David Cameron’s McBride moment is here, but Tories remain silent


by Sunny Hundal    
11:45 pm - July 8th 2009

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The Conservatives milked the Damian McBride affair for all its worth – turning up on television almost everyday in faux-outrage at how someone could be so nasty in politics. Every day a succession of outraged right-wing bloggers and backbench politicians said they expected better standards from Parliament.

If that is the case, what will they now say about the allegations levelled at Andy Coulson – David Cameron’s director of communications.
The Media Guardian reports:

The paperwork from the Information Commission revealed the names of 31 journalists working for the News of the World and the Sun, together with the precise details of government agencies, banks, phone companies and others who were conned into handing over confidential information on politicians, actors, sportsmen and women, musicians and television presenters, all of whom are named in the paperwork. This is an offence under the Data Protection Act unless it is justified by public interest. Senior editors are among the journalists who are implicated.

A certain Andy Coulson was first deputy editor and later editor of the News of the World while all this was going on.

Nick Davies also writes:

David Cameron’s chief press adviser, Andy Coulson, is not named in any of the suppressed evidence. However, the paperwork shows that during the time when he was editor of the News of the World, and contrary to News Group’s earlier denials, editorial staff for whom he was responsible were involved with private investigators who engaged in illegal phone-hacking; and that when Coulson was deputy editor, reporters and executives were commissioning multiple purchases of confidential information, which is illegal unless it is proved to be in the public interest. These purchases were not secret within the News of the World office: they were openly paid for by the accounts department with invoices which itemised illegal acts. News Group has always maintained that it acts lawfully and in the public interest.

It would frankly be astounding if the editor of such a big newspaper did not know that all this illegal activity was taking place right under his nose.

Check out the list of people:

Among those whose privacy apparently was illegally violated when British Telecom was conned into handing over their addresses and/or ex-directory numbers are Nigella Lawson (four times); Patsy Kensit; Jude Law and Sadie Frost; Lisa Snowdon (three times); Anne Robinson and her former partner; Carol Caplin; Lenny Henry; Vanessa Feltz; Lord Mountbatten’s grandson; and witnesses to the murder of Jill Dando, thus potentially interfering with the course of a live police inquiry.

When the actress Charlotte Coleman died after an asthma attack, the News of the World paid for BT to be conned into handing over the itemised Friends and Family list from her bereaved parents’ phone bill. When the TV presenter Linda Barker moved house, they hired Whittamore to get her new home address from the supposedly confidential social security database.

And only a few days ago David Cameron announced he wanted to curtail or close the media regulator Ofcom, a move that would immensely benefit News International. I wonder who thought of that wheeze.

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About the author
Sunny Hundal is editor of LC. Also: on Twitter, at Pickled Politics and Guardian CIF.
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Story Filed Under: Blog ,Media ,Our democracy


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Reader comments


Oh this is old news…

Call me geeky but this came out ages ago but as usual the papers (Guardian) we’re sitting on this, like they always do. I know you guys like what you like n all but a really interesting book to read is Piers Morgan first book about Fleet St, you learn all the tricks of the trade and how they ‘sit’ on political stories for MONTHS until it’s more powerful..

This actually was murmured in Private Eye as well..like 10 months or more ago….

Anyhow, Coulson had it coming. I couldn’t believe when he started working with the Tories with his past! And worst of all, the Guardian gave him a glowing tribute! It all seemed so suspicious…

Aha…

I’m sure people suspected this. But I bet there are technical and legal reasons why this came out now rather than earlier. Why would any newspaper sit on a story like this big?

3. Jennifer Roy

Considering how the political left continually capitalise in false outrage in order to push forward grandoise socialist ideas, I find it faintly amusing you would criticise Conservatives for complaining about being smeared by Labour Party spin doctors. I suppose Damian McBride and Derek Draper just did it for the lulz, so that’s fine then.

4. Louis Mazzini

Coulson didn’t know about 2-3000 phones being tapped by his newsroom? Really?

He’s either a liar or grossly incompetent and according to Arsene Dale he’s a ‘good adviser’ who has done a ‘terrific job’.

So Watson, by the process of elimination we are left with……….

Bye Andy, back to Bizarre you go xx

Ah but Jennifer, we never made excuses for McBride. However it is amusing how many Tories are now trying to defend Coulson – give one was a bit of email gossip and the other the illegal wire-tapping of tens of people without their knowledge.
I wonder which story is bigger.

