July 2, 2011 | Go to article overview
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Can British Prime Minister Cameron Shake Phone-Hacking Scandal's Taint?


Marquand, Robert, The Christian Science Monitor


Prime Minister David Cameron is under fire for his ties to Rupert Murdoch and for hiring a former New of the World editor who has become a central character in the phone-hacking investigation.

With forceful speech, mild contrition, and adroit argument on the floor of the Parliament today, British Prime Minister David Cameron sought to calm the swirling phone-hacking scandal that had members of Parliament recently calling for his resignation.

Mr. Cameron, who recalled Parliament in the scandal's heavy wake, became entangled in the affair due to his close ties with Rupert Murdoch, the News Corp. chairman whose News of the World (NotW) tabloid was shuttered after it was revealed the paper illegally intercepted the voice mail of 13-year-old murder victim Milly Dowler and was involved in hacking into the phones of celebrities, royalty, and ordinary Brits whose personal tragedies became tabloid fodder.

Cameron is also a close friend of Rebekah Brooks, who recently resigned as CEO of Mr. Murdoch's British newspaper arm. She once edited NotW, and hired another former NotW editor, Andy Coulson, as a key adviser. Both Ms. Brooks and Mr. Coulson have been arrested in connection with the phone hacking inquiry that has seen the resignations of New Corp. executives and British police officials over allegations of police payoffs and coverups.

"In hindsight," said Cameron, I "would not have hired" former media chief Coulson. If Coulson lied to him, he would face "severe criminal charges," Cameron said.

With "Murdochgate" so dominating public thinking in Britain, and Murdoch's testimony to Parliament yesterday watched in pubs and offices around the country, Cameron cut short a trip to Africa to return home and have the last word on the scandal before official Britain goes on summer holiday.

At the heart of the attack on Cameron by Labour Party leader Ed Miliband is the extend of the influence that Murdoch enjoyed within the highest levels of the Cameron government, and whether the prime minister acted inappropriately to cover up any wrongdoing by his former aide Coulson.

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