Bets on for PM to be washed away by phone hack tsunami

The London-based team investigating phone-hacking by journalists at News Corp has been expanded from 45 to 60 police officers and staff. The scandal now haunts not only the Murdochs, but also PM David Cameron, with chances of his resignation rising.

Meanwhile Russian billionaire Aleksandr Lebedev says he may be interested in relaunching Rupert Murdoch’s scandalous News of the World tabloid. He already owns other two British papers – the London Evening Standard and the Independent.

With several senior officials and police officers already losing their jobs, one cannot help wonder who will be next.

Cameron has come under fire for hiring Andy Coulson, former editor of the now defunct News of the World. Coulson is accused of encouraging his staff to hack into private voicemails.

“There’s been a large element of fingers in ears and heads in the sand – that’s lethal for a prime minister. This is a very serious situation, he could well be looking at some serious consequences, for him, and at the very least for the staff still around him,” says Harry Cole, political journalist and blogger.

Betting shops have slashed the odds on Cameron being the next MP to quit over hacking. They offered 100/1 at the beginning of the week, but just 5/1 three days later.

“In the last two weeks, we’ve seen a lot of money go on Cameron, but particularly in the last 48 hours, when the committees have been going on, and we’ve seen Cameron fall from 100 to 1 to be the next cabinet member to leave to 4 to 1 yesterday, and just slightly crept up again today to 5 to 1 as a result of his statement in the house. We thought he gave quite a good performance,” Richard Rogers from the Ladbrokes, says.

On Tuesday it was Murdoch’s turn for a close shave. He was attacked by a protester with a foam pie, and saved only by his wife’s right hook. Despite profuse apologies to victims of his own newspaper’s unethical behavior, he had no intention of stepping down himself. “I’m the best person to lead the company out of this crisis,” he assured.

What is less clear is whether or not David Cameron remains the best person to lead Britain out of this crisis of confidence. He hired Coulson who, in turn it was later revealed, was being advised by another ex-News-of-the-World hack, Neil Wallis. If that was not enough, he was simultaneously working for the Metropolitan Police. Politicians and police are under fire for cozying up to, and colluding with, the Murdoch empire.

And, in the wings, Cameron’s arch rival Ed Miliband is limbering up to step into the ring: “So that the country can have the leadership we need, why doesn’t he do more, and provide the full apology now for hiring Mr. Coulson and bringing him into the heart of Downing Street?” he attacked Cameron before the chamber.

Commentators say the prime minister came out on top in Wednesday’s round in the House of Commons, when he was grilled by MPs over his relationship with News Corp. But the fight is far from won.

“We used to call Cameron ‘Teflon Man’ because nothing stuck to him. But this is definitely sticking, and it will have been very damaging to him,” political analyst Dan Hodges said.

The scandal has forced resignations of top executives at News Corp, and the UK’s two most senior police officers. Many are asking why the prime minister should not be next for a knock-out.

David Cameron has promised a fulsome apology if it turns out Andy Coulson lied to him about his involvement in phone hacking. But some are saying that will not be enough. When this is over, it is far from clear who will be left standing at the top of the media, the police, and the government.

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