Getting things in perspective. Big picture observations on Hackgate.
By Tim Montgomerie
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We live in an age when football managers, celebrities and politicians are either heroes or villains. We live in a world of black and white, hot and cold and little perspective. Attention-seeking bloggers are wondering if Cameron is on his way out. Bookmakers are speculating on who might replace Cameron. Here are my big picture thoughts on what we should all be focused on in this Hackgate drama.
What happened at the News of the World was unacceptable. If found guilty people should go to jail for what went on. It's right that News International pay a commercial price for a lack of competent oversight of their newspapers.
All of these problems occured under a Labour government and Brown and Blair both passed up opportunities to do anything about warnings they were given by Select Committees and the Information Commissioner. If Labour had investigated the politically-motivated attacks on Lord Ashcroft's privacy by The Times - involving the man who is now Ed Miliband's Comms Chief, Tom Baldwin - News International might have been cleaned up a lot earlier.
Cameron is, perhaps, guilty of an error of judgment in employing Andy Coulson but that's it. There is no evidence that Cameron was guilty of any personal wrongdoing. None. None. None. There is no reason for him to even contemplate his position. Conservatives shouldn't suggest otherwise.
The Prime Minister has taken decisive action on the scandal. Cameron was, perhaps, a little slow last week to take action on Hackgate but it's always easier to be swift of foot in opposition than government when legal and certain bureaucratic procedures have to be followed. Cameron cannot be accused of not taking decisive action. He's established a far-reaching judge-led inquiry into the press. He's published his media contacts. He supported Ed Miliband's call to stop the BSkyB takeover.
On a couple of occasions the Tory Party did give away too much to News International. One such occasion was to agree to the election debates that Sky desperately wanted. I'll be discussing another disappointing concession tomorrow.
Cameron has had a difficult fortnight but his personal ratings are so far unchanged. The headline voting intention figures are also stable. The British people may have more perspective than many in the Westminster village.
The real media monopoly in Britain is the BBC. The killer fact is that 73% of British people get their news from TV and the BBC provides 70% of TV news. In the last fortnight the BBC has lost all perspective. While it is right that Hackgate leads news bulletins there has been massive under-reporting of events such as today's historic defence cuts, the humanitarian crisis in Africa and, most significantly, looming debt crises in the USA and, more significantly, the €urozone.
The corrupt relationship between police officers and journalists is the most worrying aspect of this saga. The public already had a low opinion of politicians and journalists. If they lose faith in the police service that's more serious. Let's not forget that the Coalition has an agenda for police reform, which Labour opposes (see David Blackburn).
At the end of this Cameron needs to overhaul his Downing Street operation. But that's for another day.