Political, public and economic screw being turned on NotW

The pressure on the News of the World, News International and Rebekah Brooks over the phone hacking scandal will be ramped up today, reports Shamik Das.

The pressure on the News of the World, News International and Rebekah Brooks over the phone hacking scandal will be ramped up today with the launch of a campaign for a public inquiry into phone hacking; advertisers being lobbied to follow Ford’s lead and boycott the paper; a three-hour debate in Parliament; and Prime Minister’s Questions – at which the coalition’s expected greenlighting of the NewsCorp/BSkyB takeover deal is certain to be raised.

The ‘Hacked off’ campaign calls for:

“The establishment of a full public inquiry into phone hacking and other forms of illegal intrusion by the press.”

The petition says:

“Only a full public inquiry can restore confidence in our press, police and government institutions. What began as ‘one rogue reporter’ with a handful of victims is now acknowledged to be industrial-scale illegal information gathering, probably affecting thousands.

“All kinds of people, including royalty, cabinet ministers, celebrities, police officers, bereaved families and victims of crime have been targeted, and it seems it’s not just voicemail messages that have been hacked but also calls and emails, bank details and health records.”

They call for an inquiry to cover the extent of the use of illegal information-gathering methods; the conduct of the Met, and its relations with the press;
the communication between press and politicians in relation to these matters; the conduct of the Press Complaints Commission, Information Commissioner, and mobile phone companies; and that lessons to be learned and action taken to ensure these events are not repeated.

The commercial squeeze, meanwhile, is already being felt. Ford have pulled adverts from this Sunday’s edition of the News of the World, with T-Mobile, Currys and PC World all reported to be reviewing their relationships with the paper. Other companies which advertised in last Sunday’s paper, and are sure to come under pressure to pull out, include Tesco, Aldi and the Body Shop.

Also named as having advertised with the NotW are WHSmith, the Co-operative Group, Virgin Media, Carpet Right, easyJet, Butlins, Renault, First Choice, Halifax, Comet and Bulmers. With days of concerted pressure ahead, it will be interesting to see how many of these organisations continue to pump money into the paper’s coffers and continue to advertise.

Meanwhile in Parliament, as confirmed by the Speaker yesterday following a request from Labour MP Chris Bryant – himself a victim of the phone hacking scandal – MPs will debate a three-hour motion on whether there should be a public inquiry into the scandal.

They will consider:

“…the matter of whether there should be a public inquiry into the phone hacking at the News of the World and the related conduct of the Metropolitan Police Service.”

It follows the raising of the issue at Deputy Prime Minister’s Questions in the House yesterday, during which Nick Clegg was repeatedly questioned about the phone hacking scandal, telling Labour MPs David Winnick, Ben Bradshaw, Helen Goodman and deputy leader Harriet Harman that the police should be “allowed to get on with their investigation”, and that the decision on the NewsCorp/BSkyB takeover was not his to make.

While David Cameron, at Prime Minister’s Questions from noon, faces being quizzed on his relationship with Rebekah Brooks – it was reported this week that she only “survived” being axed “due to a personal intervention” by the PM – the extent to which his former Director of Communications Andy Coulson was involved in phone hacking (and why he stood by him for so long), and the Murdoch takeover deal, which culture secretary Jeremy Hunt will rule on this Friday.

In the light of all that’s gone on, this week, this year, over the past few years, Cameron’s tone, answers and believability, just as much as Hunt’s ruling, will say much about whether the coalition have the cojones to defy Rupert Murdoch and take on the poison of some of his papers.

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