The Daily Mail has, for some years now, been the press conduit of choice for information that Police officers want to get into the public domain. This has proved true especially when those accused are acquitted – the Colin Stagg case is a prime example – and the message is passed along that “he did it really”.
That may be borne in mind when considering the sequence of events that took place in December 2009: on the 6th, the Independent – one of only two papers then taking Phonehackgate seriously – reported that Lib Dem Chris Huhne was asking questions of the then Labour Government about whether Tessa Jowell had been a victim of Glenn Mulcaire.
Then, on the following Wednesday, the Guardian – the other paper taking it seriously – reported on the Commons culture committee and their request for another chat with the twinkle-toed yet domestically combative Rebekah Brooks. Zelo Street dutifully noted this progress, and also mentioned the unfair dismissal case at the Screws involving Andy Coulson.
What was not known until last Friday was that, the very next day, Met Police commissioner Paul Stephenson and his press chief Dick Fedorcio had arrived at the Guardian’s HQ where, in a meeting with editor Alan Rusbridger and his deputy Paul Johnson, they had tried to suggest that Nick Davies’ coverage of the slowly breaking scandal was “overegged and incorrect”.
The meeting was not reported on by the Guardian, nor any other paper, but by a bizarre coincidence the subject of Phonehackgate got into the very next issue of the Mail On Sunday. The piece – “Phone hacking, WikiLeaks, and the hypocrisy of the liberal elite” – could not have been in more sympathetic hands than those of Stephen Glover, who had earlier railed against the Guardian and BBC in the Independent.
There, he had tried to smear the two organisations as being part of a conspiracy, peddling the “non story” line, and had rubbished Nick Davies. He was an ideal conduit, and his Mail article pressed all the right buttons. The Guardian and BBC were again conspiring together, it was all about removing Andy Coulson from the side of Young Dave, and once more there wasn’t really a story.
Glover also pitches a blatant false equivalence by introducing WikiLeaks and thereby accuses the Guardian of hypocrisy. That this piece should appear so soon after the Met tried to warn off the Guardian may be mere coincidence. It may not. But one thing I can say with confidence: neither Stephen Glover nor Paul Dacre will be commenting any time soon.