What the papers won’t say

The omertà of Britain’s press and politicians on phone-hacking amounts to complicity in crime

7 July 2011

Let’s try a thought experiment. Let’s imagine that BP threw an extravagant party, with oysters and expensive champagne. Let’s imagine that Britain’s most senior politicians were there — including the Prime Minister and his chief spin doctor. And now let’s imagine that BP was the subject of two separate police investigations, that key BP executives had already been arrested, that further such arrests were likely, and that the chief executive was heavily implicated.

Let’s take this mental experiment a stage further: BP’s chief executive had refused to appear before a Commons enquiry, while MPs who sought to call the company to account were claiming to have been threatened. Meanwhile, BP was paying what looked like hush money to silence people it had wronged, thereby preventing embarrassing information entering the public domain.

And now let’s stretch probability way beyond breaking point. Imagine that the government was about to make a hugely controversial ruling on BP’s control over the domestic petroleum market. And that BP had a record of non-payment of British tax. The stench would be overwhelming. There would be outrage in the Sun and the Daily Mail — and rightly so — about Downing Street collusion with criminality. The Sunday Times would have conducted a fearless investigation, and the Times penned a pained leader. In parliament David Cameron would have been torn to shreds.

Instead, until this week there has been almost nothing, save for a lonely campaign by the Guardian. Because the company portrayed above is not BP, but News International, owner of the Times, the Sunday Times, the News of the World and the Sun, approximately one third of the domestic newspaper market. And last week, Jeremy Hunt ruled that Murdoch, who owns a 39 per cent stake in BSkyB, can
now buy it outright (save for Sky’s news channel). This consolidates the Australian-born mogul as by far the most significant media magnate in this country, wielding vast political and commercial power.

Every summer Murdoch, now 80 years old, pays one of his rare visits to London, the social highlight of which is the annual News International party. An invitation carries the same weight, say insiders, as a royal command. In the phrase of one of his executives, to turn it down is a ‘statement of intent’.

At Murdoch’s side at last month’s bash at the Orangery in Holland Park was Rebekah Brooks, close friend of the prime minister and chief executive of News International. She was also editor of the News of the World in 2002, when Milly Dowler’s phone was apparently hacked by one of the private investigators hired by the newspaper. Mrs Brooks took effective personal charge of Murdoch himself, occasionally leaving her proprietor’s side to hurtle into the throng and recruit the most powerful guests for face-time with the boss. Later she joined Murdoch, News International editors and Gabby Bertin, David Cameron press secretary, for a private dinner.

Brooks is already at the heart of one investigation into News International, concerning payments to police officers. She is also deeply implicated in the second, the voicemail hacking scandal known as Operation Weeting. This is now understood to have 70 police officers devoted to it, making it the largest investigation in the Metropolitan Police’s modern history. Yet until recently, Brooks had maintained there was no illegal hacking before 2006.

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This claim — like so many other News International claims — is now falling apart. Glenn Mulcaire, the private investigator imprisoned for hacking that year, is now believed to have targeted Milly Dowler’s phone. This development is seismic. It suggests police could be sitting on an as-yet-unpublished list of victims over an extra four years of Mulcaire’s phone-hacking career.

So one point is beyond debate. News International’s leading profit centre, the News of the World, was dependent on a very ugly culture of lawbreaking, hacking and impunity. This freewheeling, ask-no-questions attitude spread to other parts of the organisation, such as the Times and the Sunday Times, both of which used have used illegal or unethical techniques. Even more troubling, when senior News International management were confronted with evidence of wrongdoing, the company made false statements and took actions which prevented key evidence from reaching the public domain.

All of this raises the question: what on earth were the British prime minister and his wife doing at the Orangery on that Thursday night? There are those who maintain that David Cameron is little more than a high-grade public relations man. Cameron’s long association with the Murdoch empire, dating from his dreadful decision to hire Andy Coulson — a former editor of the News of the World who resigned after a phone-hacking scandal, and now looks to be in even deeper trouble — unfortunately suggests that the prime minister’s detractors are on to something.

