London: British police probing illegal news gathering methods by media tycoon Rupert Murdoch’s newspaper group are now investigating whether News International attempted to blackmail politicians.
The alleged plot centres on News International`s apparent efforts to warn off UK MPs on a parliamentary committee from disproving its discredited defence that phone hacking was the work of a single ‘rogue reporter’.
According to the former senior News of the World journalist Neville Thurlbeck, News International ordered the Sunday paper``s reporters to scour the private lives of MPs on the Commons Culture, Media and Sport Committee in 2009.
Thurlbeck said reporters were told by those in ‘deepcarpetland’ to obtain evidence of affairs or gay relationships.
According to the Independent, the aim, Thurlbeck claimed, was to ‘to find as much embarrassing sleaze on as many members as possible in order to blackmail them into backing off from its highly forensic inquiry into phone hacking’.
On the advice of the parliamentary authorities, the Labour MP Tom Watson has now asked the Metropolitan Police to investigate the allegation.
In a letter to the Deputy Assistant Commissioner leading the Met`s inquiries into News International, Sue Akers, Watson wrote ‘if these allegations are found to be true, it suggests there was a conspiracy to blackmail.’