As there is a great deal of comment and speculation today following the resignation of Andy Coulson, we will try to keep our comments to the point:
1. Cameron’s appointment of Coulson showed not only misjudgement, but a cavalier attitude to the darker machinations of the media. Nearly all our senior politicians, Blair notably, are too willing to kowtow to press barons and turn a blind eye to media excess and behaviour. The relationship is bad and unhealthy at its very roots, but the fact remains that politicians rely on the media to get elected. The only realistic way to alter the relationship between politicians and the press, is for there to be far greater media diversity and plurality. This means breaking up the current media empires and certainly NOT allowing News Corporation to buy out BSkyB.
2. There would have been a wall of silence on the NoW affair without the ceaseless campaigning by The Guardian, Tom Watson and other invidividuals who are seeking the truth. It is shameful and deeply questionable that, in a democratic society, the state has failed to properly investigate. There is a wide belief that members of the police have been initimidated by, bribed by or otherwise co-erced into conspiring with newspapers over criminal activity. This must be fully and widely investigated, over and above the current CPS investigation. Another, independent police force, should be brought in now.
3. It is also widely believed that phone hacking and similar criminal acts are or have taken place in other newspapers. Freedom of the press is sacrosanct. Covert means, if used to get information in the public interest, can be justified. But, when used to get salacious stories on private individuals merely for commercial reasons, and no public interest is served, it is unethical and completely unaccepetable in a civilised society. We believe there should be closer scrutiny and, if necessary, criminal investigation of other allegations at other newspapers.
4. The huge spread and success of gutter journalism in Britain is due to Rupert Murdoch. It existed here before his entry into our media, but on a much smaller scale. He saw its commercial potential, fully exploited it and paved the way for competitors to try and outdo each other with juicier and juicier stories. Hence the phone-hacking, hence the plaguing of individuals and the ruination of lives. The existing regulation of standards is clearly inadequate. Any review that Hunt undertakes should be very carefully monitored.
Finally, although some satisfaction will be taken from seeing Coulson depart from Downing Street, it should be remembered that, whatever he may or may not have done, he is one individual and merely part of a rotten system that corrupts the heart of our democracy. So, from us, there will only be mild rejoicing today. Cheers!