When still leader of the opposition, David Cameron came across the PR fixer Matthew Freud, son-in-law of Murdoch, at Rebekah Brooks’s wedding. The two men exchanged an exuberant high-five salute. To this day, the Prime Minister and his wife remain on cheerful social terms with Brooks, who lives barely a mile up the road from the their country home. They have been known to go riding together. All this is too depressing for words.

In normal circumstances, such troubling and persistent failures of prime-ministerial judgment would be meat and drink to an opposition leader. But until this week, Ed Miliband had made the pragmatic decision to ignore the phone-hacking story — explaining privately to confidants that he had no choice because the alternative would be ‘three years of hell’ at the hands of the Murdoch press. His recent, panicked call for Brooks’s resignation only serves to highlight his silence on the scandal hitherto.

I am told that he has agreed in principle to follow in the footsteps of both Tony Blair and David Cameron and fly round the world to address an annual conference of News International executives. Perhaps he will make his theme the restoration of public decency. In recent weeks Miliband has made a series of speeches about this subject, demanding ‘a greater sense of responsibility and national mission for our country’. Doubtless it was this urgent mission which took him, alongside his shadow foreign secretary Douglas Alexander, and his shadow chancellor Ed Balls, to the
Murdoch party.

The truth is that Ed Miliband had made his choice very early with the appointment of Tom Baldwin, a former News International journalist, as his spin doctor. This mirrored David Cameron’s appointment of Coulson, another Murdoch high-flyer, to a similar role. For ten years, Baldwin was at the heart of a Times campaign to destroy Lord Ashcroft, the former Tory treasurer. As Ashcroft records in his book Dirty Politics, Dirty Times, illegal techniques were used, though not directly by Baldwin. A private investigator was used to ‘blag’ his way into the Conservative
party bank account, while the Times paid £6,000 to a US Drugs Enforcement Agency official called Jonathan Randel for leaked information (the Times insisted the money was simply paid as a ‘research fee’). As a result Randel was sent to jail.

Perhaps Baldwin, like his former News International colleagues, doesn’t find phone hacking too shocking. Indeed, one of his first actions as Miliband’s spin-doctor was to instruct Labour MPs to go easy on the scandal. In a leaked memo, he ordered them not to link it to the impending takeover decision on BSkyB. But this was to let News International crucially off the hook. For the key question — and it burns deeper than ever in the light of the Milly Dowler revelations — is exactly whether the owner of News International is any longer a ‘fit and proper’ person to occupy such a dominant position in the British media.

This is a question that has almost never been asked. This is partly because of heavy political protection of the kind that was on such vivid display at the Orangery last month. But Murdoch could not have got away with it for so long but for the silence in the British press. The Sunday Mirror is the News of the World’s most direct competitor: one would have expected it to revel in its rival’s problems. Instead it has largely ignored the story — except for an attack on the News of the World on Wednesday — as has Express Newspapers.

The Daily Mail, likewise, has written almost nothing. Paul Dacre, editor-in-chief at Associated Newspapers, is rightly regarded as the greatest newspaper editor of his time. But in this case Fleet Street’s moralist has lost his compass: his failure to engage seriously with the phone-hacking story is a most unfortunate blot on a brilliant career. The Daily Telegraph, for which I write, has done better, but the minimum. Only the Guardian, and belatedly the Independent, have covered the story with flair and integrity.

This should have been one of the great stories of all time. It has almost everything — royalty, police corruption, Downing Street complicity, celebrities by the cartload, Fleet Street at its most evil and disgusting. One day, I guess, it will be turned into a brilliant film, and there will be a compulsive book as well.

The truth is that very few newspapers can declare themselves entirely innocent of buying illegal information from private detectives. A 2006 report by the Information Commissioner gave a snapshot into the affairs of one such ‘detective’, caught in so-called ‘Operation Motorman’. The commissioner’s report found that 305 journalists had been identified ‘as customers driving the illegal trade in confidential personal information’. It named each newspaper group, the number of offences and the number of guilty journalists (see above). But, as the commission observed, coverage of this scandal ‘even in the broadsheets, at the time of publication, was limited’. The same reticence has been seen, until now, over the voicemail-hacking scandal.

