Andy Coulson’s resignation will prove to be a catalyst for open season on surveillance in all its forms
The Coulson resignation broke at precisely the wrong time for The Slog. Not only did I waste an hour watching Blair being gummed to death by Chilcot, I was also busy writing an exclusive on Gove’s inability to tame the mad folks at Ofsted – and therefore two hours behind the biggest political story for weeks. So I haven’t yet anywhere near finished trying sift through the many layers of merde involved in the complex case of Newscorp and its alleged privacy invasions.
But one thing remains very clear indeed: whole swathes of the political and media Establishment are on edge now. For this story goes far beyond the at times astonishing inability of the Prime Minister to grasp that his close association with the former Murdoch apparatchik would do him more harm than good.
This afternoon, Ed Miliband has said Cameron’s decision to stand by Coulson “raised questions about his judgement”. But much bigger questions remained about why Miliband himself seemed unwilling to pursue the PM on the matter during Psrliamentary questions.
The Slog has been on this case since last October, when a former colleague in advertising first tipped me off to the fact that a number of media-loathing celebs had decided to ‘get’ the News of the World over telephone-hacking.
The worlds of ads and showbizz meet and mingle all over London, but in no place more than the Groucho Club in Soho’s Dean Street. There (it is alleged) a group of luvvies – disgruntled with the obvi0us cover-up involved in police handling of the hacking scandals – hatched a plan to bring private prosecutions against the NoW. What they may not have realised is that by opening this Pandora’s box, they would also send ripples around bigger worlds than theirs.
Jump-cut to New York, and a circulation battle taking place there between the Murdoch-owned Wall St Journal, and its opposition The New York Times. The Times runs a story suggesting that Andy Coulson’s denial of hacking knowledge is a load of old bollocks. Threats of legal action by Newscorp….retreat of Times.
Alongside this are various running skirmishes between Lord Mandelson and the Tory Party as Murdoch endorses the Tories in the May 2010 Election. Mandy alleges that the Conservatives have struck a deal with Newscorp to neuter the BBC and allow Newscorp to gain share against it. The proof of this, it seems, is Coulson in the position of ultimate power inside 10 Downing Street.
As former top security cop Andy Hayman inexplicably ring-fences the News of the World hacking evidence following Coulson’s denial of involvement, the conspiracy theorists start to have a field-day.
But the unexplained dimension of the case is that new Opposition Leader Ed Miliband – faced with an open-goal in Prime Minister’s Question Time – resolutely refuses to ask the question everyone is asking: why are there so many rumours surrounding the Prime Minister’s Head of Communications?
So in summary, these are the intriguing possibilities:
1. Illegal phone-tapping in the Newscorp empire may have been undertaken on a grand scale.
2. Coulson may have been protected by Downing Street leaning on Andy Hayman.
3. The private celeb prosecutions may reveal Coulson’s active involvement in phone hacking.
4. The New York Times will then flay Newscorp alive, both editorially and legally.
5. Murdoch himself will become embroiled in the affair.
6. Both this AND the previous Labour administration may have sanctioned illegal phone-tapping of a great many people. They may even have colluded with Newscorp in this activity…they may even have tipped Newscorp off about the crimes and follies of political enemies.
Amusingly, Labour MP Tom Watson this afternoon said “Andy Coulson is the only journalist in history who has resigned twice because of things he knew nothing about.
Newscorp’s Rebekah Brooks is now, I hear, also in the frame. Murdoch is due in London next wek. This can only get better. Stay tuned.