Noose tightens on James Murdoch and David Cameron as Yates of the Yard throws in the towel

Met Police assistant commissioner John Yates, the senior policeman who investigated the News of the World phone hacking scandal and declared the matter closed despite being supposedly the cleverest person at Scotland Yard, has followed his boss Sir Paul Stephenson into early retirement as the fallout from the scandal continues to spread.

Stephenson’s decision to quit over his and the force’s involvement with former NoW deputy editor Neil Wallis followed the resignations of News International CEO Rebekah Wade and Dow Jones boss Les Hinton. Wallis and Brooks have since been arrested and released on bail.

Now the focus will switch even more strongly to News International chairman James Murdoch and, almost unbelievably, UK prime minister David Cameron.

Murdoch is due to face an irate Parliamentary committee tomorrow (Tuesday) while Cameron faces a fight for his political life before Parliament breaks for a delayed summer recess.

So far in this spate of resignations we haven’t had a Murdoch but that is surely just a matter of time. News Corporation shares took another powder in Australia this morning (they are quoted in both Australia and the US) and it’s now beyond doubt that the involvement of the Murdochs in the company Rupert Murdoch founded is regarded by investors as thoroughly toxic.

Murdoch junior is also likely to be forced out of long-time News Corporation takeover target BSkyB which he chairs.

As for Cameron, the suave Old Etonian has made a right cods of all this, by hiring disgraced NoW editor Andy Coulson in the first place, keeping him on when he became PM and continuing to socialise with Murdoch insiders Rebekah Brooks, Elizabeth Murdoch and her husband PR man Matthew Freud.

Every time a top cop resigns (and Stephenson was careful to drop Cameron right in it by saying that he kept schtum about Wallis so as not to embarrass Cameron over Coulson) the noose tightens a little more around Cameron.

It won’t have escaped Cameron’s attention either that it’s his Tory rival London mayor Boris johnson who keeps putting the thumb screws on these errant policemen although, in truth, BoJo’s record on phone hacking is hardly brilliant. Late last year he was still saying it was all hot air (something BoJo is an expert on).

So it’s Cameron now who will be looking for some expert PR advice (the Murdochs seem to be hiring everyone in sight including Edelman as well as the ubiquitous Freud). A grovelling apology to Parliament might just get him off the hook.

But has the cocky PM the inclination to make it?

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About Stephen Foster

Stephen is a former editor of Marketing Week and London Evening Standard advertising columnist. He wrote City Republic for Brand Republic and is a partner in communications consultancy The Editorial Partnership.

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    It really is time for David Cameron. If he hangs on, his time will be swallowed up by explanations and self-justification. It’s best that he go now.