Nick Clegg emails Lib Dem members about phone hacking

Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg has just emailed party members, appealing for their views on next steps following the allegations of widespread phone-hacking by the News of The World:

I’m sure like me you have been shocked and appalled by the allegations of widespread phone hacking by the News of the World. As I made clear at Deputy Prime Minister’s Question Time in the House of Commons yesterday the behaviour of those involved is grotesque and beneath contempt.
The PM and I have agreed, as he announced today at PMQs, that there will be inquiries into both the original police investigation and also the behaviour of the British press, their practices and ethics – and that the details of those inquiries will be agreed by the party leaders. On your behalf I will be making it clear that the inquiries must be independent, open, able to access all information and call witnesses, and that crucially the inquiry dealing with legal issues (eg relationship between police and media) must be presided over by a judge.
Given the seriousness of this issue, and its unprecedented nature, I am keen to hear your views on what should happen next. If you have views please do email me at [email protected]
Best wishes,
Nick Clegg MP
Leader of the Liberal Democrats and Deputy Prime Minister

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  • I’m not a member but I am a supporter so would I be able to email?

    In any case my main point would be that the relationship between the politics and the media as well the police should be put under scrutiny. Things like police taking money from the media has been well known for a long time yet nothing has been done about it politically. The question of how powerful the media is and how much of a sway it has over politicians and the police needs to be seriously looked at.

    The public inquiry should be broad and needs to be able to make reccomendations into how the media, police and politicians interact and what is and is not acceptable and indeed illegal.

  • Keith Browning 6th Jul '11 - 6:33pm

    Just sent off my contribution.

    Main thrust was to have 3-4 members of the general public, chosen by lottery, included on the panels of the public enquiry/ies.

    A big dose of common sense required and some sort of guarantee that those asking the questions haven’t also got their nose in the trough or have political pressures that dictate their questioning approach.

  • I would like to see any inquiry take place under oath. Without it, we can confidently expect the inquiry to be consistently lied to.

  • Andrew Duffield 6th Jul '11 - 9:05pm

    The Liberal solution to phone hacking is not more regulation or state interference, but phones that can’t be hacked.

    As ever, the market and consumer demand can sort this out. The question is, will government – and CGHQ – let it?

  • Andrew Suffield 6th Jul '11 - 9:43pm

    As ever, the market and consumer demand can sort this out. The question is, will government – and CGHQ – let it?

    Sadly, the market and consumer demand are precisely the problem.

    The technology to make reasonably secure telephone and voicemail systems is already widely available (even on cellphones, if they run Android or Symbian), and neither the government nor GCHQ are offering any opposition to it.

    Consumers don’t want security – they say they do, but when it comes down to choosing what technology they use, they almost never opt for the more secure alternative. Their priorities lie elsewhere.

    And that’s even justifiable. Why should you secure your voicemail? You didn’t know that somebody would want to break into it after you died.

  • Andrew Duffield – Or rigorous implentation of current laws which make hacking and police taking payments illegal.

  • Meher Oliaji 7th Jul '11 - 12:02am

    If the govenment can only stop the BSkyB bid on the Media Plurality argument, then it is reasonable to question why the police have been so soft on News International for the last 10 years.

    They must have known that evidence in the Milly Dowler investigation had been destroyed, but took no action against the perpetrators.

    Either the police were corrupted by journalists or they feared the enmity of News International. Either way, the ability of one news organisation to subvert or intimidate our police is proof that media plurality is already compromised. Mr Hunt needs to be reminded of this.

  • Meher Oliagi – You make a very good point. This does potentially show that Murdoch’s ownership of so much of our media is a threat to us. At the very least the media plurality test should be suspended untill after the inquries and police investigation.


    The article above is spot on and shocking. So Clegg himself was told about Coulson’s dodginess before signing the coalition agreement and yet did nothing to object. Therefore his words ring completely hollow. I don’t often agree with Peter Oborne, but if this is indeed true, it is just astonishing. Add this to Cameron’s judgment in which he puts Coulson on the public payroll and spends Christmas with Brooks one gets the feeling this lot are even more incompetent (or just have even more contempt for the public) than the last lot.

    After now revealing they had attempted to hack into the phones of relatives of deceased servicemen/women, I fail to see how anyone can deem Murdoch a fit and proper person to control an even larger portion of British media. If this deal is allowed to go through then I think a large portion of the public, myself included, will demand that the government itself must go.

    The LibDems have a golden chance to redeem themselves here. Do what is in the public interest and make sure the deal with Murdoch is, at the very least, put on hold until all criminal investigations and possible trials are completed.

  • At least saying something about it publicly would be a start, Nick. Tell them the truth. This is part of the two party stitch up with Murdoch that has lasted decades. Both the Tories and Labour have been at it and are guilty as hell.

    We have not been part of this. Time to get some credit and stick it to the Tories. After all, they did it to us with AV. Time to get our own back.

  • Keith Browning 7th Jul '11 - 9:57am

    If the LibDems are truly a ‘Murdoch-free’ zone then now is the time to make that clear to the electorate.

    I watched almost the entire debate yesterday and some of the allegations/revelelations strike at the very centre of our society. This is not really about phone hacking but power, influence and corruption at the very highest level and an attempt to cover up both the illigal activities and the relationships between the various personalities involved.

    This has the smell of Maxwell and Watergate about it and I dont think we have heard even a tiny part of the story yet. When the dominoes start to fall I wonder where they will end.

  • RC: Nick has made public statements, and I guess he shouldn’t be seen to be milking the opportunity for partisan gain. I wouldn’t mind hearing a bit more from him, but I guess it’s a tricky balance.

  • This scandal is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to break Murdoch’s grip on the British media.

    If Clegg recognises it as such, and has the courage to really go for it, he might even redeem his own and the party’s fortunes.

