Peter Hoskin

Labour make a public inquiry their cause

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I briefly mentioned Ed Miliband's assertive remarks about the News of the World earlier. But it is worth returning to the video, above, to highlight one of his specific demands. "A police inquiry needs to take place without fear of favour," said the Labour leader, "and then we need a much wider inquiry to restore the reputation of British journalism." Harriet Harman has since echoed this sentiment in Deputy Prime Minister's Questions, urging the government to "act" and establish a public inquiry into the newspaper trade. So, only hours after Tom Watson berated his party leadership for their timidity on this front, a public inquiry appears to have become official Labour policy. No doubt they will make it their policy to repeat this demand constantly, too — even though, as Andrew Sparrow points out, the Home Office minister Lady Browning has all but admitted that there will be a public inquiry in time.

Although one hesitates to map the tribalisms of Westminster across such a horrendous affair, the political advantages of calling for a public inquiry are clear. This is, quite simply, not a time for politicians to take the side of the News of the World. But it would be unwise of Miliband to make too much play out of this, lest it backfire on him and his party. David Cameron has a close relationship with Rebekah Brooks and News International, that much we know. But Labour's "New Generation" have supped at the same table themselves. Indeed, according to one report of News International's summer party, only two weeks ago:

"There were more Labour figures at the party than Conservative ministers, a reflection, perhaps, of Labour's continuing obsession with winning over Murdoch when they can, and trying to neutralise his title's most venomous attacks when they fail. As well as Miliband and two of his closest advisers, Tom Baldwin and Stewart Wood, shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper and shadow foreign secretary Douglas Alexander also partied."

New Statesman's George Eaton