Top David Cameron Aide Arrested Over News of the World Scandal

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Andy Coulson. Photo: Ben Stansall/AFP/Getty Images

The fallout from the News of the World hacking scandal isn't just confined to Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. Andy Coulson, who worked as a top aide to British prime minister after serving as NotW editor, has been arrested on suspicion of involvement in the shady practices at the paper. Cameron's Tories have other ties to the Murdoch empire — Rupert himself was one of the very first visitors Cameron received as prime minister, and some credit the Labour-to-Conservative endorsement switch at Murdoch's papers with sweeping the party into power. And so Cameron is moving fast to control the damage.

He has suggested an "extraordinary tightening" of regulations on the British press and a broad investigation into the "culture and ethics" of British journalism, calling the current system of press self-governance a failure. What Cameron did not do, though, was apologize for any lapse of judgment in hiring Coulson, though he took responsibility for the move.

It's true, of course, that the British press is far more freewheeling than its American counterparts, with a long tradition of obtaining information under false pretenses. Reuters notes that the U.K. tabloids "push harder because they can. Or rather, in a ferociously competitive environment, they must — because if they don't do it, somebody else will." One British parliamentarian compared the efficacy of the press's governing body, the Press Complaints Commission, to a "fishnet condom."

Papers like the Guardian and Financial Times largely avoid the dumpster-diving and P.I.-hiring of the tabloids, and won't pay sources, but they are the exception rather than the rule; their circulation is also much lower than their more aggressive peers. So while Cameron has called the scandal a "cathartic moment," it will take more than a superficial scrub to clean out the stables.

Cameron Orders Two Inquiries Into Hacking Scandal as Former Aide Is Arrested [NYT]
British Tories Squirm as They Feel the Heat in Murdoch’s Embrace [NYT]
Special Report: Murdoch row - why UK tabloids bin-dive and blag [Reuters]
Previously: News Corp. Shutting Down News of the World [Updated]
Damage Control: James Murdoch and the Family Business