Hacking scandal brushes prime minister

LONDON — Prime Minister David Cameron, facing a deepening political crisis over his relationships with tainted figures in Rupert Murdoch's media empire, on Monday cut short an official visit to Africa in an attempt to stanch the escalating fallout of the phone hacking scandal.

One day after the head of Scotland Yard resigned, one of his key deputies, John Yates, followed suit on Monday, with calls growing for a broader house cleaning at the 51,000-member police force.

Rebekah Brooks, a former top Murdoch executive who was arrested Sunday on accusations of bribing police, is to testify before Parliament today. Joining her will be her former bosses, Rupert Murdoch and his son, James Murdoch, for a committee grilling on News of the World's phone hacking of thousands of British citizens, including members of the royal family.

Cameron, 44, has called a special session of Parliament to address the scandal on Wednesday. Lawmakers were supposed to take off for their summer recess.

Ed Miliband, 41, head of the opposition Labor Party, on Monday stopped short of directly calling for the prime minister to resign. But he insisted that the questions around Cameron had left him "unable to provide the leadership the country needs."

He again called on Cameron to more fully explain his decision to fill the job of communication director at No. 10 Downing Street with Andy Coulson, the former editor of Murdoch's now-shuttered News of the World. Coulson, who resigned in January as the scandal intensified, was arrested last week in connection with illicit news-gathering.

In another development Monday, the Guardian newspaper reported that Sean Hoare, a former reporter for News Corp. papers who first alleged that Coulson was aware of phone hacking by his staff, had been found dead. Police said the death of the man identified by the paper as Hoare was "not thought to be suspicious," the Guardian said.

Hoare, a longtime British tabloid reporter who had worked at News of the World, was seen as instrumental in linking the scandal to Coulson.

On Monday, Miliband demanded that Cameron detail his contacts with Brooks, a friend of the prime minister and the former chief executive of News Corp.'s British operations who is charged with illegal interception of communication and bribing police.

Records also show that Cameron has met with executives of News International almost once every two weeks on average.

Also coming before Parliament today will be Paul Stephenson, who resigned as chief of Scotland Yard after revelations that the Yard, London's Metropolitan Police, had hired Neil Wallis, Coulson's former deputy at News of the World, as a media consultant.

Stephenson seemed to suggest that Cameron's relationship with Coulson left him at least as exposed in the scandal as himself.

Over the weekend, Downing Street disclosed that Cameron had invited Coulson and his family to spend a weekend at the prime ministerial country estate, Chequers, not long after Coulson resigned as communications aide.

Miliband, the Labor leader, chided all sectors of British public life Monday for allowing such cozy relationships between the press, politicians and police.

"What does this say about our country?" he asked. "How did we let this happen?"

Information from the Los Angeles Times was used in this report.

London

Tables turned on

Murdoch websites

Internet hackers claim to have tampered with the websites of Rupert Murdoch's Sun and Times newspapers. Visitors to Sun's website late Monday were redirected to a page featuring a story saying Murdoch's dead body had been found in his garden. Lulz Security took responsibility via Twitter, calling it a successful part of "Murdoch Meltdown Monday."

MURDOCH HAS SUPPORT, bOARD MEMBER SAYS: News Corp. board member Thomas Perkins says embattled chief executive Rupert Murdoch has the full support of the company's board of directors. Perkins said the News Corp. board is not considering elevating chief operating officer Chase Carey to take over as CEO amid the phone hacking scandal.

Associated Press

Hacking scandal brushes prime minister 07/19/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, July 19, 2011 12:31am]

Copyright: For copyright information, please check with the distributor of this item, Washington Post.
    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...