Tuesday, July 05, 2011

The British Watergate Scandal finally breaks

It has been common knowledge for some time that News International routinely hacked mobile phones. Many of the great stories of the past 15 or 20 years have probably been the result of this illegal activity. Even the "Squidgy-gate" story of 1990 now appears to have been the direct result of illegal journalistic snooping. The Milly Dowler phone hacking was a new low, but in precisely the same tradition of illegal and immoral activity.

News International has a clear case to answer, but they are not the only ones.

Why did the initial Police investigation into phone hacking conclude that only a few "bad apples" were responsible, when that was quite clearly not the case?

The evidence is strong that politicians and the police were placed under intense pressure by the News International organisation to curtail the investigation. In other words there has been a deliberate cover up. The question is now: who is complicit in this extraordinary scandal?

How did the Murdoch Organisation use the information they gathered, if they did not publish it?

Were ministers pressured? Were decisions taken as the result of this pressure?

Is it possible that John Major, when Prime Minister, was blackmailed by Murdoch over his affair with Edwina Currie? If so, what other Ministers or Prime Ministers faced the same pressure?

Were Police Officers were similarly blackmailed? If so who, and how?

It is clear that at the highest level, News International tolerated -indeed encouraged and paid for- crime. It is now all too clear why Andy Coulson had to resign, but this is one that goes all the way to the Murdoch family itself.

Obviously the News International organisation is in this up to their necks- it is quite clear that the decision to approve the full take over of Sky must be delayed while this investigation runs its course- any decision now taken to the benefit of Murdoch is going to be checked with a fine tooth comb, and Jeremy Hunt will lose his job sooner rather than later, unless he suspends his previous decision. Murdoch must be cut loose immediately.

The scandal is bad enough: the cover-up will be even more dangerous.

The fact is that the implications of this scandal and the cover-up will still embrace the police and politicians. The impact will be huge. By the end of it any connection with Murdoch- from writing for his papers or approving of his business or even appearing on Sky- will be toxic. This is why Cameron has quickly rushed to condemn NI over Milly Dowler: he knows that there is more beyond. The hiring of Andy Coulson was ill judged by the Tories, but the silence from Labour is even more telling. The relationship between Peter Mandelson and the Murdoch organisation is well documented, but the public story is not the whole story- as many people in politics know all too well.

The News International Scandal may have the same impact on London as Watergate did on Washington- and the fall of the Murdoch Empire might be just one of the lesser results.

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