By minimising these stories, media groups are coming dangerously close to making a very significant statement: they are essentially part of the same bent system as News International and complicit in its criminality. At heart this is a story about the failure of the British system, which relies on a series of checks and balances to prevent high-level corruption. Each one of them has failed: parliament because MPs feel intimidated by the power of newspapers to expose and destroy them; and opposition, because Ed Miliband lacked the moral imagination to escape the News International mindset — until he was forced to confront it all by the sheer horror of the Milly Dowler episode.

That leaves the prime minister. He finally woke up to the kind of company he has been keeping on Tuesday when during his Afghanistan visit he declared the Milly Dowler revelations ‘truly dreadful’. David Cameron has repeatedly displayed an inability to make a distinction between right and wrong. The press ought to have stepped into the breach. Unfortunately, we in Fleet Street have forgotten that the ultimate vindication of journalism is not to intrude into, and destroy, private lives. Nor is it the dance around power, money and social status. It is the fight for
truth and decency.

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Show comments
  • David

    Spot on, couldn’t agree more. Excellent piece.

  • Rhys

    This is a first rate piece of journalism and the first time i agree wholeheartedly with Peter Obourne

  • FishNChipPapers

    Excellent stuff. I wonder whether the PCC could have played a role?

  • MarkG

    All good stuff, but the graph at the head of the article demonstrates very clearly why the current furore surrounding News International is wide of the mark. The reality is that the NotW phone hackers aren’t the only ones, they’re just the first to be caught. And, while the response of News International has been woefully lacking in accountability, turning this into an anti-Murdoch campaign is missing the point by a country mile. If anything, continuing to blame Murdoch for everything risks letting other, far worse, offenders off the hook.

  • Loggia

    Fantastic article. Bravo.

  • ladyrobinson

    Exceptional journalism Mr Oborne. I so wish you too were lying.

  • Santorum

    Brilliant and brave. It needs saying. The BBC deserves a lot of praise too.

  • S

    What a fantastic article highlighting a truly appalling situation. The old maxim ‘absolute power, corrupts absolutely’.

    We need to make sure that that other maxim ‘Sunlight Is the Best Disinfectant’ holds true, too.

    We all need to make sure that this is so – enough is enough.

    And perhaps the press might find that people react well to the sort of journalism that you suggest at the end of your article instead of the desperate mud-raking and race to the bottom in order to try and halt circulation declines.

  • anyfool

    this sanctimonious drivel has at least seven highlighted leads to adverts, even the high moral ground comes at a price

  • Dan Russon

    excellent article, only I can’t see a hero to root for in the proposed film adaptation.

  • Bill

    The most fascinating article about media and power in Britain that I can remember reading. Bravo, Peter Oborne, and bravo the Spectator for giving the article space.

    The subject of this feature is disgusting, of course. The degree of complicity in this cynical behaviour amongst those with influence in this country is too depressing for words. But it’s still good to know – the truth is never simple.

  • Joseph

    I’m not a natural reader of either The Spectator or The Telegraph and imagine our opinions will rarely agree but I felt compelled to say that this is a fantastic piece of writing. Thoughtful, incisive and providing a wonderful overview into a very sorry affair for British journalism, policing and politics.

  • Anthony Zacharzewski

    Very good.

  • Stephen Andreassen

    A quite brilliant piece. The reticence of other tabloids to report this speaks volumes about their own fear of being caught.

  • Jonathan Bracey-Gibbon

    This isn’t journalism. This is the the truth.

  • ella

    Agree apart from this rash statement, “David Cameron has repeatedly displayed an inability to make a distinction between right and wrong”

  • Steve Zacharanda

    This is so much better than his brilliant telegraph piece. Some things are not about right wing and left wing but are simply about right and wrong. Peter Oborne might not have broken this story but his work will become the defining turning point. BP perspective is sublime, certainly not comparing oil with water.

