Tory Prime minister David Cameron’s close friends are to be charged with perverting the course of justice.
Cameron has put off his appearance before the Leveson inquiry amid mounting panic in Downing Street. He is said to be “deeply nervous”.
And he should be—not because of the narrow terms of reference of the Leveson inquiry, but because the already shaky Tories could be brought down by this hacking scandal. It goes to the heart of the establishment.
Cameron won’t give evidence until next month, after asking for more time to prepare. He has requested that he is questioned after Tony Blair and Gordon Brown.
One reason is his good friend Rebekah Brooks, former editor of the News of the World and the Sun, is to be charged along with six others. These include her husband, the racehorse trainer Charlie Brooks.
News International implemented an “email deletion policy” in response to legal action launched by phone hacking victims.
Evidence was also taken from News International offices. Last year police examined a computer, paperwork and a mobile phone.
They were found in a bag in a bin near Brooks’ home the day after she had been arrested on suspicion of conspiring to intercept communications and corrupting police officers.
While there has been a remarkable outbreak of amnesia among the establishment, evidence presented to the Levenson inquiry has shone some light on the corrupt networks at the top of society.
Brooks revealed last week that Cameron signed off phone texts to her with the message “LOL”, thinking it meant “lots of love”. The problem isn’t that Cameron didn’t know what LOL meant, but how close he was to Brooks.
And while George Osborne was not invited to go riding on police horses with Brooks and Cameron, he did entertain Rebekah Brooks at his country residence.
Also present for the weekend at Dorneywood, the chancellor’s grace‑and‑favour residence, was Brooks’s friend, Andy Coulson. Coulson, a former News of the World editor, was working as Cameron’s spin doctor at the time.
Coulson gave evidence last week and left a series of questions unanswered. He claimed to have forgotten about owning £40,000 worth of shares in News International, which gave him a direct interest in the Sky deal.
The level of Coulson’s security clearance remains murky. As does the matter of exactly who paid Coulson the £140,000 severance pay from his spin doctor job.
Finally, yet more emails emerged showing that culture secretary Jeremy Hunt colluded with newspaper bosses over the Murdochs’ attempts to fully take over Sky.
One read, “JH is now starting to look into phone hacking/practices more thoroughly and has asked me to advise him privately in the coming weeks and guide his and No 10’s positioning.”
In other words, Downing Street was looking for advice from News International on how to handle the phone hacking scandal over News International.
Coulson was arrested 12 days after the email was sent. Brooks was arrested previously. She has not yet been charged with corrupt practices. At the very least, the Tories are clearly guilty of that.