[Update at end of post]
Today, the focus of Phonehackgate has been on Rebekah Brooks, the twinkle toed yet domestically combative CEO of News International (NI), who was in the editor’s chair at the Screws when the Milly Dowler hacking occurred. Speculation is now mounting that she will have to go, despite her apparent determination to tough this one out.
The Brooks defence is, basically, that she didn’t know what was going on. This will be familiar to those who have followed the saga of Brooks’ then deputy Andy Coulson, who also did not know what was going on, but doesn’t stand the most cursory of examination, as I noted yesterday. Coulson, despite his having resigned the editorship of the Screws, was still enthusiastically taken on board by Young Dave, and Brooks is a personal friend.
Why should this matter? Because the last thing that Cameron needs right now is for the waters of Phonehackgate to lap at his door. Following the Dowler revelations, nobody wants to be anywhere near the Murdoch empire. And the noises coming out of NI are that there could be worse to come. This was hinted at yesterday.
And it could be a case of double worse: it has been suggested that phone hacking at the Screws extended to the families of both Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman, who went missing in August 2002 in the Cambridgeshire village of Soham. The two ten year olds had been lured into the house of school caretaker Ian Huntley, who had then murdered them.
Brooks was editor of the Screws throughout 2002.
The potential for that suggestion – or anything else that impinges on major crimes and subsequent Police investigations – to prove true must now be weighing heavily on Cameron, and those around him. Already he has called the news on the Dowler revelations “truly dreadful” and urged that the authorities “pursue this in the most vigorous way”.
Boxing Young Dave in a little bit more is news that Ed Miliband has called for Brooks to “consider her position”. And there is no knowledge of when the next revelation may come, although both Cameron and Mil the Younger know that PMQs – noon tomorrow – is likely to feature Phonehackgate.
The bad news for Brooks is that Young Dave did not get where he is today by being nice. She may be a personal friend, but Cameron cannot afford to have any of the dirt stick to him. Rebekah Brooks is now a dead CEO walking. It is time for her to go.
[UPDATE: And so it came to pass - it has now been confirmed that the parents of Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman have been contacted by police, and warned that there is evidence to suggest they were targeted by Glenn Mulcaire, who was working at the time for the Screws]