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Andy Coulson And The NoTW Hacking Scandal Invites Labour Attack On Cameron And Murdoch

ANDY Coulson will not be sacked from his job as Downing Street’s head of communications in light of the News of the World phone hacking scandal.

A source somewhere in government tells the BBC’s Gary O’Donoghue that Mr Coulson “is going nowhere”.

But on the Guardian’s front page, the news is less certain:

“Coulson ‘lied’ over phone hack reporter.”

The source of this story is Sean Hoare. He used to work at the NoTW. He tells BBC Radio 4’s PM show:

There is an expression called the culture of dark arts. You were given a remit: just get the story. Phone tapping hadn’t just existed on the News of the World … I have gone on the record in the New York Times and said I have stood by Andy and been requested to tap phones, OK, or hack into them. He was well aware the practice existed. To deny it is simply a lie.”

News of the World sports reporter Matt Driscoll tells the BBC he thought it was “unconceivable” that Mr Coulson was unaware of the phone tapping because “he would be a part of all the big stories that were being made by the paper“.

In late 2009, the Indy reported on him:

…a tribunal ordered the News of the World to pay Driscoll, 41, £792,736 in compensation for being the victim of “a consistent pattern of bullying behaviour”, led by the paper’s then editor, Andy Coulson.

The Politics

Alan Duncan, the international development minister, is also on Radio 4. He tells the Any Questions show:

“What they are seizing on today are the words of someone [Hoare] who had an alcohol and drug problem who was sacked by the paper.”

The thing has become a political tool to beat the enemy. Ed Miliband, the would-be Labour leaders wades in:

These are very serious allegations. If I was prime minister and Andy Coulson was working for me I would demand to know from Andy Coulson the truth. I don’t see how he can stay working in Downing Street unless he clears this up and says whether his former colleagues are telling the truth or not.”

Miliband would demand the truth? But Colson says he didn’t know anything of the hacking. Why cannot that be the truth? Or is the truth what you want it to be – what you hope it is to best fit your agenda?

Labour heavyweights join the throng:

Former Deputy Prime Minister Lord Prescott says he will go to court to find out if his phone was tapped. Ex-Home Secretary Alan Johnson wants a review. Former culture secretary Tessa Jowell tells the Independent:

“I know I was tapped 28 times by May 2006 because the police told me. I had a call when I was on holiday in August 2006 from the Met to say that I had been tapped, but they asked me to do nothing except increase the security on my phone.”

Labour MP Chris Bryant adds:

“I was amazed when Cameron appointed him, because either Cameron is completely naive, or he knowingly employed someone who ran this regime at the News of the World. I simply do not believe Andy Coulson’s version of events. The line is that there was one bad apple [Goodman], but it looks like there was a whole orchard, with every bit of it rotten to the core. I find it inconceivable, if that is true, that Andy Coulson didn’t know anything about it.”

Media Wars

Is this a chance to kick Rupert Murdoch, owner of the NoTW?

Back in Febraury 2010, The culture, media and sport select committee investigted. The report went:

Throughout we have repeatedly encountered an unwillingness to provide the detailed information that we sought, claims of ignorance or lack of recall, and deliberate obfuscation. We strongly condemn this behaviour which reinforces the widely held impression that the press generally regard themselves as unaccountable and that News International in particular has sought to conceal the truth about what really occurred.

The NoTW respsoned:

A statement issued on behalf of News International claimed members were in a political conspiracy with the Guardian, which had originally published new evidence of the hacking, and whose editor, Alan Rusbridger, testified in public at the committee hearings.

The statement said that News International “strongly rejected” the findings.

The story is also big in the New York Times – a paper not owned by Murdoch but is a rival to his Wall Street Journal. It  has given the story 6,000 words.

“There was simply no enthusiasm among Scotland Yard to go beyond the cases involving Mulcaire and Goodman,” said John Whittingdale, the chairman of a parliamentary committee that has twice investigated the phone hacking. “To start exposing widespread tawdry practices in that newsroom was a heavy stone that they didn’t want to try to lift.”

Kevin MaGuire, at the Labour–supporting Daily Mirror, writes:

I was told Coulson asked a journalist on The Guardian to try and keep telephone-tapping stories out of that paper. The inference was the journalist could expect No 10 favours in the future. The journalist, who I know well, was insulted and said No.

Told by whom? We want transparency but the sources are not named. One paper’s source are another paper’s spin doctor.

Bill Akass, the managing editor of The News of the World, adds:

“We reject absolutely any suggestion or assertion that the activities of Clive Goodman and Glenn Mulcaire, at the time of their arrest, were part of a culture of wrongdoing at the News of the World and were specifically sanctioned or accepted at a senior level in the newspaper.

The Story

Coulson was the editor of the News of the World editor when its journalists were hacking phone accounts, including those of people working for Buckingham Palace.

Back in 2005, royal aides noticed that “messages they had never listened to were somehow appearing in their mailboxes as if heard and saved”.

Coulson says he had no idea that Clive Goodman, the News of the World reporter who covered the royal family, a private investigator, Glenn Mulcaire, had obtained the PIN codes needed to access the voice mail of the royal aides.

Scotland Yard told the aides to continue operating as usual while it pursued the investigation, which included surveillance of the suspects’ phones. A few months later, the inquiry took a remarkable turn as the reporter and the private investigator chased a story about Prince William’s younger brother, Harry, visiting a strip club. Another tabloid, The Sun, had trumpeted its scoop on the episode with the immortal: “Harry Buried Face in Margo’s Mega-Boobs. Stripper Jiggled . . . Prince Giggled.”

As Scotland Yard tracked Goodman and Mulcaire, the two men hacked into Prince Harry’s mobile-phone messages. On April 9, 2006, Goodman produced a follow-up article in News of the World about the apparent distress of Prince Harry’s girlfriend over the matter. Headlined “Chelsy Tears Strip Off Harry!” the piece quoted, verbatim, a voice mail Prince Harry had received from his brother teasing him about his predicament.

The Police

A Scotland Yard spokesman says:

“In December 2005, the Met received complaints that mobile phones had been illegally tapped.

“Inquiries took place in 2005 and 2006 which resulted in Clive Goodman and Glenn Mulcaire being jailed in January 2007 for conspiring to unlawfully intercept communications. This brought an end to the investigation. In July 2009, the MPS (Metropolitan Police Service) examined whether any new evidence had emerged in the media or elsewhere that justified reopening the investigation.

“The clear view, subsequently endorsed by the Director of Public Prosecutions with leading counsel’s advice, was that there was no new evidence and consequently the investigation remains closed. There has been no investigation since the convictions of Goodman and Mulcaire.”

And so it goes that the minor royal tittle-tattle is a small story compared to the tale about how the media works. But do the readers care? Today the Sun and Mirror lead with a story on Cheryl Cole. It’s big news.

Now read on…

Posted: 4th, September 2010 | In: Key Posts, Reviews | Comment | Comments RSS feed:RSS 2.0