  • They’ll not hang together

    Don’t forget, “We’re all in this together.”

    This is a drugs in sport and MPs expenses moment – when something understood suddenly gets exposed. Just like MPs expenses this will only be allowed to run so far before it gets closed down and we get back to business as usual.

    So glad this mob have cut my pay and are stealing tens of thousands from my pension in order to fund their nice little ideas like foreign corruption, aka aid.

  • Alistair King

    Excellent article.

    There are several key things we as a nation should be asking: (1) How much influence has Murdoch had over our politicians? Not just Cameron. But going back to Blair too. What does it say about the current government when even in the midst of this scandal they are not pausing NI’s takeover of BSkyB? Why are they not pausing it until we know more? (2) Should we allow NI to own BSkyB when they already have such a large ownership of the country’s media? Rather than allowing NI to expand its influence shouldn’t we be breaking up that 40% ownership of the newspapers? (3) Why are we only hearing about NOTW when clearly other papers have been up to their necks in it? How far does this rot go? (4) How do we make sure we don’t throw out the baby with the bathwater? Whatever reform of the press does take place we need to make sure something like the MPs expenses scandal could still be brought to light!!!

  • Paul

    The only solution is to vote with our feet.

  • Martin Blank

    Brilliant article. Can’t help thinking the mobile network operators seem incredibly quiet with respect to these goings on.

  • Ashley Slater

    Your finest hour Mr Oborne. We cannot tolerate this conniving and corrupt relationship between press, government, big business and police any more. This goes to the core of everything British people stand for. These are desperate times. Where is the moral compass? Perhaps the Archbishop of Canterbury needs to let loose again.

  • Oliver Benson

    The excuse that Rebekah Wade/Brooks didn’t know about the phone-hacking because she was on holiday beggers belief.

    If the editor of the biggest-selling Sunday newspaper honestly goes on holiday and doesn’t stay in touch with the office while one of the biggest news stories of the year is happening either demonstrates her downright incompetence or is a prima facie lie.

    That News International think that anyone will believe that is prove of their total arrogance and disrespect for the British public.

    And therefore if Brooks knew about, given the closeness of her friendship with Cameron, it’s difficult not to believe it wouldn’t have come up in conversation, especially given that he had last Christmas lunch with her while his then Head of Comms Andy Coulson was being pursued. If she chose not to tell him, then it’s proof the friendship a cynical one, purely to maintain mutual interests. And if he did … do we even want to consider that possibility?

  • FA

    Excellent, let down only by the brown-nosing description of Dacre.

  • Jeff Myers

    Adolf Hitler missed a trick here, he should have tried to conquer the world as a journalist.

  • Jeffers

    This so good to read about time thank you

  • Nano

    MarkG: Who else? What do you know? What should the public know?

  • Lindsay WIlliams

    Please can we remember that most journalists have never used phone hacking, never thought of using it and indeed never come across it. I did a survey of my entire address book, not scientific I know but http://www.themediacoach.co.uk/blog/.

  • tony

    The 4th estate is the new 2nd estate. The more power it has, the more the rest of us get screwed.

  • Eric Blair

    Turn your heads and we will come you.
    hillsborough disaster 1989. The Sun

  • Martin Greenbank

    Good article. I for one would go and see the film.

  • drewill

    does ms.wade seriously want us to believe she lfrt her mobile at home whilst in dubai??? clutching at straws me thinks

  • An Observer

    “MarkG: Who else? What do you know? What should the public know?”

    Well there are laws and elected representatives and unelecter organisations that are supposed to prevent stuff like this happening.

    It wouldn’t have happened if our top level politicians weren’t vulnerable to the News of the Screws.

    It wouldn’t have happened if the Metropolitan Police were the squeaky-clean organisation we are entitled to expect them to be, and had enforced the laws as we are entitled to expect.

    There’s also the Press Complaints Commission but anyone expecting them to be useful in regulating the people who pay their wages is seriously misguided.

    Would you like more?

