Leading article: Conclusive evidence of the cosy club at the top

For more than 10 years, Ms Brooks was at the centre of a web that went far beyond professional contact only

Share
Related Topics

After two days of evidence from Andy Coulson and Rebekah Brooks at the Leveson inquiry, there can no longer be any doubt of the inappropriate proximity of the political classes and News International. From the friendships, to the text messages, to the social dinners at which matters of high politics and high business were discussed; the picture painted is of a world where the lines between the professional and the personal are altogether blurred.

There is, of course, always going to be contact between politicians and the media. And so there should be. It is right that journalists be fully informed, and much is gained from less formal discussion. But the testimony from the former editors of the News of the World and The Sun points to something else entirely.

Ms Brooks may claim to be confident that, whatever the relationship, she never forgot she was a journalist and they never forgot they were politicians. It is a reasonable assertion, but one that is difficult to square with either once-weekly text messages from David Cameron – then leader of the Opposition – commonly signed off "lol" (by which he meant "lots of love") – or her attendance at his private birthday party after he became Prime Minister. Neither was such familiarity specific to Mr Cameron. Tony Blair was "a constant presence" in Ms Brooks's life while she was a newspaper editor, and she was good friends with Gordon Brown's wife Sarah, although her relationship with Mr Brown himself soured. Over a period of 10 years or more, Ms Brooks was at the centre of a web that went far beyond the purely professional contacts of a senior journalist.

With a criminal investigation into phone hacking underway, many important questions could not be asked. But there were still two other substantive developments at Leveson this week. The first was the admission that, at a private dinner with George Osborne, their respective spouses and another couple in late 2010, Ms Brooks and the Chancellor discussed News Corp's highly controversial bid for BSkyB.

Ms Brooks claims the conversation was very short and "not inappropriate", that it was merely her attempt to counter the virulent opposition to which Mr Osborne had been widely exposed. Perhaps it was. But that does not matter. The issue is that there was the possibility of any such conversation at all. Much of Ms Brooks' testimony hinged on her assertion of personal integrity, on her claim always to know where her responsibility lay. One need not question that integrity, however, to suggest that even the opportunity for corruption should never arise. And that is to say nothing of the questions that Mr Osborne must now answer.

Second, and more explosive still, was the publication of another damning email from Fréd Michel. Not only does the News Corp lobbyist appear to set out in detail what the Culture Secretary will tell Parliament about the BSkyB takeover a few days later. He also claims that Jeremy Hunt is resisting calls for a public inquiry into phone hacking, and is requesting private advice from Mr Michel "to guide his and No 10's positioning" on the scandal.

When the wholly improper contact between Mr Hunt's office and News Corp first came to light last month, it was only the overt – and indefensible – backing of a Prime Minister desperate to protect himself that kept Mr Hunt in his job. No doubt the Culture Secretary will now replay the same excuses: that Mr Michel was overplaying his hand and that his own evidence to Lord Justice Leveson later this month will prove his integrity. It is not enough. Mr Hunt cannot cling on any longer. He must resign. And the uncomfortable revelations from the Leveson inquiry must continue until the Augean stables are finally swept clean.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Tradewind Recruitment: English Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: My client is an excellent, large partially ...

Tradewind Recruitment: Science Teacher

£90 - £140 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: I am currently working in partnersh...

Tradewind Recruitment: Year 3 Primary Teacher

£100 - £150 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: Year 3 Teacher Birmingham Jan 2015...

Ashdown Group: Lead Web Developer (ASP.NET, C#) - City of London

£45000 - £50000 per annum + Excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Lead Web Develo...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

i Editor's Letter: Science versus religion in the three-parent baby debate

Oliver Duff Oliver Duff
Kylie has helped to boost viewing figures for the talent show  

When an Aussie calls you a ‘bastard’, you know you’ve arrived

Howard Jacobson
Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee