[Update at end of post]
While Leveson watchers focused on the phone hacking – and its apparent covering up – there has been another series of revelations coming out of the Inquiry this week, which suggest a less than healthy relationship between elements in the Metropolitan Police, Associated Newspapers, and the Tory Party. Not surprisingly, it has not been reported extensively.
This came out of the testimony from former counter-terrorism head Bob Quick, who had also been part of Operation Nigeria, the investigation into corruption which involved bugging the premises of Southern Investigations, realm of one Jonathan Rees. Quick made the unequivocal assertion that “it became apparent that some officers were being bribed for stories”.
Those bribes, as I pointed out recently, were potentially coming not just from the Murdoch press, but also the Daily Mail and Mail On Sunday. Quick’s recommendation to Andy Hayman that there should be an investigation into Police corruption was batted away as “too risky”, which should surprise no-one, given the latter’s later close relationship with the Screws.
But then came Quick’s involvement in the arrest of Tory MP Damian Green over leaks coming out of the Home Office. Yates of the Yard, who was close to Mail hack Stephen Wright, leaned on Quick to stop the investigation. Then the Mail On Sunday ran a story about Quick’s wife running a wedding car business, which identified the family house – of the head of counter terrorism.
The scent of collusion would by now have been mildly pungent without any more ingredients, but it is also suggested that the Tories pressured the Met to drop the investigation, with one of their number asserting “Bob Quick is behind this. I’m going to f***ing get him this time”. The Met then found that the Green arrest had been “disproportionate” despite the previous and clear concerns of the Cabinet Office.
Quick’s statement to Leveson, that leaks from the investigation into Damian Green “may well have been sourced from people who were the subject of an interview themselves”, only deepens the suspicion that those in and around the Tory Party were contributing as much, if not more, to the Mail On Sunday attack as those at the Yard in the same corner as John Yates.
While the MoS eventually scaled back their coverage, and conceded that their inference that uniformed officers were (improperly) working for the wedding car business was wrong, the Tory hierarchy has thus far escaped unscathed. That may not remain the case forever: Young Dave’s name has been mentioned, and senior Tories do not get any more senior than the Prime Minister.
And remember, Phonehackgate began with nobody taking any notice.
[UPDATE 1430 hours: I should have waited a few minutes before committing this post to publication! Bob Quick has now revealed that Damian Green, after his arrest, was given the opportunity to make that one phone call - which might be expected to be used to call family or legal representative - and used it to call none other than Andy Coulson.
Coulson was at time already working as Young Dave's chief spinmeister. Following his conversation with Coulson, Green declared that he was too tired to subject himself to Police interview, but after his release soon afterwards, had recovered sufficiently to proceed to Parliament and give a live interview on TV.
Does it stink, or does it stink? It does indeed stink]