  • Chris Barrie

    Great article.

  • Matt

    Great article. The sense of anger surrounding this issue is palpable and widespread. Friends of mine with little or no political interest are incensed by this matter. That weasel Paul McMullan appeared on TV garlanding himself with the laurels of truth as though he were the sort of journalist who uncovers political corruption rather than promulgates it.

  • Laura

    OF COURSE the majority of the British press couldn’t take the moral high ground for fear of having the spotlight turned on them! I guess it says an awful lot about the Guardian.

    For me, the saddest thing is watching all these people going ‘oooo this is awful, who knew such terrible things happened at this one newspaper’. The level of naivity is extraordinary.

    Maybe that’s why so many news media companies thought they could get away with it for so long. ‘Look, the few people who appear to recognise that we are essentially businesses which will do anything to drive up readership are treated as fringe madmen. Everyone else has been duped, hook, line and sinker and thinks that we do what we do for their benefit. And with all the dirt we hold on anyone important and the extent to which they need us to not utterly rubbish them, be it fact or fiction, I reckon we can do whatever we like for as long as we like.’

    Maybe now, a few more people will wise up to the business that is the news media and develop some sort of awareness about the pervasive level of their corruption and manipulation in our lives.

    I feel sorry for all the ordinary people working at News International, mind you. Remember it’s not their fault. OF COURSE the people at the top knew what was going on. And it’s naivity to believe anything different.

  • Martin Tyrrell

    This is a great moment, although rather marred, I feel, by obvious prejudices in Mr Oborne’s piece – he loathes the Coalition Government and Dave with great passion. I hope that the Murdoch Press is irredeemably damaged by the evolving story. This country, with a few shreds left of its great reputation for freedom of speech and independence of thinking, can only be the better for the appalling revelations being recognised and punished.

  • Ed O’Driscoll

    Do we really believe the papers were the only people using these tactics? I’m sure the Intelligence services regularly gained information in this manner…who else?? Useful for the occasional political dirty trick perhaps?

  • John Bray

    How does Murdoch, with a death hold on a vast majority of this nation’s newspapers, a cynical, mephistophilian grip on the weaker, more anxiously gullible elected ‘ leaders” of our country, and virtual ownership of the incredibly weak Culture (?) secretary Jeremy (er) Hunt Get away with no NOT paying any taxes here?
    I want an answer. John Bray

  • Herbert Thornton

    Murdoch may have sunk the News of the World, but in reality all he has done is remove the top (which he happened to own) of an enormous iceberg not all of which is his.

    The rest of the enormous iceberg includes mainstream politicians and the rest of the media especially the BBC. They, collectively, are characterised by their resolute Omerta concerning the existential and steadily growing threat to Britain that is posed by Islam.

    Their Omerta is extends to their pointedly ignoring the recent acquittal of Geert Wilders. As in the old Soviet Union, they treat Wilders as a non-person. The English Defence League and the BNP, both of which do their best to alert us to the alarming activities of Islamic extremists, are similarly ignored; or if mentioned at all, the English Defence League or the BNP are invariably portrayed in abusive and defamatory ways.

    Peter Oborne’s article is good and powerful but despite it’s headline “What the papers won’t say” it addresses only part of that much bigger problem.

  • Jonathan

    Time for a boycott of all things NewsCorp. Let’s force the Murdochs out. We might even find The Times regains its thunder.

  • David

    The hacking was an absolute disgrace and those responsible should be held to account. But why is everyone up in arms about it, why be so hypocritical. This kind of thing goes all the time, Blair being the king of surveillance, and this government have carried it on, listening to our ‘phone conversations, reading our e-mails and tracking our every flight, not forgetting the ubiquitous CCTV cameras that track our movements 24/7. Where are the outraged journalists/public where this is concerned, strangely silent, oh a story now and then, but nothing meaningful, fluff, just fluff.

    When people & those like Oborne get as upset and outraged against the government/EU for their constant, never ending surveillance on the general public I’ll join the outragers, until then I’ll take a back seat.

