London: British Prime Minister David Cameron’s friendships with two suspects at the heart of the phone hacking scandal will come under spotlight this week in what may be some uncomfortable hours for the country’s conservative leader.
Two former editors of the scandal-tarred News of the World tabloid Rebekah Brooks, Cameron’s friend and neighbour, and Andy Coulson, his former communications chief are expected to take the stand today and Friday at a British inquiry into media ethics.
The inquiry is examining the often too-cozy relationship between British politicians and the country’s press.
Speculation is rife about what the pair will reveal about their relations with Cameron and his Conservative Party, whose popularity is already at a low amid economic uncertainty and unrest from grass-roots activists.
Last week, the Daily Telegraph‘s chief political commentator, Peter Oborne, said he’d been told that Brooks had “retained the text messages she received from the prime minister, which I’m told could exceed a dozen a day.”
“These may now be published,” he said. “A horrible thought.”
Oborne, whose paper has close ties to the Conservative Party, did not immediately return an email seeking additional information. But his account of text-swapping was backed up by a front-page story in The Times of London today that spoke of a supportive message sent by Cameron to Brooks before her resignation in July.
The Times, citing an updated biography written by political journalists Francis Elliott and James Hanning, said Cameron had written to Brooks asking her to stay strong as the scandal over her paper’s illegal behaviour was raging around her. Days later, Brooks resigned from her post as CEO of Rupert Murdoch’s News International unit and has since been arrested on suspicion of phone hacking and obstruction of justice.
Both she and Coulson deny any wrongdoing.
The Times, which is published by News International, did not provide direct quotes of any part of the text message and a publicist for Elliott and Hanning did not immediately return a call seeking comment.
Still, the possibility that a trove of embarrassing texts could soon hit the Internet is buzzing around London. Kelvin MacKenzie, a former editor with Murdoch’s The Sun newspaper, predicted that, if published, the texts could be potentially fatal to Cameron’s career.