Instant View: London police chief quits in hacking saga

LONDON Mon Jul 18, 2011 7:42am EDT

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LONDON (Reuters) - Metropolitan Police Commissioner Paul Stephenson resigned on Sunday following criticism of the handling by police of a phone hacking scandal that has rocked British politics and shaken Rupert Murdoch's News Corp media empire.

Following are reactions to the news:

PRIME MINISTER DAVID CAMERON (STATEMENT):

"Sir Paul Stephenson has had a long and distinguished career in the police, and I would like to thank him for his service over many, many years. Under his leadership the Metropolitan Police made good progress in fighting crime, continued its vital work in combating terrorism, and scored notable successes such as the policing of the Royal Wedding."

"While I know that today must be a very sad occasion for him, I respect and understand his decision to leave the Met, and I wish him well for the future."

"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."

IVAN LEWIS, OPPOSITION Labor PARTY MEDIA SPOKESMAN (TO BBC

TV)

"The House of Commons is due to finish on Tuesday for at least six weeks (summer holiday). That cannot be right, in terms of the scale of the crisis that now faces the country. At the very least the House of Commons needs to sit for longer this week, and the Prime Minister, the Home Secretary and others need to answer some fundamental questions."

JONATHAN TONGE, PROFESSOR OF POLITICS, LIVERPOOL UNIVERSITY:

"If the head of Metropolitan Police can resign because of a connection, because of a foolhardy decision to appoint someone connected to the News of the World as their PR adviser, which is a spectacularly foolish thing to do, then it highlights frankly the abject decision-making by David Cameron in terms of appointing Andy Coulson. David Cameron is obviously not going to resign...

"David Cameron was warned by a whole host of people not to appoint that man. He went ahead, disregarded the advice of people who probably knew better. If the Metropolitan Police Commissioner can resign, it does raise questions about David Cameron. David Cameron is going to ride this out but question marks over his judgment won't go away and this will be a lasting stain upon David Cameron's reputation... Chief of your press these days is one of the key appointments any prime minister can make, and Cameron has made probably the most spectacularly ill-judged appointment in British political history."

STEVEN FIELDING, PROFESSOR OF POLITICAL HISTORY AND Center

DIRECTOR NOTTINGHAM UNIVERSITY

"What this suggests is that to have any association with News International is completely toxic at the moment.

"So what used to be an advantage has been turned into a distinct disadvantage and in a way that nobody could ever have thought about two weeks ago.

"David Cameron's association with News International is closer than his (Stephenson's) was, and it's a very big political problem."

"We know he was seeing (Coulson) two months after he resigned. And we know that his association with Rebekah Brooks is very close, so I think what it suggests to me is that if somebody has resigned because the publicist for the place that he happened to stay at was with News International, David Cameron has got many more reasons to resign, if we think that is a legitimate thing."

YVETTE COOPER, OPPOSITION Labor SPOKESWOMAN ON HOME AFFAIRS

(SHADOW HOME SECRETARY)

"It is striking that Sir Paul has taken responsibility and answered questions about the appointment of the deputy editor of the News of the World whereas the prime minister still refuses to recognize his misjudgment and answer questions on the appointment of the editor of the News of the World at the time of the initial phone hacking investigation."

"People will wonder at why different rules apply for the prime minister and the Met, especially when as Sir Paul said himself, unlike Andy Coulson, Neil Wallis had not been forced to resign from the News of the World."

"It is also a very serious concern that the Met commissioner felt unable to tell the prime minister and the home secretary about this operational issue with Neil Wallis because of the prime minister's relationship with Andy Coulson. It appears that their compromised relationship with Andy Coulson has put the commissioner in a very difficult position and made it even harder for the Met to maintain confidence around this difficult issue. Both David Cameron and (Home Secretary) Theresa May must take their share of the responsibility for this situation."

