Clegg calls for Rebekah Brooks to resign

Andrew Grice,Political Editor
Friday 08 July 2011 20:33 BST

Nick Clegg has called for Rebekah Brooks to resign as News International's chief executive over the phone hacking scandal.

In an interview with The Independent during a visit to Paris today, the Deputy Prime Minister vowed to use his influence to clean up Britain's "rotten establishment" - saying the hacking affair had added the press and the poilice to the problems already exposed over MPs' expenses and the banks.

Asked if Mrs Brooks should consider her position, Mr Clegg replied: "Yes. I strongly believe that people need to be held accountable for the authority and responsibility they bear.

"The whole senior management has to ask how on earth it could have presided over this without appearing to know what was going on.

"She needs to ask herself some serious questions. Someone somewhere higher up the food chain needs to be held to account."

Dismissing Thursday's shock decision to close the News of the World as inadequate, he said:. "You can't just ask journalists, secretaries, photographers and low paid office workers at the News of the World to carry the can for what has a patent failure, on James Murdoch's own admission, of corporate governance.

"I don't think just chucking a bunch of people at the News of the World offices out of work is an expression of accountability. It looks to me like an act of buck-passing."

The Deputy Prime Minister hinted that media regulator 0fcom should reconsider whether News Corporation was a "fit and proper" organisation to assume full ownership of BSkyB. "Ofcom needs to constantly ask itself whether it is fulfilling its duties," he said.

He also urged Jeremy Hunt, the Culture Secretary, to "take his time" on his takeover decision. 7 am sure Jeremy Hunt will take every opportunity to take into account all the relevant considerations before he finally comes to his decision. He should feel under absolutely no artificial time pressure to do so."

He said David Cameron's appointment of Andy Coulson was "his decision.....I made my appointments; David Cameron made his." He dismissed reports that the editor of The Guardian had presented him with evidence that Mr Coulson should not join Mr Cameron's Downing Street team. "Alan Rusbridger mentioned some rumour without any proof," he said.

Mr Clegg, who successfully pressed Mr Cameron for a judge-led investigation into the police-press relationship, pledged to ensure the public inquiries confirmed by Mr Cameron yesterday were not used to kick the affair into the long grass. "I am absolutely determined that the inquiries get to the bottom of what has gone on," he said. "They must have the aggresive powers necessary to call witnesses, get evidence, look under every stone and every nook and cranny in this murky affair. The most important thing of all is to get this nexus of media and police."

Mr Clegg insisted the crisis presented a big opportunity to renew Britain's institutions. Unlike Mr Cameron and Ed Miliband, he stayed away from Mr Murdoch's recent annual summer party in London (traditionally a much sought invitation by Conservative and Labour politicians). He said "You have got too many vested interests tied up with each other. You have got a culture of arrogance and impunity. You have got politicians falling to their knees ingratiating themselves with media moguls."

Mr Clegg said the Press Complaints Commission (PCC) "wlll have to be completely revamped if not replaced -- the status quo is not tenable." He said the press standards inquiry should examine the case for statutory controls but warned that politicians should not get "free rein to impose statutory controls on the press." He believed in a "raucous, loud, free press."

Mr Clegg said: "The anger people feel is almost palpable. The question is how we harness that sense of outrage to build something better for the future."

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