    Maybe the EU loving green tosser will hand over regulation to the EU. It’ll be game, set & match then, the EU will have everything.

    BTW: I’m far from a fan of Murdoch, but I think there’s alot of of hypocrisy going on with outraged journalists from other newspapers/TV, does anyone think that the BBC, Guardian, DT and many other parts of the media have not been doing the same as the NOTW. Bet the shredders are on overtime.

    This country needs a mass clear out from top to bottom, councils, quangos, police, NHS and not forgetting the HoC. Corruption, lies, deceit and propaganda is what now passes for democracy in this country.

  • Andrew Lansdale

    Good article – but the root of the problem appears to be the ability of private detectives to hack into citizen’s voice mail. I was under the impression that the new generation of mobile telephone networks was safe – obviously wrong. So why not encrypt signals to make private calls private?

  • Christopher Nagle

    The Fourth Estate is lke any other set of public institutions; corruptible.

    Although it is difficult to hold it accountable externally, eventually when abuses of power become regular and protracted, it undoes the perpetrator, because he or she becomes complacent. News of the world literally tripped over its own sword and accidentally disembowelled itself.

    And now that the media is having to eat a bit of crow for its miserable performance at exposing institutional malpractice in its own ranks, it would be a good time to put a regulatory regime in place that demonstrates the public is no longer confident about press integrity or the virtues of ownership monopoly.

    Never has there been a better chance to cut the Murdoch empire down to size.

    Freedom of speech will never have quite the same ideological cachet again.

  • Paul Rich

    A brave piece of journalism that at last makes a stand against the corrupt and perverse influence of the Murdoch empire

  • RocketDog

    Peter Oborne
    I have read your book on the Triumph of the Political Class, and I think that these circumstances unfortunately bear out your thesis pretty well in full
    Especially the bit in the later edition where you suggest that Cameron has the potential to be a power for the good, if he can overcome his attachment to the modes and methods of the Political Class
    It is becoming apparent that he does not appear to have been able to make that break

  • DRE

    No one finds it strange that an editor from the gutter press is the governments chief of communications? Is that what they think of us? Spin, sport, manipulation, tits & ass?

  • Mark Jones

    The Evening Standard briefly had a story on their site yesterday:

    Yard bosses ‘feared paper would print stories of claimed affairs’

    Two senior Scotland Yard detectives were unwilling to investigate phone-hacking because they feared their alleged extra-marital affairs would be exposed, according to the lawyer at the centre of the case.

    This story was apparently swiftly pulled. I wonder if blackmail and perversion of justice are to be added to the News of the World’s charge sheet? I also wonder if the officers who led the Met’s last hacking investigation, former Assistant Commissioner Andy Hayman and Acting Deputy Commissioner John Yates, will be commenting.

  • Rebecca

    Excellent article. Will be interesting to see what other dirt is uncovered in the weeks and months ahead both at NI and elsewhere.

  • Kinomackinnon

    How about a list of all Murdoch’s companies and subsidiaries in order that the public knows what to boycott?

  • D Short

    Is Fraser Nelson considering his position?

  • Lucy Workman

    Excellent piece. Misses one large fact —- the phone companies are also fundamentally at fault for failing to provide us all with the security we all assume.

  • Ted

    What a fantastic article-well researched, well presented, showing a deep understanding of how everyone, from other newspapers to politicians, are all complicit in this.

    And how many people will read this-10,000?

  • Veeb

    Good article! Great journalism! Er. has anyone heard of a funny little magazine called Private Eye. Among the cartoons, there’s been just the odd one, two, or 50 articles turning the spotlight onto the tawdry phone-hacking scandal…and everything else. Yeah, it’s not a newspaper, but it does the Grauniad’s homework and probably that of anyone else who decides to pen a scourging, hand-wringing editorial about what this all means.

