Coulson is only a medium-sized cog in the web of industrial scale phone-hacking, lying, deceit, and intimidation that is Murdoch’s News International. If this was any other company rather than one of themselves, the newspapers would be raising a hue and cry demanding a full public inquiry, resignations or sackings of key executives in the boardroom, and the break-up and restructuring of a disgraced and discredited corporation.
When did Rupert Murdoch, James Murdoch and Rebekah Brooks first know about phone-hacking in the organisation, when did they find this out and how, and what exactly did they discover and what action did they take? How is it that the police blocked for years on investigating clear signs that phone-hacking extended far beyond the alleged single rogue journalist? Why have the police so brazenly failed to carry out their own inquiry into how they so badly misled the public and even failed to warn most of the victims of the illegality that was being perpetrated on them? How can an organisation that so ruthlessly broke the law for years on end, and repeatedly lied to cover it up, be allowed to continue operating in such a sensitive area of public life as providing news coverage for the nation?
How can the electorate ever trust again a Prime Minister who deliberately took on a former News of the World editor, in the teeth of repeated warnings from elements in Downing Street, the political parties and even the media itself, and did not even have him vetted at DV level (developed vetting), but only at the much lower SC level (security cleared)?
There can be only one plausible explanation – that he knew or suspected or feared what a more thorough vetting would come up with, namely evidence that was scarcely deniable that Coulson had been up to his neck in hacking, or even that he had an affair with Rebekah Brooks for several years. It wasn’t bad judgement on Cameron’s part; it was rather his insatiable urge to establish close links with Murdoch at any cost – as he showed again over the BSkyB affair – which he recklessly steeled himself to believe he could get away with.
So what should be done now? The issues are not merely, or even primarily, about personalities. They concern rather the structure, nature and culture of the press. There is far too much power concentrated in too few hands, and most of those hands don’t even belong to British citizens, and nearly all of them belong to private tycoon adventurers whose papers disseminate their owners’ prejudices and in no way honestly represent the diversity of public opinion. The only real way to deal with a media empire operating in deliberate breach of the law over several years is to disband it and transfer the assets to an independent public trust.