WYN GRANT, PROFESSOR OF POLITICS, WARWICK UNIVERSITY

"I don't think this is a crisis that is going to bring down the government. Clearly Cameron has made errors of judgment in this whole matter, and he is going to suffer some reputational damage, but there is nothing he has done that has been revealed so far that would require him to stand down."

"What has David Cameron has done which is beyond the bounds of what is acceptable? He invited (Andy) Coulson to Chequers (Cameron's official country residence) after he had resigned. But his argument would be he was just inviting him as a friend and that he didn't know everything that he knows now. So I'm not sure where the smoking gun is as far as Cameron is concerned."

TIM BALE, PROFESSOR OF POLITICS, SUSSEX UNIVERSITY

"The actual text of the statement pointing to parallels between himself and the prime minister is quite breathtaking. It won't make Mr Cameron do the same thing, but it reminds people once again of the Coulson problem."

"It has become almost a crisis of governance in the United Kingdom. This resignation takes us beyond a few bad apples and into a crisis of governance. There is a sense of things sliding out of control. Just when you think there might be a pause for breath in this story, something else happens."

FORMER LONDON MAYOR KEN LIVINGSTONE SPEAKING TO BBC

"Officers below him had not given him the information they should have done about the scale of the phone hacking and the degree of collusion between senior met officers and senior people inside News Corporation. I think he's been badly let down."

"He's been quite honourable in saying he just needs to clear himself out of the way and allow someone to come in. Officers that have held information from Sir Paul Stephenson about the scale of the phone hacking and the scale of unacceptable relationships between members of the police and News Corporation, they have got to go."

LONDON MAYOR BORIS JOHNSON (STATEMENT)

"It is with great sadness and reluctance that I have tonight accepted the resignation of Sir Paul Stephenson as Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police Service.

"I would like to stress that I have absolutely no reason to doubt the complete integrity of Sir Paul and I believe him to be a fine, passionate and committed public servant who has done a huge amount of good for our city.

"Sir Paul believes, however, that the phone hacking saga now threatens to become a serious distraction during the run-up to the Olympic Games.

"He has persuaded me that someone else should now be allowed to take his work forward so that the focus can return to policing and bringing down crime.

"I should like to pay personal tribute to his outstanding leadership at the Metropolitan Police.

"He has helped to bring crime down by nine per cent in three years. He has put more officers on the beat, protected safer neighbourhood teams and increased patrols by a million a year on the streets of London.

"It is a mark of his work and determination that crime on public transport has fallen by 30 per cent and that the murder rate is now at its lowest since 1978.

"If there has been any wrongdoing by members of the Metropolitan Police it is vital that this should now be exposed and cleared up in the inquiries under way.

"But it is my strong belief that Sir Paul and the overwhelming majority of police officers have dedicated their careers to the public good and for that we owe him and them our thanks."

CHUKA UMUNNA, Labor MP FOR LONDON SEAT OF STREATHAM (TO

RADIO 5)

"It's quite an extraordinary story. The speed with which this is unfolding is quite unprecedented.

"As a London MP, I think the priority ... is that we have police that can command the confidence of the public and secondly that they can get on and do the job with which they are charged."

"The speed and the timing involved with this resignation does contrast quite markedly with the time it took for Rebekah Brooks to resign."

"It is quite refreshing to see someone at that level taking responsibility."

KEITH VAZ, Labor MP, CHAIR OF PARLIAMENT HOME AFFAIRS

SELECT COMMITTEE (TO RADIO 5)

"I am genuinely shocked. As you know the Commissioner was due to appear on Tuesday (before his committee) which I obviously hope we still do and he should do."

"It appears that what he is saying is the reason why he is doing so (resigning) is to preserve his integrity but also to show that, at this particular time, what is needed is leadership for the Met."

"In a week of high drama, every single hour that goes on something else happens in this particular story. He has obviously taken responsibility ... and I think he should be given credit for doing so."

(Reporting by Keith Weir, Avril Ormsby, Olesya Dmitracova and Tim Castle; Editing by Myra MacDonald)

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