Grandoise socialist ideas? Didn’t realise transparency and accountability in the media was such a socialist project. But then I suppose its better than being a defender of rich, vested interests.

6. The Grim Reaper

Sunny Hundal – the gift that just keeps on giving.

7. Richard (the original)

The difference is that McBride was doing his dirty deeds for the Labour Party whereas, as far as we know, Coulson was not acting for the Tories. That said if these allegations are true he should be given the boot.

This is big lads… It’s not a story for Cameron or the Tories, if they act on Alistair Cambell’s advice (see Iain Dale’s blog)…

“It is not my place to advise Cameron, or Coulson. But if it were, I would be saying to Cameron to find out very quickly whether Coulson did act in any way improperly, and to act accordingly if he thinks he did. And if I were Coulson, I would be totally honest with Cameron to help him make that decision.

“When the Damian McBride emails first surfaced, it was obvious where it was going to end. If Cameron thinks that this situation might also end in him having to lose his right-hand man, better to do it quickly.”

But I want to see how Coulson gets out of this… It’s the scale of the thing that makes it a big news story… Andrew Neil meets hammer with nail:

“I think it is one of the most significant media stories of modern times. It suggests that rather than being a one off journalist or rogue private investigator, it was systemic throughout the News of the World, and to a lesser extent the Sun.

“Particularly in the News of the World, this was a newsroom out of control. We know from your story, it has become a default position to go to these guys and get information this way.

“Everyone who knows the News of the World, everybody knows this was going on. But it did no good to talk about it. One News of the World journalist said to me tonight, it was dangerous to talk about it.”

Coulson has better come up with something really good… Because this Murdoch operation stinks to high heaven… Big media bugging thousands of citizens? Not on lads, I don’t care where you pitch from, left or right, it’s just not on…

That is pretty grim stuff, regardless of when it gets publicised. Re-emphasises to me how I could never ever ever vote Tory, even though I like a handful of their MPs.

It’s not a “McBride moment” for the reasons given @7 above.

He should still go though.

11. What does Guido know?

Well?

If one were to take Guido at his word, as a critic of all things naughty in politics, why isn’t he blogging this to high heaven?

He clearly knows about the dark leaky arts.

Is he perhaps closer to this than he cares to tell?

His posts over the past few days haven’t amounted to much more than variants on his tediously childish, “Gordon is bonkers” schtick, and the horrendous case of an MP who had the temerity to be sarcastic about her additional income of a £1.50 punnet of strawberries as refreshment after some sterling work at a constituency charity event.

Or is Guido simply losing the plot!!

The story is big, but from reading Dave is comfortable with the story – odd that that is. His DoC was involved in illegal wire taps and he’s fine with it!?

Yet – as I said on one message board – it will be a matter that the Tories will win and the UK will be worse off come the morning after.

Dave is in Murdoch’s pocket as has been shown with getting rid of the policy unit of OfCom.

I hope someone has the bollox to take this further and not settle out of court with the accompanying gagging order that Taylor did.

Well he has blogged about it.http://order-order.com/2009/07/09/coulson-coulson-coulson/Is it running as a story at all?(I am about to go to bed in Seattle and have no idea what is going on…)

14. What does Guido know?

Yup. He’s blogging it now. The story broke yesterday. I suppose Guido needed time to square his story with Conservative Central Office, as per Lord Ashcroft’s instructions.

He’s defending Coulson.

Does anyone really believe that he’d be defending him were he Labour. Of course not.

That’s the point.

He ain’t the “plague on all your houses” he likes to pretend.

I mean, anyone who tries to make what he did of a £1.50 punnet of strawberries is something of a desperate man; losing whatever plot he had, indeed.

Let’s hope he doesn’t lose what the original Guido lost. It wasn’t at all pleasant according to Dr David Starkey even though Starkers did salivate rather, ever so slightly…

15. What does Guido know?
16. councilhousetory

As Dizzy points out, the comparison between McBride and Coulson is a false one. McBride was an underling, Coulson the boss.

The proper comparison is between Coulson and Brown. Their underlings out of control. Both deny wrongdoing, or knowledge.

17. Ken McKenzie

Soz Tories, but there’s no comparison between Brown and Coulson. One is a not-very-good Prime Minister whose employee sent some mean emails.

The other presided over an newsroom that institutionally broke the law and has been the beneficiary of a media baron’s money to gag the courts.

I’m sorry, but I fail to spot the similarity.

For me, there are a range of serious issues, but one Sunny hasn’t explicitly mentioned is that Rupert Murdoch’s cash is keeping us from knowing exactly what happened, and as a result is, at least in the short term, probably what is keeping Andy Coulson at Tory Central Office. Now, whilst I appreciate that Tory supporters seem entirely comfortable with Rupert Murdoch owning their party lock, stock and barrel (not as comfortable at Rupes himself, of course), I’d really rather not have News International actually run the country thanks. You might argue that they do already, and I have to admit I’m sympathetic to that idea, but not quite as overtly as this.

If the Tories can’t be trusted to hold their own people to account, then it’s up to the rest of us.

Was Coulson working for the Tories when this happened? – NO.

Was Coulson working from the Tory Central Office? – NO

Was Cameron or anyone of his inner cabal involved in anyway with this campaign?- NO

Is the Tory party at all implicated in this particular episode of shoddy journalism?-NO

Was Coulson, while acting for the Tory party, using government resources to smear opposition leaders with false allegations?- NO

Should Coulson GO? YES.

Should News of the World be Prosecuted? YES.

Should Coulson and other editors involved go to jail? YES.

What makes journalists think that they can break the law – no wonder journalists are trusted even less than politicians.

But this is no MacBride affair — no matter how much people want to spin it that way.

Yeah, I agree with Shamit. It’s a very serious case but the core issue is about the way our press operates and the mechanisms we have in place to act when they are out of line. It does reflect badly on Cameron’s judgement that he hired Coulson but that question is tangential really.

20. Ken McKenzie

I do think that there are legit questions about whether Coulson, if it is proven he condoned illegal acts at the NoTW, would, or could, have done the same for the Tories.

But I agree it’s not about the Tories. It’s about cleaning up British public life by going after the people who have done more than any other to dirty it – and I’m sorry partisans, it isn’t the politicians, no matter which team you blindly support.


Reactions: Twitter, blogs
  1. Liberal Conspiracy

    Article: David Cameron’s McBride moment is here, but Tories remain silent http://bit.ly/2bGUAT

  2. irene rukerebuka

    RT @libcon: Article: David Cameron’s McBride moment is here, but Tories remain silent http://bit.ly/2bGUAT

  3. Adam Bienkov

    RT @libcon Article: David Cameron’s McBride moment is here, but Tories remain silent http://bit.ly/2bGUAT

  4. sunny hundal

    David Cameron’s McBride moment is here, but Tories remain silent – http://bit.ly/2bGUAT (on @libcon)

  5. Mick Fealty

    @davidcochrane Yep and it’s a Nick Davies story too… Sunny’s take: http://bit.ly/2bGUAT

  6. David Morton

    RT @pickledpolitics: David Cameron’s McBride moment is here, but Tories remain silent – http://bit.ly/2bGUAT (on @libcon)

  7. dhmorton

    RT @pickledpolitics: David Cameron’s McBride moment is here, but Tories remain silent – http://bit.ly/2bGUAT (on @libcon)

  8. Liberal Conspiracy

    Article: David Cameron’s McBride moment is here, but Tories remain silent http://bit.ly/2bGUAT

  9. irene rukerebuka

    RT @libcon: Article: David Cameron’s McBride moment is here, but Tories remain silent http://bit.ly/2bGUAT

  10. Adam Bienkov

    RT @libcon Article: David Cameron’s McBride moment is here, but Tories remain silent http://bit.ly/2bGUAT

  11. sunny hundal

    David Cameron’s McBride moment is here, but Tories remain silent – http://bit.ly/2bGUAT (on @libcon)

  12. Mick Fealty

    @davidcochrane Yep and it’s a Nick Davies story too… Sunny’s take: http://bit.ly/2bGUAT

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    [...] Read the original: David Cameron’s McBride moment is here, but Tories remain silent [...]

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    [...] or at least such evidence is not yet forthcoming.Thus, the question raised by the likes of Sunny Hundal of "what will [right wing bloggers] now say about the allegations levelled at Andy Coulson – [...]

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