The Tory commentator Peter Oborne is no friend of Call Me Dave. Try this opening salvo from today’s article in the Torygraph: “The phone hacking affair has displayed the Prime Minister at his worst – a shallow, amoral, conniving careerist, determined to secure high office at any cost.”
Not bad for starters. Oborne then goes on to give some background to his thinking: “In the summer of 2007, David Cameron was running scared. He was starting to slip in the polls and was fretting that Gordon Brown might call – and win – a snap general election. So Mr Cameron hired as his senior aide a well-known Fleet Street figure, the former News of the World editor Andy Coulson.
Mr Coulson was famous for his journalistic brilliance and cool, clear judgment. However, his reputation was under a cloud. A few months earlier, he had suddenly resigned after his royal correspondent was imprisoned for phone hacking. Mr Cameron accepted Mr Coulson’s assurances that he had done nothing wrong. But this week, a jury at the Old Bailey found Mr Coulson guilty of conspiracy to hack phones – and his former boss is paying the inevitable price for taking him to Downing Street as his director of communications.
The future Prime Minister was repeatedly warned about the consequences of doing so. I know of one friendly columnist who took him aside and gave him a private warning. Ian Katz, the deputy editor of The Guardian, gave a private briefing about Mr Coulson to Mr Cameron’s chief of staff, Ed Llewellyn. In a column in The Observer in April 2010, just before the election, I warned David Cameron that he would be “making an extremely worrying statement about the type of government he plans to lead if he allows Coulson anywhere near Downing Street”.
Essential evidence came from the outstanding Guardian journalist Nick Davies, who has done so much to bring the phone-hacking scandal to light. Using traditional journalistic techniques, he carried out an investigation that resulted in very troubling revelations. It portrayed Andy Coulson’s News of the World as essentially a large, private intelligence service, using some of the same highly intrusive techniques as MI5, not all of them legal. There really was no excuse at all for David Cameron to be unaware of what had been going on.
In yesterday’s Guardian, Mr Davies levelled the very serious additional charge that the Prime Minister misled the Leveson Inquiry about his decision to hire Mr Coulson. He quotes Mr Cameron telling Robert Jay QC under oath: “I was reliant on [Coulson’s] word, but I was also reliant on the fact that the Press Complaints Commission had accepted his word, the select committee had accepted his word, the police had accepted his word, the Crown Prosecution Service had accepted his word.” But as Davies points out, at the stage when Mr Cameron hired Mr Coulson, he had not even been interviewed by the Press Complaints Commission, or by a select committee, let alone by the police.”
So there you have it. By clever use of the english language, Mr Slippery slides out from under. Then he has the brass neck to claim he has been exonerated by Leveson. This wasn’t the same David Cameron who refused to turn over all the emails and text messages between himself and Brooks to the Inquiry is it? Or the same Cameron who was in such a bind when the Millie Dowler story broke he had to do something swift to deflect attention from just how much he had been Prime minister for Murdoch? Mind you he was following in some pretty sleazy footsteps in that none other than the Reverend Blair had been schmoozing News International for years. As had most of his cabinet colleagues. Blunkett even continued to grovel at the feet of the mogul after he had been told how they had hacked deeply personal conversations …… Nowt like a bit of brass to kick your values into’t long grass - as they ought to say in Yorkshire.
Our elite politicians have a shocking reputation for doing the bidding of the rich and powerful. They have danced to the tune of the tiny number of media barons to the detriment of our society.
The news that the police are looking into a corporate prosecution of the Murdoch empire is a tiny ray of hope.
As for ‘shallow, amoral, conniving careerist, determined to secure high office at any cost.’ That could apply to so many at the top of our society whether Tory, Labour or LibDem.