Blame it on Vince Cable and the Telegraph girls
David Cameron would not be so deep in the BSkyB mess if it hadn’t been for Cable’s idle boasting
The Daily Telegraph carries the latest twist in the phone-hacking scandal today - claiming that phone numbers of relatives of dead British service personnel were found in the files of the News of the World's hacker-in-chief, private investigator Glenn Mulcaire.
So, not only was someone at the Sunday tabloid happy to hack into the voicemail of murder victim Milly Dowler, of the parents of the murdered Soham twins, and relatives of victims of the 7/7 terrorist attacks, but they were also prepared to invade the privacy of families grieving over sons and daughters lost on the frontline in Afghanistan.
The Telegraph also runs a punchy column by Peter Oborne claiming that David Cameron's associations with News International have "permanently and irrevocably damaged his reputation".
Oborne writes: "He should never have employed Andy Coulson, the News of the World editor, as his director of communications. He should never have cultivated Rupert Murdoch. And the worst mistake of all he should never have allowed himself to become a close friend of Rebekah Brooks, the chief executive of the media giant News International, whose departure from that company in shame and disgrace can only be a matter of time."
It is interesting that the Daily Telegraph should be making the running this morning. Why?
Cut to Downing Street where David Cameron is desperately looking for a way out of the BSkyB takeover mess before the consultation period runs out tomorrow, with culture secretary Jeremy Hunt having already said that the morality of the News of the World staff is not an issue in deciding whether Rupert Murdoch's bid for BSkyB should be referred to the Monopolies Commission.
The fact that if an opinion poll were conducted today, 100 per cent of the British public would say it is an issue, is just too bad.
As the Mole predicted yesterday, there is a sense of panic at Number Ten. Today's Independent quotes an insider saying: "We are looking for a way out on the takeover. But it isn't easy to find one. The timing is just awful."
An unnamed Conservative minister was briefed to put out the word: "David Cameron is well aware of how damaging the issue of the takeover is to him and to the Government. There is real anxiety in No 10."
One option - which may have happened by now - is the sending of a message from Number 10 to News Corp to do everyone a favour and delay the takeover bid from their end. "A period of calm is what is needed," one Westminster consultant told the Mole overnight.
But in the midst of this panic, there is one inescapable truth - that if Vince Cable hadn't made such as ass of himself last year when he told two undercover female reporters that he was "at war" with Murdoch, then the government would never have found itself in this mess.
Cameron would not have felt bound to remove the BSkyB dossier from Cable's authority, and Cable himself would have referred the takeover to the Monopolies Commission.
Cable must, of course, take the blame for behaving like an idiot when the two girls, posing as ordinary constituents but armed with hidden tape recorders, approached him.
But let's not forget that they were sent to see Cable on a "fishing expedition" - having no idea what if anything they might discover if they could get Cable to talk - and that the paper that sent them was the Daily Telegraph.
In May this year, the Press Complaints Commission adjudicated that the Telegraph's methods were not justified and were a breach of the Editors' Code of Practice.
Such fishing expeditions are just one of the dubious tactics that the inquiry into press behaviour, promised by Cameron yesterday, will be examining, along with phone tapping.
Oborne's column today is an excellent read. But the Telegraph should beware of falling off its high horse. ·
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