Phone-hacking: Damage report
All the key players in the phone-hacking scandal – and their chances of survival.
By Ian Dunt Follow @IanDunt
Damage taken: 6/10
The seemingly-omnipotent media mogul has been taken to task in the most public way imaginable. With public opinion turned furiously against him, control of BSkyB falling suddenly through his hands and his efforts to limit the damage proving redundant, he is as weak now as he's ever been. The willingness of Ed Miliband to attack him without caveat or caution suggests that his ability to control British politics is now severely limited. David Cameron is still mulling whether to turn against him completely, as his careful 'I would have accepted her resignation' response to questions about Rebekah Brooks shows, but everyday the government becomes more convinced that it has to distance itself from him.
Damage taken: 2/10
So far, Rupert Murdoch's son has escaped most of the attacks, with opponents firing their allegations against Andy Coulson and Brooks. The man billed as his father's successor made a full-bloodied attack against the BBC two years ago, complete with Biblical rhetoric about the liberating power of profit, which is now coming back to haunt him. Some speculate that Brooks is only being supported by the Murdochs in order to shield James against attacks. Labour MP Tom Watson accused him of criminal wrongdoing in the Commons last Wednesday – an attack that will have sent shivers up his spine. More may be to come. Either way, his future reputation will be defined by current events.
Damage taken: 8/10
It's difficult to find anyone who believes Rebekah Brooks should stay in her job. As editor of the News of the World when Milly Dowler's phone was hacked, the events which have so appalled the public took place on her watch. The decision to stay is made even harder to understand given that Andy Coulson resigned as editor in similar circumstances but due to phone-hacks which were considered much less damning. The fact that staff at News of the World have lost their jobs while she keeps hers is increasingly difficult to understand. Her refusal to appear before Commons committees consolidates the impression of the Murdoch empire as an arrogant, detached power block influencing events but unwilling to be scrutinised. While none of the allegations have yet been proved, it is difficult to see how her reputation can ever be salvaged.
Damage taken: 9/10
The former News of the World editor and head of communication for David Cameron is in danger of being fed to the wolves. The most telling moment came when the newspaper handed the police files with alleged evidence showing he had paid police officers for information. He has now been arrested and questioned by police. It's increasingly likely he could face criminal charges. For a man who once had the whole of Murdoch's empire defending him, he seems acutely vulnerable and friendless.
Damage taken: 5/10
The prime minister's ability to waft dreamily over day-to-day affairs has finally been dented. Unlike the forestry sell-off or NHS reforms, this row has touched him personally. His press conference last Friday, which saw him nervously answer a stream of questions about his decision to hire Andy Coulson as head of communications for himself and then Downing Street, was as bad a moment as he has experienced since he took office. Every allegation made against Andy Coulson is also one against him, so as things worsen for the former News of the World editor, they worsen also for Cameron. It is being reported that he was warned by Nick Clegg, Paddy Ashdown and Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger about Coulson before he took him into Downing Street. If that can be demonstrated he will be asked even more searching questions about his judgement than he is now. Last week he was forced to revert to the 'I made this decision and take responsibility for it' defence, in a manner not dissimilar to Tony Blair during the Bernie Ecclestone affair. That's a defence you only get to use once.
Damage taken: -6/10
The Labour leader has had his best week since taking the post. He was brave enough to come out publicly against Murdoch when the scandal broke, an approach which contrasted sharply with the more cautious government response. David Cameron, who usually bests Miliband, has seemed two steps behind at each stage. Miliband called for an inquiry, the resignation of Rebekah Brooks and the handing of the BSkyB deal to the Competition Commission. Every day the government gets closer to adopting his position. He appears in charge of events, the ultimate prize for any opposition leader.
Damage taken: 2/10
The culture, media and sport secretary has managed to keep a low profile in the debate so far, but he is visibly hesitant in the face of rapidly unfolding events. Last week he was all but certain to hand BSkyB to Murdoch. This week he is frantically trying to hand the hot potato back to Ofcom, the media regulator, despite the strong suggestion that it cannot possibly assess whether News International executives are fit and proper persons until the criminal process comes to an end. While Hunt is unlikely to be seriously damaged by what's happening, his reputation has certainly not improved over recent weeks.
Tom Watson and Chris Bryant
Damage taken: -7/10
The two men in parliament who pushed the phone-hacking story over the course of the last few years have both benefited substantially from the current row. They claim to have received threats from Murdoch's agents, including promises of highly negative personal coverage if they continued their vendetta. They ignored them. Chris Bryant's reputation across the House simply could not higher, especially after he managed to secure last Wednesday's unusual emergency debate and lead it in a non-partisan way. Tom Watson, long ignored as petulant and troublesome by senior figures in the Labour party, now genuinely strikes fear into News International hearts when he stands up in the Commons to share new evidence. His speech during the emergency debate ("in the world of Rebekah Brooks no-one can cry in private, no one can weep without surveillance") certainly didn't hold back.
Damage taken: 7/10
If the assistant commissioner of the Met thought he could save his job by apologising for his actions over phone-hacking he was very much mistaken. His admission that his decision not to re-open the original police investigation was "pretty crap" and left the Met's reputation "very damaged" simply led to more calls for him to go. Journalists who stood outside Scotland Yard when he confirmed he would not re-open the case were unimpressed with his excuses. His appearance before a Commons committee tomorrow is likely to be especially bruising.
Sir Paul Stephenson
Damage taken: 4/10
The Met commissioner is reported to be preparing to apologise for the police's abject failure to pursue the evidence available to it over phone-hacking. Some complain that he is trying to distance himself from Yates. Either way, the police are undergoing a scandal at least as serious as that which hit them after the murder of Stephen Lawrence and the man in charge is failing to protect the institution from the worst allegations. We'll know the extent of the punishment after the independent inquiry is concluded, but as things stand it seems very likely that he has presided over a regime which failed to maintain the public's trust.
Damage taken: -7/10
Celebrated investigative report Nick Davies, who has published exclusives on phone-hacking in the Guardian for the last two years, has been entirely vindicated by recent events. The author of the book Flat Earth News, which warned against declining standards in journalism, has demonstrated his principles with a dogged, relentless campaign which eventually erupted into one of the most serious scandals to hit the British media, political and police establishments. For a row that concerns failures of journalism, Davies' efforts have demonstrated that there is still much to commend in the British media.
Damage taken: -5/10
In a startling example of life imitating art, Hugh Grant has managed to take his status as victim of phone-hacking and turn it into a staggeringly effective political campaign. His feature for the News Statesman, 'The Bugger Bugged', genuinely moved the debate along in the months before the Dowler row detonated it. His appearance on Question Time was a marvel to behold, as the actor dismantled arguments from Chris Grayling and Douglas Alexander, while proving himself to be knowledgeable and intelligent. It was as if the prime minister from Love Actually had stepped onto the set.
Damage taken: -9/10
The editor of the Daily Mail is the man most likely to benefit from the closure of the News of the World. The Mail on Sunday is likely to get a significant sales boost, while the Daily Mail website, quickly becoming the most widely-read English news site in the world, is set to gain even more readers. With public anger at News International showing no sign of abating, Dacre is in the perfect position to pick up the spoils with his similar products.
Damage taken: -7/10
The director-general of the BBC will benefit from changes to broadcasting in the same way that Dacre benefited in print. With Murdoch's bid to control BSkyB looking increasingly unlikely to succeed, the BBC has a real reason to celebrate. Not only would full control have handed Murdoch a very substantial cash machine, it would have given him the leverage to challenge the BBC on the national stage. With pay TV, broadband, and Times/Sunday Times or Sun /Sun on Sunday packages, Murdoch could have bundled up a service product which easily rivalled the BBC. The state broadcaster would have had a genuine private sector challenger, with just as much revenue but fewer restrictions on its operation. That eventuality looks less likely by the day.