As I suggested yesterday, some pundits called Phonehackgate completely wrong. Others steered well clear: to his credit, the legendarily foul mouthed Paul Dacre appears to have kept pronouncements on the story off the pages of the Daily Mail. If only others had been able to apply that same discipline. Here are some of the finest examples of foot-in-mouth punditry on the affair.
In July 2009, Tim Montgomerie knew exactly what it was about: “This is about revenge” he blustered in that day’s Guardian. The ConservativeHome stalwart explained “The attack on Andy Coulson is politically motivated: a desperate bid by Labour to get payback for the ousting of Damian McBride”. Also, it was about “the hostility of the Guardian and the BBC to Rupert Murdoch’s media empire” (Monty always gets his Beeb dig in). But all would be well, as “it has blown over so very quickly”. Monty hasn’t been quite so forthcoming lately.
By September 2010, the heat was being turned up a little more, so yet more bluster was deployed, typical being a piece by Matthew d’Ancona in the Maily Telegraph, who dismissively observed “there is nothing much here that would stand up in court, or indeed to reasonably well-informed scrutiny”. He then tries to muddy the waters further by suggesting that Labour MPs Keith Vaz and Tom Watson are themselves less than saintly, and that this somehow cancels out the phone hacking affair. Thus another steaming pile of journalistic bullpucky.
And hard on the heels of the d’Ancona heap was one generated by regular collector of “chicken feed” from the Maily Telegraph and occasional London mayor Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson. It was “codswallop”, concluded Bozza. “a politically motivated put-up job by the Labour party”. Moreover, anything that Labour said on the matter was “simply in order to score party political points against the Prime Minister’s press spokesman”. He’s not managed so much as a “yikes”, “crikey” or “oo-er readers” over the weekend.
But in January, even as the storm was about to break, there was another Ron Hopeful episode, this time from the Maily Telegraph deputy editor (that’s Deputy Editor) Benedict Brogan. Titled “Andy Coulson’s staying power in Downing Street”, Ben confidently told that “the PM shows no sign of being troubled by the difficulties News Corp is having”, and that Coulson “runs a tight ship, and is contemplating changes to make it more efficient” [Ben missed one of those changes]. Also, “a number of Government departments ... are going to find themselves scrutinised by his level gaze”. Three days after this was published, Coulson was gone.Someone needs to heed the words attributed to Denis Thatcher: “Better to stay silent and be thought a fool, than to open one’s mouth and remove all doubt”.