Monday News Review

Stephenson resigns

Sir Paul Stephenson last night resigned as Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, putting more pressure on David Cameron over his personal links to the phone hacking scandal. A clearly angry Sir Paul said he was stepping down after criticism over his decision to employ as a personal adviser Neil Wallis, the former deputy editor of the News of the World who was arrested on suspicion of phone hacking. In an emotional statement yesterday evening he insisted he did not want to “compromise” the Prime Minister but pointedly said Mr Wallis had not been associated with phone hacking at the time Sir Paul employed him in October 2009. He said that by contrast the full scale of phone hacking at the News of the World had begun to emerge when Andy Coulson, David Cameron’s former director of communications, resigned as editor. – the Telegraph

In a carefully worded resignation speech that appeared aimed directly at Downing Street, Sir Paul Stephenson, the commissioner of the Metropolitan police, said the prime minister risked being “compromised” by his closeness to former  News of the World editor Andy Coulson. Number 10 stressed that David Cameron had not been pressing in private for Stephenson to stand aside. But he was caught by surprise by the attack, which came just while the prime minister was on a plane en route to South Africa. Stephenson denied that he was resigning over allegations that he accepted £12,000 worth of hospitality from Champney’s health spa, focusing instead on his decision not to inform the prime minister that the Met had employed Coulson’s former deputy Neil Wallis as a strategic adviser. “Once Mr Wallis’s name did become associated with Operation Weeting [into phone hacking], I did not want to compromise the prime minister in any way by revealing or discussing a potential suspect who clearly had a close relationship with Mr Coulson,” he said. – the Guardian

Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Paul Stephenson has announced his resignation following allegations about his conduct and links with News of the World journalists. At a news conference this evening, Sir Paul said he was proud of his record but that he was stepping down. Pressure had grown on the Commissioner after claims emerged that he had accepted £12,000 worth of luxury hospitality from a firm represented by former News of the World deputy editor Neil Wallis, who was arrested last week in connection to the phone hacking scandal. It was also revealed last week that the Metropolitan Police had emoloyed Mr Wallis as a communications adviser. His decision was welcomed by David Cameron, who said: “What matters most of all now is that the Metropolitan Police and the Metropolitan Police Authority do everything possible to ensure the investigations into phone hacking and alleged police corruption proceed with all speed, with full public confidence and with all the necessary leadership and resources to bring them to an effective conclusion.” – PoliticsHome

Brooks arrested

Rebekah Brooks, the former editor of The News of the World, has been arrested by Scotland Yard detectives raising further questions over James Murdoch’s knowledge of phone-hacking and corruption at the tabloid. Mrs Brooks, who resigned as chief executive of News International on Friday, was arrested and questioned after agreeing to attend a police station at noon on Sunday. She was arrested in relation to both the ongoing investigations into phone-hacking and alleged illegal payments to police officers. The 43 year-old, the tenth person arrested since the Metropolitan Police re-opened its phone-hacking probe in January, is the most high-profile News International figure to have been arrested so far. Sources close to Mrs Brooks say she was only contacted by the police on Friday evening and was not aware she was to be arrested until she met officers yesterday. Her arrest throws into doubt her highly-anticipated appearance before the Commons Culture, Media and Sport select committee which was scheduled for Tuesday. Commentators said she may be able to decline to answer MPs’ questions, citing the ongoing police investigation, with some querying the unusual timing of her arrest. – the Telegraph

Army cuts

Throughout history, Britain has displayed a proud military tradition, regularly punching above its weight with a relatively small but hugely capable army. That’s why Ministry of Defence proposals to cut our armed forces by some 17,000 personnel are so disturbing – and wrong-headed. Not only will the plans, the result of a nine-month armed forces review, see our troops slashed to around 84,000 by 2020, but they will do so at a time when we are a nation at war on two fronts – in Afghanistan and Libya. It is an act of utter folly which will put us at risk – above all, those brave men and women who go to war in our name. Every time numbers are reduced, greater pressure is placed on the soldiers who remain. Consider also a new report from the Defence Select Committee which concludes that the British task force sent into Helmand province five years ago was too weak numerically to defeat the Taliban, and that its size was capped for financial reasons. But it is not just conflicts we are already caught up in that we should be concerned about: we face new threats every day. For instance, the current instability in Pakistan threatens to drive it into armed confrontation with America, right on the borders of Afghanistan. – Patrick Mercer, Daily Mail

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