    He needs to start by blocking the Sky takeover in the short term, then lets see where the story goes after that. I think even going as far as threatening to bring down the government unless it is blocked would be worth it at this stage, given the level of public anger about it and the fact that the Tories, especially Cameron himself, are being tainted more and more by the day.

  • @Sam “This does potentially show that Murdoch’s ownership of so much of our media is a threat to us. ”

    Potentially? This naive observation whose complacency is the tone of so many LibDem Voice comments over the last year shows why our support has been so dire: most people have no idea how much more destructive is a sustained line of attack on us in the Sun or the Daily Mail than is a counter effective, constructive grass-roots “community based” campaign.
    As a distant but hugely toxic reminder, you only have took at how our votes fell away during the last election campaign, starting (ironically) with The Sunday Times headline that Nick Clegg was more popular than Jesus which they deliberately ran in the soon to be realised hope of deflating a 1st place poll lead at the time. (April 18, 2010.) A concerted attack, coordinated by George Osborne, was to puncture the LibDem balloon four days later and we have lived with the consequences of a diminished number of MPs ever since.
    The question now is whether we have the right people working in the press and communications team at this most crucial juncture. Have the recent appointments introduced one or two people who really understand how we can change some paper’s perception or is it just another round of musical chairs to be carried over to Great George Street?

  • @Squeedle
    Great piece in the telegraph by Peter Oborne. Thanks for providing this link.
    From what I know, Johnny Oates and the advice given to Nick Clegg frustrated any attempt by Alan Rushbridger to warn of the dangers of close association with Andy Coulson.
    Oborne is wrong in implying that Nick Clegg had a say in making Coulson Downing Street Director of Communications, though.

  • Sean Blake – I didn’t mean us as a party, I mean our society. Of course I know that Murdoch is not a nice guy, but from a legal perspective there could now be evidence rather than conspiracy theories that prove he shouldn’t be allowed the BskyB deal because he can’t be trusted with so much power.

    As for why the Tory press went after Clegg at the election, it’s clear that they saw the LibDems as a threat to the Conservatives winning the election, and they were proved right. You have to wonder how the left-wing press would have treated us if it had been Labour that was so close to getting a majority. We have no friends in the media and we should expect them to try to hurt us when their interests are threatened.

    I agree that Clegg should play hardball on this. He has to fight to make sure the inquries are not a whitewash. Given that a thorough inquiry may portray politicians in a very bad light especially Cameron there’s a lot of incentive not have an inquiry that is as far reaching as it should be. The Tories are ruthless so we have to be careful as they might try to use things like the Huhne speeding affair to stop us, but Clegg can damage Cameron a hell of a lot if he publically denounces Cameron’s decision to hire Coulson and his friendship with Brooks.

    The temptation may be just to try to hurt Cameron after AV but we have to focus on making sure the inquiries have teeth.

  • @ Adam

    “I guess he shouldn’t be seen to be milking the opportunity for partisan gain”.

    Yes he should be doing EVERYTHING in his power for partisan gain. Come on Nick, shout it out: Labour and the Tories are Murdoch’s slaves and we’re not. It’s a very simple, powerful message, so why aren’t we hearing it?

  • I would also add that we have nothing to fear, because the press barons have burned their bridges so badly with the Lib Dems for years that the time for revenge is more than ripe. What more can they do to us that they haven’t done already?

  • RC: I meant that he needs to be careful that he doesn’t look like he’s overdoing it in the eyes of the public. I think one thing he could do – as I say above – is pick the fight about whether any inquiry is to be under oath and overseen by a judge. The Daily Mail reports “Mr Cameron and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg are understood to be wrangling over whether an investigation […] should be led by a judge and require witnesses to take evidence on oath.” I think having this argument in public wouldn’t lose us any popularity.

  • @Sam ” As for why the Tory press went after Clegg at the election, it’s clear that they saw the LibDems as a threat to the Conservatives winning the election, and they were proved right.” Obviously.
    I take your point about the “us” meaning our society, though.

    @RC – I agree with everything you say about our moral right to trumpet our independence from Murdoch.
    Now let’s see if we’ve got a communications team who realise we have but a short while to allow the party to breathe while the lid has been lifted. I will be cheering if they can start to secure a scintilla of favourable media coverage from our tormentors – so rightly deserved for the party on this issue.

  • It’s strange that there are hardly no LibDems saying anything about this in the media. At the very least we need to be seen to making sure the public inquiry isn’t a stitch up. This seems to be a perfect moment for us to get some positive coverage and turn the heat up on the Tories, but we seem to be doing neither.

  • @Sam:
    This seems to be a perfect moment for us to get some positive coverage and turn the heat up on the Tories, but we seem to be doing neither.

    Indeed. The utter silence from Cameron today is deafening. And now that Coulson is to be arrested tomorrow, there will be questions which the PM will need to answer. And as revealed above, Clegg kept his mouth shut and did nothing to object to Coulson’s appointment even after he was warned.

    The only party leader who is making a big noise (albeit an opportunistic noise) about this is Ed Milliband. Of course Labour have questions they will need answered about their relationship with Murdoch, but right now Cameron is in charge; he needs to explain why he chose to employ Coulson. Clegg needs to answer why he didn’t object to Coulson’s appointment.

    Really none of the political leaders are really showing any kind of “leadership”. It saddens me a bit to admit Tom Watson has been at the forefront in exposing this scandal. It disgusts me to hear of the amount of police corruption. It angers me the way Murdoch just sacrificed several hundred innocent workers to save one woman. And I expect our PM to be calling for Brooks to resign and making a sincere apology for his decision to employ Coulson, at great expense to the taxpayer facing massive cuts, rather than refusing to condemn them.

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