July 23, 2011 3.36 pm This story is over 152 months old

Karl McCartney: Phone hacking is “utterly nauseating”

Phone hacking: Lincoln MP Karl McCartney voices his opinion on the phone hacking scandal and how it’s affected other news coverage.

— Karl McCartney is the Conservative MP for Lincoln

Sitting on the train on the way down from Lincoln to London, I decided to have a look through the Parliamentary calendar. A lot of things tend to be squeezed in before our summer recess when we concentrate on our constituencies, and having a look at the calendar, things seemed busy enough in London. However, with the hacking scandal leading the headlines, things have been even more hectic, and it’s at moments like this that Parliament really comes alive.

As well as being in Parliament where the select committee meetings have taken place and the Commons Chamber where the Prime Minister made his recent statements, I have been contacted by almost 200 constituents in Lincoln seeking my views, so I certainly welcome the three recent developments that David Cameron, our Prime Minister, has put in place.

Firstly, that there will now be a proper investigation by the police and that no stone will be left unturned is very welcome. It should have happened in the first place when the last Labour Government knew about such abuses. Secondly, I, along with MPs on all sides, welcome News Corporation’s decision to withdraw its bid for BSkyB. I also welcome the Prime Minister’s decision to establish a judge-led public inquiry to fully investigate the extent of any wrongdoing and the failure of the first police inquiry to look at the issue properly.

Like everyone, the whole issue has left a really awful taste in my mouth. The thought that any one of my family or my constituents could have ever had their ‘phone hacked into, to spy on their conversations in order to fill newspaper columns and make a profit is revolting. The fact that the hacking of people’s phones seems to have gone on for years is an issue of grave concern. That this happened to the parents of Milly Dowler is utterly nauseating.

At times the story has almost felt like being in a work of fiction; the truth is that it’s a shocking reality.

While the public inquiry will also be looking at the ethics of the press and how this could have happened, an important point to remember is that it was another newspaper that actually broke the story. Ensuring the press remains free is a key strength of the way we live in Britain and that cannot be forgotten even at a time when the press and media are rightly under scrutiny.

A very concerning consequence of our focus on the hacking scandal over recent weeks has meant that other issues of huge importance have not received as much attention. The Eurozone crisis, our own economic recovery and the famine in Somalia are issues that we must now address.

On the financial mess spreading through Europe, the unfolding crisis has proven in my mind that we were right not to join the Euro. However, now is not the time to say “I told you so”, and it is vital that the crisis is solved, not only for the sake of Europe, but also for the sake of our own economy.

Given that so much of our trade is with other EU countries, we cannot afford for the Eurozone ‘to go under’. While it is right that British taxpayers do not foot the bill for the Euro’s mistakes, I hope that the new financial mechanisms other countries are putting in place do then give the Eurozone the stability it desperately needs.

As for Somalia, the tragedy and suffering of people there, especially innocent children, is something we must do everything we can to prevent. The hacking scandal has meant that desperate plight of the Somali people has been relegated to the inside pages of our newspapers or the second or third item on our TV news, when it should have far more prominence. While our Government has acted quickly to send out much needed emergency aid, it would be helpful if other countries echoed the help and assistance that our Country is, and was, very quick to give.

We have the power individually to make a real difference to, and a few pounds can make all the difference between life and death. Britain and Lincoln has a proud tradition of helping people in need and I’m sure we will all do what we can when called upon.

Politicians and those in the media do sometimes need to look beyond the immediate horizon and to see the bigger picture to decide what is important and what the public should, or need to, know more about. That is their responsibility and also their freedom to do, and long may that freedom continue.

Karl McCartney was the Conservative Lincoln MP between 2010 and 2017. He is now the Conservative candidate for the city for the next general elections.