Cameron ‘regrets’ hiring scandal-hit tabloid editor

LONDON, (Reuters) – Prime Minister David Cameron,  defending his integrity to parliament in emergency session yesterday, said he regretted hiring a journalist at the heart of  a scandal that has rocked Britain’s press, police and politics.

But in hours of stormy questioning he seemed to rally his  Conservative party behind him and stopped short of bowing to  demands that he apologise outright for what the Labour leader  called a “catastrophic error of judgment” in appointing as his  spokesman a former editor of Rupert Murdoch’s News of the World.

Only if Andy Coulson, who has since resigned, should turn  out to have lied about not knowing of illegal practices at his  newspaper would the prime minister offer a “profound apology”.

Analysts said Cameron emerged from the debate looking  stronger than when he was forced to fly home early from Africa  to face lawmakers who had delayed their summer recess by a day.  But he left some lingering questions unanswered, notably about  his role in Murdoch’s takeover bid for TV network BSkyB .

Beleaguered but hardly under serious threat of being ousted  by his party allies after less than 15 months in power, Cameron  defended his actions and those of his staff in dealings with  Murdoch’s News Corp global media empire and with two  senior police chiefs who resigned this week over the affair.

“He seems to have gained a bit of breathing space over the  course of this debate,” said Andrew Russell, senior politics  lecturer at Manchester University. “He looked more self assured  today than he has been for a little while.”

A day after Murdoch apologised to a British parliamentary  committee, but denied personal responsibility for the phone  hacking scandal at the News of the World, he sent a message to  his staff that his company was taking steps to ensure that  “serious problems never happen again”.

“Those who have betrayed our trust must be held accountable  under the law,” he said in an e-mail.

Some investors speculate the scandal may hasten a handover  of power in the company from the Murdoch family in a way that  may streamline global operations.

Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, who says his Kingdom  Holding is the second biggest shareholder in News Corp  and controls 7 percent of the votes, said on Wednesday he still  saw the company as a valuable and long term investment.

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