On last night’s Newsnight, Tom Watson, who has pursued the News of the World with an unrivalled tenacity, raged against the party leaders for their collective failure to hold News International to account: “There have been plenty of hints to Ed Miliband, Nick Clegg and David Cameron that something very murky happened with [private investigator] Glenn Mulcaire and the News of the World. They have let the Dowler family down tonight by not calling for a public inquiry… Politicians are frightened of News International and they need to act.”
But Ed Miliband’s latest intervention should go some way to assuage Watson’s anger. In his latest TV interview, Miliband became the first leader to suggest that Rebekah Brooks should resign over the alleged hacking of Milly Dowler’s phone. He called for her to “consider her position” and to “examine her conscience”. Significantly, he added: “[T]his goes well beyond one individual … This was a systematic series of things that happened and what I want from executives at News International is people to start taking responsibility for this, people to start saying why that happened.”
It’s a bold move given that just two weeks ago, Miliband attended News International’s summer party with Douglas Alexander and Yvette Cooper (who led Labour’s criticism of the News of the World last night). For the first time, he also demanded a public inquiry into the phone hacking scandal.
The key question now is whether Miliband’s intervention prompts Cameron and Clegg to take a tougher line on the scandal.