News International: Met Police in the Dock

Mark was asked by the Guardian’s Comment is Free editor to provide his take on the Met’s role in the News International phone hacking scandal. His comments are below. 

It is hard to imagine how the Metropolitan police can continue to oversee the ongoing News International phone-hacking inquiry. At least not while assistant commissioner John Yates remains in post. That is not to be critical of his performance before the Home Office select committee. Indeed, as one might expect of such senior former officers, Ian Blair, Peter Clarke and even the more earthy Andy Hayman, held their own as credible witnesses.

But buck-passing was the order of the day. “I share the shock of almost everybody at the depths to which the media have sunk” was the universal refrain as blame was piled onto Rupert Murdoch and his leading acolytes. Yates seemed to suggest that his failure to investigate further the phone-hacking allegations was excusable on the grounds that “the police did not have information they should have”. Perhaps the accumulation of intelligence and unglamorous plain-vanilla detective work is no longer the responsibility of the Met.

The relationship between central London’s police and press appears to have been far too cosy for far too long and no amount of hindsight or indignation can alter that insidious impression.

Not that politicians are blameless. In fairness, the select committee generally resisted the sort of grandstanding that tends to accompany TV camera coverage. However, the sorry truth is that over the past two decades the leadership of both main political parties have ingratiated themselves to the point of embarrassment at the shrine of Rupert Murdoch and News International. For the self-same politicians (and yes, that includes you, Mr Brown) to turn on News International now smacks of rank hypocrisy. It shows the sorry state to which domestic politics has sunk and the unsavoury relationship between the executive and the media.

In truth, once this whole episode is fully investigated there will be a lot of folk in many walks of life who will fail the “fit and proper” test.