Rebekah and Charlie Brooks leaving the High Court, 2012. Photo: Getty
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Rebekah Brooks' statement on trial

Former NOTW editor speaks out.

After being cleared this week of all charges related to phone hacking, Rebekah Brooks made her first public comments on the trial:

Of course the last few years have been tough for both of us and for those closest to us, but more importantly they’ve been tough for everybody on all sides that have been affected by the issues highlighted by this case. And therefore throughout the three-year police investigation and through our eight-month trial at the Old Bailey, we’ve always tried to keep our troubles in perspective. I mean, after all we have a happy and healthy daughter, we have our brave and resolute mums that have been at court most of the time and we’ve had strong and unwavering support from all our friends, our family and from our legal teams that have believed in us from the beginning.
“I am innocent of the crimes that I was charged with and I feel vindicated by the unanimous verdicts. When I was arrested, it was in the middle of a maelstrom of controversy, of politics and of comment. Some of that was fair, but much of it was not so I am grateful for the jury – very grateful for the jury for coming to their decision.
“I think I’d like to say it’s been a time of reflection for me. I’ve learnt some valuable lessons and hopefully I’m the wiser for it...
“I’m incredibly proud of the many journalists I’ve worked with throughout my career and the great campaigns that we have fought and won… All I can say to you all is that today my thoughts are with my former colleagues and their families who face future trials. I’m going to do everything I can to support them as I know how anxious the times ahead are.”

Charlie Brooks, her husband, added:

Thank you all for coming. In the last 48 hours, I’ve had to focus on being a racehorse trainer, but actually I have very little to add to what we both said over two years ago when we were charged. Everything – absolutely everything – we said two years ago has proved to be true. Rebekah has been through an unprecedented investigation of an incredibly forensic and personal nature, the likes of which we have probably never seen and I would just like to say how proud I am of Rebekah and of the dignity she has shown.”

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Why Theresa May can't end speculation of an early general election

Both Conservative and Labour MPs regard a contest next year as the solution to their problems. 

One of Theresa May’s first acts as a Conservative leadership candidate was to rule out an early general election. After a tumultuous 2015 contest and the EU referendum, her view was that the country required a period of stability (a view shared by voters). Many newly-elected Tory MPs, fearful of a Brexit-inspired Ukip or Liberal Democrat surge, supported her on this condition.

After entering Downing Street, May reaffirmed her stance. “The Prime Minister could not have been clearer,” a senior source told me. “There won’t be an early election.” Maintaining this pledge is an important part of May’s straight-talking image.

But though No.10 has wisely avoided publicly contemplating an election (unlike Gordon Brown), the question refuses to die. The Conservatives have a majority of just 12 - the smallest of any single-party government since 1974 - and, as David Cameron found, legislative defeats almost inevitably follow. May’s vow to lift the ban on new grammar schools looks to many like an unachievable task. Former education secretary Nicky Morgan and former business minister Anna Soubry are among the Tories leading the charge against the measure (which did not feature in the 2015 Conservative manifesto).  

To this problem, an early election appears to be the solution. The Tories retain a substantial opinion poll lead over Labour, the most divided opposition in recent history. An election victory would give May the mandate for new policies that she presently lacks.

“I don’t believe Theresa May wishes to hold an early election which there is evidence that the country doesn’t want and which, given the current state of the Labour Party, might be seen as opportunistic,” Nigel Lawson told today’s Times“If, however, the government were to find that it couldn’t get its legislation through the House of Commons, then a wholly new situation would arise.”

It is not only Conservatives who are keeping the possibility of an early election alive. Many Labour MPs are pleading for one in the belief that it would end Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership. An early contest would also pre-empt the boundary changes planned in 2018, which are forecast to cost the party 23 seats.

For Corbyn, the possibility of an election is a vital means of disciplining MPs. Allies also hope that the failed revolt against his leadership, which Labour members blame for the party’s unpopularity, would allow him to remain leader even if defeated.

Unlike her predecessors, May faces the obstacle of the Fixed-Term Parliaments Act (under which the next election will be on 7 May 2020). Yet it is not an insurmountable one. The legislation can be suspended with the backing of two-thirds of MPs, or through a vote of no confidence in the government. Alternatively, the act could simply be repealed or amended. Labour and the Liberal Democrats, who have demanded an early election, would struggle to resist May if she called their bluff.

To many, it simply looks like an offer too good to refuse. Which is why, however hard May swats this fly, it will keep coming back. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.