06/07/2011 20:03 BST | Updated 06/09/2011 06:12 BST

Prime Minister Must Respond to Nation's Disgust Over Phone Hacking

The latest disclosures about how people working for the News of the World apparently hacked into the phones of Milly Dowler and the families of 7/7 victims have triggered nationwide disgust.

It is at times like these that people look to their Prime Minister to face up to the challenges presented, without fear or favour. I am afraid that yesterday David Cameron did not rise to that challenge.

Having previously resisted calls for a public inquiry, he now appears to believe we should have one. But he is still dragging his feet on the timing.

He continues to defend the way the Government has handled News Corporation's bid for complete ownership of BSkyB . But the obvious, right course of action now is what it should have been from the start: to make a reference to the Competition Commission.

The right thing needs to be done in relation to this decision - and needs to be seen to be done. Referring the bid to the Competition Commission is the way to achieve it. But everything David Cameron has said indicates the Government intends to plough on regardless.

He refused to do what families up and down the country will think he must do - which is to call on those who were editing for the News of the World at the time to take responsibility for what happened - and stop pointing the fingers of blame at others.

And finally, he could not bring himself to admit - as he must - that it was a gross error of judgement to bring Andy Coulson into Downing Street machine as director of communications.

What happened while Mr Coulson was editor of the News of the World was hardly a state secret. After all, he had resigned from that post over phone hacking in the first place.

David Cameron simply made the wrong decision to give him such a senior post inside the government machine.

Above all, the public need to have confidence that they have a Prime Minister who can speak for them on how we restore the reputation of our newspapers, so vital to our democracy.

On yesterday's showing, he is failing to live up to that task.