Cameron now has no choice: he has to fire Coulson
September 8th, 2010
When prime minister David Cameron appointed Andy Coulson, former editor of the News of the World, as the Conservatives’ head of spin in June 2007, it was always seen as a bizarre appointment (and this was only partly because Coulson had left the paper under a cloud, resigning because of the phone hacking scandal that led to his royal correspondent and a private investigator being jailed).
Following the lengthy investigation into the “hackgate” scandal by the New York Times Magazine — which revealed the practice to have been endemic at the paper under Coulson’s editorship (which doesn’t quite chime with Coulson’s claims of blissful ignorance) and that the Metropolitan Police failed to properly investigate the matter — Cameron now has no choice other than to dispense with Coulson’s services.
The inevitability of Coulson’s departure was further reinforced by today’s revelations from Paul McMullan, a former features executive and then member of the NoTW’s investigations team, who told the Guardian that phone hacking and other illegal reporting techniques were rife at the Sunday paper while Coulson was deputy editor and editor. He said:
“How can Coulson possibly say he didn’t know what was going on with [private investigators]? He was the brains behind the investigations department [to which McMullan was transferred by Coulson]. How can he say he had no idea about how it works?”
The pressure on Coulson mounted further today when the Commons speaker, John Bercow, paved the way for a second, powerful committee of MPs to investigate the scandal. There are some who argue this is partisan since the only MPs agitating for the matter to be reinvestigated by the Metropolitan Police are Labour MPs with a vested interested in making mud stick on Cameron. There is a degree of truth to such claims however it’s inevitable that Tory and Lib Dem MPs will stay schtoom given Coulson’s current role. But there is far more to this than party politics.
An article in The Atlantic explains why prime minister Cameron will be tarnished if he is foolhardy enough to retain Coulson’s services. Having won power by promising they would sweep away the “surveillance state” installed by Tony Blair and Gordon Brown and to restore individual freedoms, the Conservatives cannot give safe haven to a man alleged to have carried out (or at least sanctioned) illegal surveillance on an industrial scale when he was at the NoTW.
In the article, Jonathan Tepperman, managing editor of New York-based political risk consultancy Eurasia Group and a former senior editor at Newsweek, writes:
“Too often under Blair and Brown, scandals like this were swept under the carpet, dealt with perfunctorily, with the disgraced politician (often Peter Mandelson) being dismissed, only to be quietly hired back a year or two later. The best way Cameron can show that things have really changed is to get rid of Coulson and stay rid of him–and then to press forward with changes that should keep this kind of thing from happening again, such as his government’s promises to return more power to individuals and communities, and to limit the authority of the British state.”
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