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

Technical Systems Analyst

£28000 - £30000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: An ambitious...

MS Dynamics NAV Developer

£45000 - £50000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: A pioneering Re...

Marketing Campaign Manager, Stevenage

£34000 - £36000 per annum: Charter Selection: This market leading organisation...

Senior Insight Analyst - SAS

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: Senior Analyst Vacancy - Urgent Requriem...

Day In a Page

Read Next
People hold the iconic rainbow flags at Pride  

Let's stop LGBT people 'coming out of the closet'

Chris Godfrey
Tulisa Contostavlos arrives to face drug charges at Southwark Crown  

How was Tulisa's case ever allowed to proceed?

Ben Rose
Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little
Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform