By Oliver Wright, Ian Burrell, Martin Hickman, Cahal Milmo and Andrew Grice
Saturday, 9 July 2011
David Cameron was forced to cut Rupert Murdoch and his newspaper empire loose from the heart of government yesterday as he tried to deflect public anger about his failure to tackle the phone-hacking scandal.
Mr Cameron turned on Mr Murdoch’s son James, saying there were questions “that need to be answered” about his role during the phone-hacking cover-up, and criticising him for not accepting the resignation of News International’s chief executive Rebekah Brooks.
He also admitted that his desire to win support from the company’s newspapers had led him to turn “a blind eye” as evidence grew of widespread illegality at the News of the World.
With a newspaper closed, five arrests and more to follow, 4,000 possible victims, a media empire shaken to its foundations and the Prime Minister reeling, the escalating scandal has become a controversy comparable to the US Watergate saga, with ramifications for Downing Street, the media and police.
Last night the media regulator Ofcom announced it would contact police about the conduct of Mr Murdoch’s empire in covering up phone-hacking allegations, to determine whether it was a “fit and proper” owner of the broadcaster BSkyB, which Mr Murdoch is attempting to buy outright. He is due to fly into London today to deal with the crisis, according to reports. Shares in the broadcaster fell by eight per cent.