Cameron braces for more phone-hacking fallout

The PM faces another tough week
The PM faces another tough week. Photo: www.politicalpictures.co.uk

By Alex Stevenson

David Cameron faces another tough week as he confronts rebellions from Labour MPs, his Lib Dem partners and even members of his own party.

His decision to hire Andy Coulson as director of communications in Downing Street has prompted opponents to raise serious questions about his judgement.

Mr Coulson, the 43-year-old former editor of the News of the World, has been bailed until October after being arrested in connection with the Metropolitan police's phone-hacking investigation, Operation Weeting.


Lib Dem energy and climate change secretary Chris Huhne made clear this morning that the coalition's junior party had warned Mr Cameron against hiring Mr Coulson in No 10.

"I certainly raised it with [deputy prime minister] Nick [Clegg] and Nick raised it with the prime minister," he told BBC1's The Andrew Marr programme.

"It was made very clear to us that this was a personal appointment to the prime minister, it wasn't a government appointment and therefore we didn't have any standing to object to it."

He added: "But it was very clear from what I had said previously that I think there were big reputational risks."

After last Thursday's debate on phone-hacking secured by Labour MP Chris Bryant, the Commons will turn its attention to News of the World owner Rupert Murdoch's takeover bid against BSkyB this week.

Conservative backbenchers' frustration with Mr Cameron's decision to hire Mr Coulson is only likely to be exacerbated as a result.

"At what point does this stop becoming a question of judgment but more a question of character?" one senior Conservative MP told the Sunday Express.

"He appointed someone who was in charge when the heir to the throne had his phone tapped. You have to ask yourself, would Margaret Thatcher have appointed someone like this?"

Another Tory MP told the newspaper he or she thought the prime minister had made a "schoolboy mistake".

Mr Bryant, writing for the Observer newspaper, said: "After the string of revelations about the criminal shenanigans at the News of the World, you'd be forgiven for thinking that there can't be any more to come,"

"I fear, though, that we have only just begun to catch a whiff of the stench that is approaching. After all, even Rebekah Brooks is suggesting there is worse to come."

The News International chief executive told staff that one year from now they would appreciate why the News of the World had to close.

A recording of a meeting with staff at the newspaper obtained by Sky News revealed that she was aware of more damaging revelations which have not yet become public.

The opposition day debate on the £10 billion is set to prove the focal point of the week ahead. But the phone-hacking scandal is not entirely good news for Labour.

Ed Miliband, appearing on BBC1's The Andrew Marr programme, acknowledged his party had become "too close" to the Murdoch empire while under the leadership of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown. 

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