Andrew Grice: Why Tories don't want the hacking inquiry to drag on

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The Independent Online

"It's time to move on from phone hacking to the real issues that concern the public." That was the line Conservative whips gave the party's MPs yesterday. Privately, some Tory MPs fear it will be hard to "move on". The hacking scandal is so big that it has the capacity to fill the summer vacuum. "We need a game-changer – I just hope Gaddafi goes soon," one Tory minister quipped. The parliamentary recess, which starts today, may deprive Ed Miliband of some of the opportunities he has exploited well recently. But speeches can be made and press conferences held outside the Commons.

One danger for David Cameron is that the processes currently unfolding – the 10 separate inquiries and investigations into criminality at the News of the World under Andy Coulson – will rumble on for years, disrupting normal business and the party's capacity to fight elections.

The first big electoral test will be the battle to be London Mayor next May, a rematch between Boris Johnson and his predecessor Ken Livingstone. Both the Tories and Labour will be desperate to win because the capital is a crucial general election battleground.

Mr Johnson's initial dismissal of the hacking allegations as "codswallop" may return to haunt him. He will fast-track the appointment of a successor to Sir Paul Stephenson, the outgoing Metropolitan Police Commissioner, and will distance himself from Mr Cameron when he needs to.

While the economy, the NHS and the state of public services after the cuts will be the main issues at the 2015 general election, hacking could easily make waves until then. As the inquiries take evidence and report, the issue will remain in the headlines.

Although Lord Justice Leveson will produce his first report on the media in a year, he will not make real progress on the second stage on phone hacking until after the prosecutions and court cases arising from the current police investigation. That could easily take two or three years.

Tracking down potential victims of hacking could also take the police years and more hor- rific cases could emerge.

The fear in some Tory minds is that, because he appointed Andy Coulson, the former News of the World editor, Mr Cameron has the most to lose.

Cameron extends remit of media inquiry to take in BBC

The terms of reference for the hacking inquiry were widened yesterday to include the BBC, other broadcasters and social networking media.

David Cameron announced the expansion as he unveiled the members of the panel that will examine media practices.

The inquiry will look at the phone-hacking scandal specifically, but also at broader issues involving politics, the media and the police. The panel members were named as:

Lord Leveson

Chair. Best known as the barrister who prosecuted the serial killer Rosemary West. Also chairs the Sentencing Council, which draws up guidelines for courts.

Shami Chakrabarti

As director of the civil liberties pressure group Liberty she has strong views on press freedom and the intrusive state.

Sir Paul Scott-Lee

The former chief constable of the West Midlands has not dined with Rebekah Brooks so far as we know.

David Currie

The economist and Labour life peer was founding chairman of Ofcom in 2002.

Elinor Goodman

Political correspondent of Channel 4 when the channel launched in 1982, and political editor for two decades.

George Jones

Long-serving political editor of The Daily Telegraph. Colleagues have joked that the panel's report will be "by George Jones – with extra reporting by Lord Leveson".

Sir David Bell

Former chair of the Financial Times and head of the Media Standards Trust until his appointment to the panel yesterday.



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