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

Recruitment Genius: New Business Development Manager / Sales - UK New Business

£24000 - £36000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Join a fast growing, UK based I...

MBDA UK Ltd: Mission Planning and Control Solutions Systems Engineer

Competitive salary & benefits: MBDA UK Ltd: What’s the opportunity? A pro-act...

MBDA UK Ltd: System Design Capability

Competitive salary & benefits: MBDA UK Ltd: What’s the opportunity? The small...

Recruitment Genius: Time Served Fabricator / Welders - Immediate Start

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Fabricator welder required for ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Under the current rate of progress, the UK will only reduce its carbon emissions by 21- 23 per cent between 2013 and 2025  

The Government's cosy relationship with big energy companies is killing thousands of people

Zachary Boren
 

Not only is Liz Kendall a shy Tory, but her words are also likely to appeal to racists

Charlie Brinkhurst Cuff
Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

The future of songwriting

How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

Recognition at long last

Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

Beating obesity

The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
9 best women's festival waterproofs

Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

Wiggins worried

Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific