Yates and Stephenson resign; Boris and Cameron remain – for now

Pressure is mounting on Boris Johnson and David Cameron over the phone hacking scandal tonight, following the resignations of the Metropolitan Police's top two.

Pressure is mounting on Boris Johnson and David Cameron over the phone hacking scandal tonight, with people asking how it’s the case the Met’s top two police officers have lost their jobs yet the country’s two leading Tory politicians – and hack-deniers – remain in place, unrepentant, unapologetic, and under fire from their own side.

Senior Labour figures today came as close as they could to calling for the prime minister to consider his position without calling on him to resign – with the London Mayor similarly under attack for his own failure to take phone hacking seriously.

Onto Mr Cameron shortly, but first to Mr Johnson, who, let it be recalled, only last year said (pp 22-25, pdf) of the phone hacking scandal:

“I am completely satisfied [with the Met’s handling of the allegations].”

“[Labour are raising this] simply in order to score party political points against the prime minister’s press spokesman.”

“I think it looks like a politically motivated put up job.”

“This is completely spurious and political.”

“You are trying to make a song and dance about nothing in my view.”

“This is a load of codswallop cooked up by the Labour Party.”

“As far as I can see, this is something that has been already substantially investigated, where no new and interesting facts have been brought into the public domain and which is being whipped up by the Guardian and the Labour Party.”

“I have every confidence that the police will come to the right conclusion.”

The Mayor held a hastily-convened press conference at City Hall this afternoon, in which he was repeatedly challenged by journalists over his past comments, to which he appeared, for once, lost for words. Humiliated, he admitted he had “misunderstood the severity of the allegations”, and that “it became obvious the scandal was far worse than previously indicated”.

His belated contrition, however, isn’t washing.

His predecessor, and challenger for the Mayoralty next year, Ken Livingstone, told BBC News 24:

“I wasn’t Mayor when it blew up it blew up in 2009 when the guardian exposed the scale of it… They’ve both gone [Yates and Stephenson]; the politicians remain… He [Boris] said it was a load of old codswallop…

“Even after the news that Milly Dowler’s phone had been hacked he was defending them and called for Rebekah Brooks to stay… It looks like this is a coalition between the Conservative Party and News International.”

For Mr Cameron, meanwhile, the pressure rises with each day, each hourunder attack from his own MPs for going to Africa in the middle of the crisis and under fire from the Opposition, with Ed Miliband again demanding to be told who knew what and when over Andy Coulson’s dodgy past, and calling once again on the prime minister once to apologise for bringing such an individual into Downing Street.

While in a devastating editorial, the normally loyal Daily Telegraph today says:

“Far from easing the pressure on David Cameron, Sir Paul’s departure increases it. For nearly a fortnight now, Downing Street has had to have information dragged from it about the closeness of the Prime Minister’s relationship with News International and, in particular, Rebekah Brooks, who became the latest News International executive to be arrested yesterday.

“Ever since Mr Cameron made the fatal error of appointing Andy Coulson, the former News of the World editor, as his press spokesman, the waters of this murky affair have been lapping at his feet. They show no sign of receding. If anything, they are rising.”

This evening, Labour figures, in Parliament to the media are asking why different rules apply to the prime minister than the head of the Met, who in his resignation statement last night, pointedly said:

“Unlike Mr Coulson, Mr Wallis had not resigned from the News of the World or, to the best of my knowledge, been in any way associated with the original phone hacking investigation.”

Quite.

Mr Cameron’s brand as a competent politician of sound judgment has been seriously undermined by this episode; if it emerges he knew more than he is letting on, it would be very serious for him indeed.

Left Foot Forward will have further coverage of the phone hacking scandal tomorrow – including Rupert Murdoch, James Murdoch and Rebekah Brooks’s appearances before the culture, media and sport select committee.

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