Departure of Rebekah Brooks leaves James Murdoch 'exposed'

Reaction to Brooks's resignation highlights difficult days ahead for News Corp's 'relatively inexperienced' boss

If there were hopes within News International that the resignation of Rebekah Brooks as chief executive might be greeted with praise, they were dashed very quickly.

Former employees, hacking victims and politicians were united on Friday in saying that her statement had come too late and posed further difficult questions for her former bosses Rupert and James Murdoch.

One former News of the World journalist told the Guardian the tabloid newspaper had been closed to save her job, adding: "If she had done the decent thing a few days ago and insisted that she should go, those jobs might still be there."

A News International executive said the resignation has left James Murdoch, her relatively inexperienced boss, exposed and expressed fears for both Murdochs, who are due to appear before a Commons select committee on Tuesday.

"There is no one to protect James now. God knows how they will come across," the executive said.

Outside News International's offices in Wapping, after Rupert Murdoch was driven at speed past a waiting media, even those employees officially sanctioned to speak acknowledged that Brooks's resignation had come as a relief.

Danny Finkelstein, executive editor of the Times, told Sky News that the resignation was in keeping with the public mood. "Deciding that Brooks's resignation should be accepted recognises that we are now in accord with the British public. As a journalist working in the Times, we expect people to take personal responsibility."

The journalists' union, which has recruited new members from News International titles following the decision to axe the NoW, said the move was too little, too late. "This will be cold comfort to the hundreds of journalists who have lost their jobs," said Michelle Stanistreet, general secretary of the National Union of Journalists.

Victims of hacking urged parliament and the investigating authorities not to be distracted by the resignation from the job of discovering whether Brooks had misled them or been involved in a cover-up.

The Hacked Off campaign, which has represented victims of phone hacking with Hugh Grant as its spokesman, said: "The key issue is not however whether Rebekah Brooks is in work, but whether she lied to parliament, told the full truth to the police or was engaged in a massive cover-up. That is what the victims want to know."

Mark Lewis, the solicitor representing the family of murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler, whose phone was allegedly hacked by a News International-employed private detective before her body was discovered, said he was pleased Brooks had resigned. "News International, News of the World, had ruined people's lives. In a sense [her resignation] is the chicken coming home to roost. It is time," he said.

David Cameron welcomed the resignation but made clear Brooks should still give evidence to the committee next week. His spokesman said: "He said the other day he would have accepted her resignation."


Sam Jones, Nicholas Watt and Rajeev Syal

The GuardianTramp

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