Police chief's departure spells danger for Cameron: press

18th July 2011, Comments 0 comments

The resignation of Britain's top policeman over the phone-hacking scandal rocking Rupert Murdoch's media empire threatens to drag leader David Cameron further into the mire, newspapers said Monday.

Scotland Yard chief Sir Paul Stephenson quit on Sunday over claims he stayed at a luxury resort with links to Murdoch's realm but the top-cop aimed a parting shot at prime minister Cameron over his ties with ex-News of the World editor Andy Coulson.

Stephenson's departure "underlines the extent of the crisis now gripping media, politics and policing in this country," The Guardian said in its editorial.

The paper, which was a vital tool in uncovering the extent of hacking at the now-defunct News of the World, added that the resignation "ensured that the prime minister himself is now firmly in the spotlight over questions of judgment."

The Metropolitan police force also faced criticism over its decision to employ Coulson's former deputy Neil Wallis as an advisor. Wallis was arrested last week on suspicion of attempting to intercept communications.

Cameron made Coulson his top media adviser after he resigned from the tabloid following the imprisonment of his royal editor in 2007 for phone-hacking.

Stephenson highlighted this act when defending his force's decision to employ Wallis.

"Unlike Mr Coulson, Mr Wallis had not resigned from News of the World or, to the best of my knowledge, been in any way associated with the original phone hacking investigation," he said.

Referring to this thinly-veiled attack on Cameron, the Guardian added: "The point was implicit, but widely understood: 'I'll take responsibility: what about you?'"

Centre-right broadsheet The Daily Telegraph also predicted tough times ahead for Cameron.

"Far from easing the pressure on David Cameron Sir Paul's departure increases it," its editorial concluded.

"Ever since Mr Cameron made the fatal error of appointing Andy Coulson... the waters of this murky affair have been lapping at his feet. They show no sign of receding. If anything they are rising," it added.

As well as turning up the heat on the country's leader, police also face a mammoth task in repairing their damaged reputation, Monday's newspapers stressed.

The Daily Mail splashed "Meltdown at the Met" across its front page while The Times, owned by Murdoch, agreed Stephenson "was right to resign" but warned that the police "has a long way yet to go to regain the public's trust."

The broadsheet said it was "frightening" that the scandal had extended to the police.

"The police, as the repository of force within the state, requires public trust like no other institution," its editorial said. "Sir Paul has made a good start but this is unlikely to be the end of the matter."

© 2011 AFP

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