THE HACKING TRIAL AWAITS
The faithful Murdoch retainers (along with one husband) have appeared in court. All have pleaded not guilty. So all will now face trial. The first of these will start in September, and is expected to run through until Christmas. Another trial should then kick off in January, and last for a similar length of time. This will ensure that Phonehackgate will remain in the public consciousness for several months.
So who is in the dock come September? Rebekah Brooks and husband Charlie (who, it is noted, is a “friend of the Prime Minister”), plus Andy Coulson (also facing perjury charges in Scotland), Ms Brooks’ former secretary Cheryl Carter, News International security man Mark Hanna, former Screws managing editor Stuart Kuttner, head of news Ian Edmondson and senior reporter James Weatherup.
Joining them will be Glenn Mulcaire. Brooks will also be appearing at the January trial, this being about the making of inappropriate payments to public officials for information. This very public washing of the Murdoch empire’s potentially extremely dirty laundry will be bad enough for Rupe and his remaining troops. But it will be a whole lot worse for two other groups.
The trials may well be before Mr Justice Saunders, who is very good at transparency and information dissemination (for instance, making sentencing remarks public), but who is equally hot on anyone playing fast and loose with previously imposed reporting restrictions. So one group who will have to watch their steps will be the press pack, for whom reporting restrictions are something not to obey but get round.
And the second group who must be dreading six months of trials are the Tory Party, not least because the Murdochs gave Young Dave their seal of approval before the 2010 General Election, and more importantly because Cameron is a personal friend of Rebekah and Charlie Brooks. Most importantly, he appointed Andy Coulson as his chief spinmeister despite being warned against by those who knew the background.
On top of the trail going well into next year, there are elections to the European Parliament (EP) coming up next June: the Tories could well face a loss of votes, if not seats, to UKIP, the only other potential beneficiary being Mil The Younger. The EP vote cannot be moved: these are five-year fixed term Parliaments. And the contest will set the scene for the following year’s General Election.
And in case any Tories are thinking that removing Cameron will take the taint of Murdoch away, it won’t: Michael “Oiky” Gove, for instance, is also tied to Rupe’s empire, and possibly more intimately than he would like us to know about. These trials are coming at the worst possible time for the Tories, and many MPs will be getting their CVs ready for the search for alternative employment. Good.