Con-Dem Nation,  Media,  UK Politics

What if Cameron already knows the truth about Coulson?

In the House of Commons this afternoon Theresa May, the home secretary, told parliament that it is not for the government to decide whether illegal phone tapping of private citizens by a national newspaper merits an inquiry that is a job for the police despite fresh allegations.

The question is how long can the Tories stonewall before facing up to the fact that Andy Coulson, David Cameron’s director of communications, has been revealed to having lied following the publication at the weekend of a New York Times’ investigation into the 2007 phone hacking story.

May was responding this afternoon to a question put by Labour MP Tom Watson. May repeated her line from yesterday: that there are no grounds for a public inquiry. What she meant, of course, that there are no grounds for an inquiry that will implicate Coulson and possibly his boss David Cameron.

As there is a question to be asked here, and it is this: Coulson was hired by Cameron only months after he resigned as editor of the New of the World. Did he admit to Cameron at the time what he had done? I mean really done.

And what are the implications for the prime minister knowing that his director of communications has not been straight with the world? What does it say about him and his government? And what of his coalition partners, the Liberal Democrat, who are all but quiet on the issue? Other than that is Adrian Sanders, a Lib Dem member of the culture select committee, who has said an inquiry would be appropriate.

The New York Times investigation says that Coulson knew that his reporters were engaged in the hacking of mobile accounts while he was editor of the News of the World despite saying otherwise. The NY Times said he actively encouraged it.

The NY Times has passed its evidence to the Metropolitan police, which says it is looking at whether there should be a fresh investigation into the affair.

The Met’s reputation in this is already sullied having been accused of originally withholding key evidence from the Crown Prosecutions Service and possibly muting its investigation. It was accused of having too close a relationship with the News of the Screws.

The Met already faces the possibility of damaging legal action from some of the hacked public figures, including John Prescott and Sky TV football commentator Andy Gray among others, for failing to inform them that their phones were being tapped.

It strikes me as stunning that a man who works for the prime and who stands directly accused, by a former member of his staff at the News of the World, of freely discussing the use of unlawful news-gathering techniques is not even suspended.

This is the man who told a Commons select committee last year: “I have never had any involvement in it at all”.

It struck me then and it strikes me still: I find it hard to believe that an editor can not know where some of his paper’s biggest stories were coming from when the stakes in terms of legal action are so high. It is not a one time thing this phone hacking: it was widespread.

Coulson is clearly being protected by Cameron, but why is that? Is it that Coulson delivered on quite a large scale via his connections to Rupert Murdoch’s news empire? Coulson as a long-time News Corp journalist is thought to have played a key role for the Tories in helping to secure the backing of Murdoch’s newspaper’s which made their dramatic and unseemly switch on mass from Labour to the Tories prior to the May 2010 election.

The Tories badly wanted the support of News Corp’s papers in the UK and they got it all – The Sun, The Times, The News of the World and the Sunday Times. All four switched soulless vessels and then proceeded to assail Gordon Brown’s shaky government with a barrage of negative stories.

That support came at a price as part of a longer ideologically neutral game that Murdoch is playing in the UK to reduce the competitive influence of the BBC. We saw that come into play on May 11 when Cameron officially assumed the position of PM and elevated Coulson to head of communications.

Within a week of that happening Murdoch arrived at 10 Downing Street for a private meeting with the new prime minister. Cameron’s administration then criticised the BBC in July for “extraordinary and outrageous waste” during difficult financial times and proposed cutting its budget”.

The wider battle being played out was after the New York Times published its piece as News Corp bite back and, wait for it, in a letter written by News of the World Managing Editor, Bill Akass, accuses the New York Times of lacking ethics because it dare to write a compelling story of international significance that criticises the underhanded activities of Murdoch’s biggest selling newspaper. Oh the cheek.

How does Akass get up in the morning? I ask that as I’m guessing his reporters hack his phone and turn his alarm off. Just for a laugh.

The letter penned (I’m guessing) by News Corp big wigs accuses the Times of failing to come up with new evidence….despite the new evidence it presented?

“Your investigation has always been tainted by a vested interest in its outcome which means it is in serious and multiple breach of your own ethical guidelines,” his letter says – read the full letter on the NY Times website.

The vested interest refers to the bitter battle being fought in New York as the WSJ expands its coverage in the Big Apple in an effort to take on the NY Times’ on its home turf.

If Coulson falls he could inadvertently or otherwise bring down more than himself because if he is proved to be lying his lies might go all the way to the top.