Leading article: So what might ministers have to fear?

 

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The inquiry into the role of the press and the police in the phone-hacking scandal was announced by the Prime Minister last July. It opened, under Lord Justice Leveson, in November.

At no point was there the slightest hint of any intersection with the processes of government – until yesterday, when no fewer than eight ministers, including the Prime Minister, the Deputy Prime Minister and the beleaguered Culture Secretary, suddenly requested – and were granted – "core participant" status. This means, among other things, that they can be represented by legal counsel and have advance sight of witness statements.

So what, it might reasonably asked, has changed? What has, if not changed, at least become known in recent days, is that David Cameron's former communications chief, Andy Coulson, and his one-time riding companion, the former News International chief executive, Rebekah Brooks, have been summoned to appear before the inquiry next week.

With the political atmosphere as febrile as it is, ministers might well want to avoid being blindsided by the emergence of hitherto unpublished documents, as they were recently by the emails between News Corp and the Culture Secretary's special adviser. That may be a sensible precaution. At the same time, it raises questions about what they might have to fear.

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