  • Michael Rosenthal

    I’d add a few small points to Alastair King’s observations. Firstly, Rebekah Brooks was editor of the News of the World when Millie Dowler’s ‘phone was hacked. No matter that she was on holiday, she was responsible, on the same grounds as the News of the World assumed Sharon Shoesmith’s responsibility for the death of Baby P. Secondly, since she is on record as having admitted to paying the police, should she not be in custody, alngside Andy Coulson? Thirdly, Alan Rusbridger insists that Cameron was warned about Coulson. That he ignored those warnings says little about his political judgement.

    It’s about time that British public life was rid of the toxin of Murdoch. Let us hope that there are sufficient people of principle to ensure this.

  • Matt Paradise

    “Paul Dacre, editor-in-chief at Associated Newspapers, is rightly regarded as the greatest newspaper editor of his time” – this statement makes everything else in the article worthless.

  • Mark Culme-Seymour

    Yes good article. What nobody has mentioned is that were it not for 2.7 million of our fellow citizens who read the garbage put out by the News of the Screws there would never have been the need for such skulduggery. who are the guilty ones?

  • Martin

    This is the Evening Standard article regarding Andy Hayman and John Yates that has mysteriously disappeared from the interweb: http://yfrog.com/klwang

  • RocasRojas

    Agree — splendid piece, except for the baffling praise of Dacre. Greatest editor of his time? Please.

  • Hindsight/foresight

    it’s all in here: http://www.ico.gov.uk/news/current_topics/what_price_privacy_now.aspx ICO report from 2006. 305 journos linked to ‘illegally gained’ data. NOTW is 5th on the list behind Daily Mail, Sunday People, Daily Mirror and Mail on Sunday. Silence from the Dacre corner? Wonder why.

  • Oscar Jones

    This is a defining moment in the media and politics and we live in hope that decency and honesty will prevail and the unholy alliance of politicians and corrupt news organisations-which was beginning to resemble a collective Pravda in it’s hey day will come to an end.
    It’s significant that this piece by Oborne is published in a conservative publication.

  • pcmurdoch

    If my son were killed in war or my daughter murdered by some evil lunatic, the last of my worries would be some low life journo tapping into their phones. If I were a fat, thick, Secretary humping ‘Lord’ or some supposed celebrity I would assume my phone was being bugged.

    When are news gatherers and deliverers going to stop looking up their own exhaust pipes and return to giving us real news?

  • Richard Thompson

    Great piece! But let us not forget the phone companies who have been lazy in not alerting their customers to the vulnerability of default remote mailbox access pin numbers or the fact the facility exists at all.

  • Stuart Harker

    my eyes well and truly opened, thankyou!

  • Jon

    I wanted to respond with my thoughts on how this is but one example of how ‘hacking’ affects everyone, but found that

    @ David July 8th, 2011 1:02am

    beat me to it – well said.

  • Jon

    @ Andrew Lansdale July 8th, 2011 5:13am

    Good article – but the root of the problem appears to be the ability of private detectives to hack into citizen’s voice mail. I was under the impression that the new generation of mobile telephone networks was safe – obviously wrong. So why not encrypt signals to make private calls private?

    ‘Phone hacking’ is misleading.

    This is ‘voicemail hacking’; most people do not amend the default password on their voicemail, so enterprising journalists (and no-doubt others) access the voicemail as if they the the phone owners.

    Mobile operators could & should do more to enforce personalised voicemail codes – but encryption is not the answer.

  • Jon

    …why does this story go no further than News International ?


  • Stephen Partridge

    What a great article, I wholeheartedly agree with, well, everything you’ve said…. I wish everyone would read this and think. Thank you

  • Paul Coleman

    The best article I have read on this awful story.

  • Terence Hughes

    I sincerely hope that this is the beginning of the end of the monstrous, loathsome Murdoch empire. His influence over American politics is hardly any less destructive than his bloated, corrupting power in the UK.

  • mrjones

    Excellent article Peter, nice to know there are a few decent journalists left who are willing to speak truth to power.

    One area of disagreement concerning the Jonathan Randel case. It was sinister to see this whistleblower imprisoned, for revealing legitimate public interest matters.

    Keep up the good work

  • ROBINA bull

    One journalist denouncing journalists. Are they not all the same, or how can we tell the difference?

