Tuesday, September 07, 2010

today : the gift that keeps on giving

The good news for the Labour Party is that the Andy Coulson phone hacking story looks like it's got legs. After all, there can be statements of denial aplenty, but the source of the recent accusations isn't some partisan blogger or a Labour spin doctor, but The New York Times. And say what you like about the big US papers but they don't go to print unless they have sources and corroborations.

What's interesting to me is how the broadcasters have treated this story. Trying not to appear anti-Sky (knowing they are facing sustained and vengeful attack from the Tories and their News International cronies when the license settlement arises in 2012), the BBC didn't touch it (and were criticised for it) until politicians and maligned public figures waded in. Sky News has tried to portray the story as an attempt by Labour to attack the government, rather than a story in itself. Funny how the echo chamber suddenly becomes padded and soundless for the news channel that bases much of its content on whatever is being printed in the tabloids or posted on the Web, regardless of provenance or relevance.

And of course, all the other Murdoch papers are treating it as commercial jealousy on behalf of the NYT. Other Tory worshipping press are filing it away on page 10. You couldn't get better evidence that they are worried and probably think (or know) it's a story that won't go away.

The important thing is that it all rings true. Coulson either had to be in the loop as editor of the NOTW, or else he was a shoddy editor who wasn't across the scoops that came from hacked phone messages, didn't talk to his staff and wasn't in any meetings with lawyers. You only have to hear the defensive interventions of coalition cabinet ministers to see how worried they are. Cameron has been careful to offer his support to Coulson in second hand statements and not from his own mouth.

I am personally not even so bothered about 'the dark arts'. If some mindless celebrity or politician or Royal leaves themself open to simple eavesdropping and blabs away on their mobile without securing it as best they can - then maybe they are asking for it.

But that's a side issue. The fact is that what happened was illegal, and Coulson's denials sound as shrill and thin as the Pakistani High Commisioner claiming the videos were shot AFTER the match.

All of which is good news for Labour. If the story breaks open and Coulson has to resign it will damage Cameron big-time. But if the Establishment manages to keep a lid on any investigation it will always swirl around and Labour will be able to turn again time after time to it. It will be the gift that keeps on giving.

If Labour doesn't screw it up (which they might) they have a big chance to damage Cameron. If they don't screw it up then Coulson will remain the story and sooner or later have to go. Once that happens there are endless questions about judgement and the closeness of the Tories and Mr Murdoch.

No comments:

Post a Comment