Andy Coulson and the missing point

Right. Well, I’ve left it a week to write about the Andy Coulson episode. Deliberately this time. Not because I couldn’t be bothered or was asleep or down the chippy. I left it because I was hoping someone with a bigger reach than this blog would make the point I am going to make.

However, if you’ve been on holiday, asleep, or down the chippy, here’s a review. On the 1st of September, the New York Times published new allegations that Andy Coulson, former editor of the News of the World and now Director of PR for David Cameron, had ‘actively encouraged’ the use of illegal phone-tapping to get stories.

These stories follow on from the first allegations from 2006 where one reporter was jailed and Coulson denied all knowledge of any illegal activity.

When the NY Times story broke in Britain, it initially got very little coverage. The only newspaper to report it was the Guardian. The TV news channels didn’t bother with it at all for 24 hours. This was obviously a story in itself. Coulson’s influence over the media being emphasised in this story about BBC Director General taking Coulson’s briefing only the day after.

So Coulson, a close adviser to the Prime Minister and a man with genuine power, stands accused of condoning illegal acts and then conspiring to cover up his involvement. That’s bad but it’s not the issue I have a problem with.

The Metropolitan Police initially investigated the allegations which led to the arrest of one reporter and one private investigator, but seem to have ignored/completely missed/deliberately hidden the scale of the evidence against the News of the World management, leading to calls for an investigation into Scotland Yard’s handling of the original investigation and their potential handling of these new allegations.

That’s all very serious stuff. The monitoring of our Police is vital. Quis custodiet ipsos custodes and all that. But it’s still not the issue that I wanted to mention.

No, the issue I wanted to mention and that I think hasn’t had nearly as much attention as it should have, is the following. David Cameron, this country’s Prime Minister, knew that Coulson had resigned from his job as Editor over the original investigation before he hired him as Director of PR.

Cameron was surely aware that this would come back into the public eye at some point. If he didn’t, I’m certain that somebody in his inner circle (not least Coulson himself) could have mentioned it to the Prime Minister. In fact, when previously asked about Coulson’s past, Cameron stated

That is why Andy Coulson resigned as editor of the News of the World two-and-a-half years ago. Of course I knew about that resignation before offering him the job. But I believe in giving people a second chance.

In saying that he believes in second chances, Cameron suggests that he feels Coulson had done something that required a second chance. If it now turns out that Cameron has hired someone who encouraged illegal activity and therefore broke the law himself, we must question the Prime Minister’s judgement. We must worry about the other decisions and choices he makes . On health, finance, defence, and a myriad other topics. We must fear for the safety of our nation whilst Cameron is Prime Minister. That was the issue I wanted to draw attention to.



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