  • Joshua Scarlett

    This article is an excellent piece of journalism, Mr Oborne – it should be mandatory reading. It’ll be interesting to see, however, if Jeremy Hunt’s ‘glass houses’ retort to Ed Miliband at the despatch box this afternoon will make the news bulletins. The last thing needed is for the media to allow Miliband to moralise on the issue and start politicking, when he is guilty of an error of judgement potentially as dire as the prime minister’s.

  • Yo

    There is no left or right, only right or wrong …

    Right on.

  • Hazard Chase

    This is not about the News of the World or about News International. It is about journalism. Journalists after a certain type of story have always employed black arts to get information that is not otherwise readily available. Even if editors show rigorous moral leadership, ambitious reporters will always – and perhaps should always – seek to push at the boundaries. Corssing over these boundaries is an inevitable side effect of this. We either regulate their activities or we have a free press. It’s as simple as that.

  • 5.antiago

    Genuinely brilliant article.

    If you dredge this murky swamp of co-dependent high level corruption you’ll find the reason why voter participation is so low, and apathy so high.

    The corrupt influence of vested interests is endemic in the system. We all knew, but we never thought it could change

    The system itself is the elephant in the room. I hope we can keep the pressure up, and change things for the better.

    Articles like this are a great help

  • Markwri

    Great article, Peter, as usual. I will ignore your recent Telegraph article which praised Dave Cameron as the best prime minister since, well, the last great prime minister!

  • kannan srinivasan

    This admirable article is tribute to the the quality that survives in the British press, despite its sad degradation by Mr Murdoch.

  • A. MacAulay

    Many people, often politicians, sometimes journalists make compromises on their way toward success, toward power. And power is that mysterious force that innoculates politicians from getting caught by the sins of their past. Up to the point when their power starts to wain. Then we see them tumble to ruin or obscurity.

    And it is the job of the press to keep the pols awake, aware and as honest as power allows. It is not the job of the press to blackmail politicians, to bribe anybody let alone public servants or to break and enter and steal anything, let alone a voicemail. It is not the job of the press to trade silence on insider, compromising knowledge for legal immunity. And 2 million readers are not 2 million voters. NI is a criminal organistion which failed to protect the public interest and therefore should be broken up, the ring leaders punished and cut back to size. In the public interest.

  • Realist3

    The ‘Dirty Digger’ studied PPE at Oxford and so did Cameron and Miliband and Lawson and Balls and Heath, and, and, and, etc, etc. The rest of our political elite seems to consist of banksters,lawyers, landowners, accountants, journalists and miscellaneous public school educated duffers. These facts are not unconnected with our failure to build a strong advanced and modern economy. Newspapers and politicians have created a society which is economically and spiritually bankrupt, cheap and nasty and incapable of producing leaders that the country can respect (thanks a lot Oxford) Final note out of 600 MPs only 6 are qualified engineers….says it all….lets leave train building to the Germans while we concentrate on phone hacking

  • A. MacAulay

    The Met Commissioner was not asked to fall on his sword. He was not even asked to fall on his pencil. He chose/felt obliged to resign because his handling of this, now affair of state was such that there was nowhere else to go but home. This is what responsibility and also self-respect sometimes requires.

    Pity he spoiled it all by revealing himself to be a pompous, whingey, self-pitying tw*t whose kick at Cameron tells us more about himself than about Cameron. No self-criticism, no reflection, just prissy “integrity” and regret at getting caught.

  • A. MacAulay

    And, whilst we’re on the subject, “David Cameron has repeatedly displayed an inability to make a distinction between right and wrong.”. If he cannot distinguish one from the other then he is a psychopath. More likely, he ignored the internal and external warnings, supped with the devil but used the wrong cutlery. If he doesn’t start getting honest very soon, also with himself, then he will pass through that ominous gate from which there is no return and from whence, even if you tell the truth nobody will believe you.

    It would be such a pity if a Tory PM would fall through having inherited the vileness of the Blair years.

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