One software package that is universal, right from IT professionals, through managers, to students, is the humble spreadsheet. I use spreadsheets for income tax and VAT, for collating statistics, anything with figures – but I rarely use that facility for which they became famous, the “what if” analysis. Right now, someone at News International may well be doing some “what if” analyses. And the figures may not make comfortable reading.
How so? Well, if the numbers in Nick Davies’ Guardian article today are anything to go by, there may be as many as three thousand individuals who have had their mobile phones hacked by those operating on behalf of the News of the World and Sun. So far, very few of these have taken legal action against either paper, but even so, News International have stumped up around a million notes.
Now remember that figure, then consider the comments by former Murdoch editor Andrew Neil in this Guardian piece. Neil raises the prospect – and a chilling one for anyone in the Murdoch empire – of more of those whose mobiles have been hacked coming together to sue the NotW and Sun, in what those Stateside would call a “class action”. The costs could become truly eye-watering, and the previous attempt by News International to have all concerned keep schtum would be instantly nullified as such an action gathered pace.
This is poised to be the main event, but of course, the potential involvement of Andy Coulson will enable Labour MPs to engage in some routine mischief making. The problem for David Cameron, who was earlier “relaxed” and is now “standing by his man” is straightforward: if he blinks first, sacking Coulson, only to find out that there is nothing to implicate him, he gets it in the neck for giving in too easily. If he holds on to Coulson, and there really is a smoking gun, then he gets it for not giving in when those then benefiting from a substantial portion of hindsight say he should have done.
Meanwhile, Nick Davies is slated to appear before the House of Commons culture committee next Tuesday. Don’t even think about getting a seat. There won’t be any.