How Brooks tried to destroy the Guardian

How is this phone hacking thing going to end? Rebekah Brooks: "With Alan Rusbridger on his knees, be

Rebekah Brooks said that the phone-hacking scandal would end with Guardian editor "Alan Rusbridger on his knees, begging for mercy", according to Nick Davies in this week's Media Talk podcast over at the Guardian. Davies continues: "They would have destroyed us. If they could have done, they would have shut down the Guardian."

Elsewhere in the podcast, Rusbridger talks about the resistence to covering the scandal from within Fleet Street. "I was told from time to time that this was not helpful for Fleet Street," said Rusbridger. "The only thing that was going to damage Fleet Street was the failure to deal with this seriously. If the PCC had acted in 2009. . . then I think the News of the World would still be alive."

The general gist of the podcast is: "Ha, ha, we were right!" You can hardly blame them. People who should know better repeatedly told the Guardian that they were on a hiding to nothing, and yet we are now staring at a scandal that has brought down Britain's most read newspaper, revealed widespread corruption in the police and shaken the Prime Minister. The Guardian deserves its moment in the sun.

Listen to the whole podcast here.

Photo: Getty
Show Hide image

Theresa May is paying the price for mismanaging Boris Johnson

The Foreign Secretary's bruised ego may end up destroying Theresa May. 

And to think that Theresa May scheduled her big speech for this Friday to make sure that Conservative party conference wouldn’t be dominated by the matter of Brexit. Now, thanks to Boris Johnson, it won’t just be her conference, but Labour’s, which is overshadowed by Brexit in general and Tory in-fighting in particular. (One imagines that the Labour leadership will find a way to cope somehow.)

May is paying the price for mismanaging Johnson during her period of political hegemony after she became leader. After he was betrayed by Michael Gove and lacking any particular faction in the parliamentary party, she brought him back from the brink of political death by making him Foreign Secretary, but also used her strength and his weakness to shrink his empire.

The Foreign Office had its responsibility for negotiating Brexit hived off to the newly-created Department for Exiting the European Union (Dexeu) and for navigating post-Brexit trade deals to the Department of International Trade. Johnson was given control of one of the great offices of state, but with no responsibility at all for the greatest foreign policy challenge since the Second World War.

Adding to his discomfort, the new Foreign Secretary was regularly the subject of jokes from the Prime Minister and cabinet colleagues. May likened him to a dog that had to be put down. Philip Hammond quipped about him during his joke-fuelled 2017 Budget. All of which gave Johnson’s allies the impression that Johnson-hunting was a licensed sport as far as Downing Street was concerned. He was then shut out of the election campaign and has continued to be a marginalised figure even as the disappointing election result forced May to involve the wider cabinet in policymaking.

His sense of exclusion from the discussions around May’s Florence speech only added to his sense of isolation. May forgot that if you aren’t going to kill, don’t wound: now, thanks to her lost majority, she can’t afford to put any of the Brexiteers out in the cold, and Johnson is once again where he wants to be: centre-stage. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics.