Scandal's 'firestorm' is now burning closer to No 10
Monday 18 July 2011
Fifteen months after becoming Prime Minister, Mr Cameron has discovered what it is like to be in office without the power to control events. Yesterday's arrest of Rebekah Brooks was dramatic enough; last night's resignation of Sir Paul Stephenson as the Metropolitan Police Commissioner was another massive shock.
With most attention focused on the crumbling Murdoch empire and its relationship with politicians, the police had, until yesterday, escaped relatively lightly from the scandal. Sir Paul appears to have fallen on his sword rather than been pushed onto it – an old-fashioned, honourable act in an otherwise very murky affair. He judged correctly that his continued presence would have been a distraction. His resignation may not be the last at Scotland Yard.
The resignation adds to the pressure on Mr Cameron. Labour is reminding us Sir Paul felt unable to tell the Prime Minister about his decision to employ Neil Wallis, the former News of the World deputy editor, because of Mr Cameron's links with Andy Coulson.
According to Labour, Sir Paul has answered questions about his relationship with Mr Wallis, while Mr Cameron has left many about his links with Andy Coulson unanswered. Sir Paul pointed out that Mr Wallis had not been sacked by the NOTW; Mr Cameron knew Mr Coulson had been when he appointed him as the Conservatives' communications director back in 2007.
After Mr Coulson, Ms Brooks is the second Cameron friend to be arrested. The Prime Minister has sought to distance himself from his two friends but cannot rewrite history. This crisis has understandably shaken the Cameron circle. Some dared to hope what Mr Cameron called this "firestorm" had passed their door last week when the Prime Minister announced the judicial inquiry and disclosed his contacts with the media, a welcome move.
Last night they realised the firestorm is still gathering pace. It could last for years. No one knows where it will end – least of all Mr Cameron.
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