Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Committed to finding the truth?

When Rebekah Brooks, Rupert Murdoch, and James Murdoch appear before the Culture, Media and Sport Committee today, they will have a lot of questions to answer. The role of the News of the World, and its parent company, News International, is one that requires careful investigation.

The committee will also need to be very wary as it questions the trio, as there is now a big political element to this story, but that is largely irrelevant to the scope of the committee, and Lord Leveson's inquiry.

The members of the committee have been very aware of their responsibilities, John Whittingdale and Tom Watson especially, and have steered clear of making cheap party political points. Both Ed Miliband and David Cameron have made it clear recently that they have both been too close to News International, and the media in general, so it strikes me that, whilst an important debate, it is not one for this particular case.

The biggest political story surrounding all this, is David Cameron's employment of Andy Coulson as his Director of Communications. Whilst many people, on both left and right, would like to see Cameron put under scrutiny for this, it is not relevant to the inquiry, unless (and I consider this unlikely) evidence emerges he knew what had been going on. There are plenty of legitimate questions to be asked regarding his judgement, but this is a political issue, to unfold on a different field.

Indeed, to a large extent, our leaders have kept this free of party points scoring. People mustn't confuse the back and forth over judgement, which has been happening from both sides, over who should employ whom, with the way they've approached the whole issue. David Cameron was indeed a little slow in fully agreeing to hold the inquiries, but like Gordon Brown in 2009, perhaps he was a little too reluctant to upset the media if he could avoid it. However, he has now set up these inquiries, and we must let the story unfold. The reason that so much headway has been made in a short time, is because politics has largely been absent, and its allowed the inquiries to be set up relatively quickly, and that is to the credit of Ed Miliband and David Cameron.

In the last few days there have been three high profile resignations, Rebekah Brooks, Sir John Stephenson and John Yates, but yesterday the latest victim may have been claimed with the death of Sean Hoare, the former News of the World entertainment corespondent who first raised the whole issue of phone hacking. Currently there is, according to the police, nothing suspicious about his death, but the stress and profile of the case recently, can take a toll on someone whose health is already damaged.

So, as the committee meets the protagonists today (Stephenson and Yates appear before the Home Affairs Committee) they will have to stick strictly to the issue of hacking, and what they knew. Anybody who tries to make this a political issue will be in danger of turning the event into even more of a circus than it is, and making that the story, when there are a lot of serious questions to be answered.

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