#Hackgate: An inquiry would go to the detail no one else wants

I honestly thought we’d seen the last of the (or as Dizzy puts it, the unhacked stupidity of individual politicians) #hackgate scandal last summer… According to a lengthy New York Times piece, apparently not.

That said, apart from the onset of a judicial review, apart from evidence from ‘unnamed sources’, I cannot see what distinguishes the current situation from the way it was left last summer.

The shabby dealings and evasions of News International are the same now as then… But on the face of it, the judicial review could be little more than an organised ‘fishing trip’ on the part of Coulson’s/Murdoch’s rivals…

If it turns something up, Labour politicians will sing from the rooftops that they knew all along there was wrongdoing… If they fail to find anything against News International or the Metropolitan Police they’ll be able to say, well at least that’s clear now…

It’s not a bad mode of attack for a still leaderless Labour party… But nor is it necessarily a reason for turning down a further inquiry…

In fact there’s a weird consonance here with Mr Murdoch’s counter ‘fishing trips’ looking for dirt on politicians…  And, the FT gives it serious treatment in their leader column

The widening of the affair makes the need for a deeper inquiry more pressing. While the idea of a News-Met axis is implausible, it is troubling that the police may have dropped a valid investigation. As a first step, there should be an independent review of why this decision was taken. The conduct of News International also merits scrutiny.

The New York Times article alleges that the group made big out-of-court settlements to other individuals whose phones were hacked. This was while its executives maintained to parliament that only one journalist was involved in hacking. News International’s directors should explain why these payments were made.

The prime minister seems determined to stand by Mr Coulson. That instinct must not lead him to block investigation of the affair. Even if Mr Cameron behaves correctly, the affair still raises questions about his judgment. Was he not reckless to have employed Mr Coulson given the murkiness of the allegations surrounding the News of the World?

William Hague has been lambasted for his poor judgment in sharing a bedroom with an adviser. Compared with the Coulson affair, this seems trivial. (Emphasis added)

Indeed the media show trial of the British Foreign Secretary seems a type cast political assassination so popular with all wings of the press

Yet few in the mainstream media mention the access to broadcast spectrum that Mr Murdoch’s BSkyB has gained without a concomitant obligation to make programmes, which is in blatant contravention of the EU’s 1989 TV Without Frontiers (TVWF) directive… (Dog doesn’t eat dog, it seems…)

But at base, rather than being a single party political issue, Mr Murdoch has evinced this powerful exception from both Labour and Conservative governments…

So perhaps a public enquiry is the right place to begin? An opportunity to get it all out on the table, and let some of this new transparency shine into the dealings of government with private vested interests?

I agree with those Tory commentators who argue that unnamed sources stirring it with the NYT, without having the courage to come out and name names, dates, times and places, is not enough to kick start a judicial review or public enquiry.

But, as Brian noted last summer, we could (at the very least) do with someone going through the detail:

Yates’ conclusions seem to me to be pretty complacent. He, a self-proclaimed fresh investigator, reached his conclusions in less than 24 hours after the Guardian story broke. This is only viable if you believe that the Information Commissioner’s dossier of “thousands” of examples of data protection breaches did not amount to thousands of crimes.

Someone should try to get to the detail in a way that both the press and the police seem either unable or unwilling to do. And, hopefully, clear the air…

Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty

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