David Cameron and Andy Coulson

Some people seem to be drawing false inferences that the Prime Minister is in some way implicit in the News International story because he had employed an ex editor of the News of the World, Andy Coulson. So let’s take a look at the sequence of events.

  • 2003 Andy Coulson replaces Rebekah Brooks as editor of News of the World.
  • 2005 Buckingham Palace report phone hacking after problems with Price Harry’s knee was reported in the paper.
  • 2007 Clive Goodman (royal correspondent) and Glenn Mulcaire (private investigator) jailed for hacking. Andy Coulson resigns as editor but denies having any knowledge of the hacking.
  • 2007 Les Hinton (chairman NI) tells MPs that an internal investigation of phone hacking at the NotW revealed that it was not widespread.
  • 2007 Press Complaints Commission agree with Hinton.  Case closed.
  • 2007 Colin Myler appointed as editor to NotW and cleans the place up.
  • 2007 Andy Coulson, having been exonerated, is appointed director of communications of the Conservative party.
  • 2009 Guardian newspaper says hacking was more widespread. John Yates, assistant commissioner at the Metropolitan Police says there are no grounds to re-open the investigation.
  • 2010 After the general election Andy Coulson is appointed director of communications for the government. At this stage he became a government employee and would have undergone positive vetting by MI5 and the Metropolitan Police.
  • 2011 After further revelations by the Guardian Andy Coulson resigns. Saying: “I stand by what I’ve said about those events but when the spokesman needs a spokesman it’s time to move on.”

Throughout all of the above Andy Coulson repeatedly assured David Cameron that he had not been complicit in the hacking. So what was David Cameron to do? Andy Coulson was obviously brilliant at his job and the whole world (except for the Guardian) said that he was innocent of any wrongdoing. And still no crime has been proved against him.

If only totally pure and unsullied people were allowed into government then we would have no government, human nature means we all have our foibles and misdemeanors. It is always a matter of degree, of judgement and, most often, of confidentiality.

Now it also happens that Ed Milliband employs a former NotW journalist, Tom Baldwin, as director of strategy. And, much like with Coulson, there have been allegations made against Baldwin. Also it is worth noting that David Cameron has openly published his meetings with the press. Both Ed Milliband and Gordon Brown have failed to do so. Which makes one wonder about who is really occupying the moral high ground.

And whilst on the subject of Ed Milliband, he has proposed press regulation to limit the ownership and therefore the power of any one organisation. This is truly excellent, so long as it also applies to the BBC.

Finally Sir Paul Stephenson has resigned as head of the Metropolitan Police. Good. The organisation is palpably not fit for purpose and has been so under his leadership. Major reform is evidently needed.

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