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Just how far does the News International scandal change the rules of politics?

Our MPs are corrupt. Our media is corrupt. Our police are corrupt. To many people those will be the conclusions they draw from the scandals that have shaken these key institutions over the last few years. Many in this country are always quick to highlight corruption in other countries and in organisations largely run by foreigners (such as FIFA), adopting a self-righteous tone that suggests we inhabit an higher moral plain. No more can they do so with any justification.

After two or three years when the media ruthlessly pursued politicians over their expenses and the police quickly waded in with a few arrests the tables have been dramatically turned and the media and police now find themselves hurrying to Parliament at a moment's notice. This afternoon's testimony by Rupert and James Murdoch to the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee is a seminal moment as it marks a shift in the balance of power between politicians and the media that was unthinkable just a few weeks ago.

But is only a moment and only the start of a potential shift in that balance. Much else will have to happen if we are to look back at these events in a few years time and say that was the moment British politics and the media changed fundamentally.

First, however, let's return to the police. To me the Metropolitan Police bosses who have been falling like ninepins over the past week come across as desperately naive about the ways of politics and the media. In some ways they seem to have developed such disdain for both - reflecting a wider public view - that they lost sight of their real nature. Like many, they did not realise how corrupt and corrupting some parts of the popular press had become. They were supping with the devil when they should have been confronting it. No wonder corruption was rife.

Watching the appearances of senior policeman before the Home Affairs Select Committee I have been struck at times by how unworldly they appear, almost innocents abroad, that it is hardly surprising so much went wrong on their watches. We have to hope that their successors are not so naive and not so dismissive of the power of the press and politics.

Which brings us to the press. There is simply no explanation that can begin to justify what was going on at the News International newspapers and no credible explanation of how editors and senior executives allowed it to happen. They are getting what they deserve. On a broader front we have to be careful not to over-react and destroy what is valuable in terms of press freedom in this country. Don't forget that this scandal was exposed by others in the media, particularly The Guardian. Personally, I think the Press Complaints Commission has had its day but I do not want to see it replaced by draconian and restrictive statutory regulation: those are arguments for another day.

The most important outcome of this saga lies in the potential of our main political institutions to re-assert themselves as a force for the public good. We shouldn't get too excited about this or get it out of context. Politics has never been held in lower esteem so any opportunity for it to show it can hold people and organisations to account over a scandal that has truly shocked most people is to be welcomed. Nobody benefited from the relative weakness of politicians in the face of unrestrained media power, except a handful of media owners.

We should remember too that great press empires come and go whether they have the name Beaverbrook, Rothermere, Maxwell or Murdoch attached to them so the demise of the power of News International needs to be kept in context, although the suddenness and abruptness of this empire's waning is unprecedented.

More interesting is the opportunity that Parliament has been given to accelerate its own gradual rehabilitation from the dark days of the expenses scandal. This is to be welcomed. I hope they make the most of it because a Parliament held in contempt by the majority of people does nobody any good as disengagement from the political process hands the initiative to vested interests. Just because people are dismissive of Parliament and government doesn't stop them making laws, shaping our economic well-being, changing our relationships with other countries and committing us to wars, to highlight just a few. Broad engagement is crucial if these functions are to be carried out effectively, representing the majority of citizens and conducted in a manner that is genuinely accountable.

If - and it is still an if - MPs can conduct themselves through this crisis in a way that is seen as an effective expression of the anger most of us feel at the behavoir of Rebekah Brooks and her colleagues at the New of the World, holding those once powerful media interests and the police to account for their failures then politics will find itself in a better place.
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