The spectacular fall-out from the News of the World hacking scandal continues apace with Rupert Murdoch bowing to the inevitable and finally accepting Rebekah Brook’s resignation from News International (NI). With excitement building amongst politicos and media watchers in the build-up to Tuesday’s televised chastisement of News Corp’s top brass, it provides an opportunity to assess the lasting impact of the scandal on the UK’s political classes.
Wednesday’s PMQs was notable for the orchestrated Labour attack on David Cameron’s decision to appoint Andy Coulson, and there is no doubt that the Prime Minister’s judgement has been tainted by the allegations surrounding his former Press Chief. Yet, whether there is any significant lasting damage to the Prime Minister remains to be seen. Anthony Wells’ consistently excellent UK Polling Report indicates that only 23% of the electorate believe that Cameron has handled the scandal well, although 27% of the population trust him to sort the issue out, compared to just 16% for Ed Miliband. The latest voting intention figures show Labour with an 8 point lead over the Tories, a figure that has remained relatively consistent in recent months, demonstrating that despite Labour’s best efforts this has not become a partisan issue.
Indeed, perhaps the most interesting figure from recent polls is that 50% of the population do not trust any of the party leaders to tackle this issue. MPs have invoked public outrage as the driving force behind their pursuit of NI, and simultaneously relished being usurped from their position as Public Enemy Number One by the tabloid press. Yet, in this post-expenses-scandal age much of the electorate view NI’s behaviour as part of an endemic corruption in British Society, and the political class as complicit. Although this conclusion may be unfair, it does underline that the hacking scandal may have dented the public’s confidence in the media, but it has also further damaged the credibility of our politicians.