COULSON GETS GUILTY
And so partial verdicts in the Hacking Trial were given: Stuart Kuttner, Rebekah Brooks, husband Charlie, her former PA Cheryl Carter, and security man Mark Hanna were cleared of all charges, the jury clearly not able to reach the standard of proof necessary, there being “reasonable doubt”. But former Screws editor Andy Coulson, one-time chief spinner to Young Dave, was not so fortunate.
On Count One, conspiracy to hack phones, Coulson was found guilty. This is, remember, in addition to a number of guilty pleas already entered and accepted on behalf of those who were therefore not in the dock of Court 12 at the Old Bailey. This verdict is bad news for one man and his pals: step forward David Cameron, Prime Minister and First Lord of the Treasury.
Young Dave – on the advice of next-door neighbour the Rt Hon Gideon George Oliver Osborne, heir to the Seventeenth Baronet – appointed Coulson his spinmeister, despite being advised against it by Alan Rusbridger, editor of the deeply subversive Guardian (something we could not be told until the trial of Jonathan Rees on charges of murdering Daniel Morgan had concluded).
Yet Cameron remained on his course and employed Coulson. Even when the phone hacking story broke, there was no wavering: indeed, a year on from the Guardian’s initial revelations, Dave took Coulson with him into Downing Street. In this he was supported unequivocally by London’s occasional Mayor Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson, who pronounced the story to be “codswallop”.
But then, Bozza had form when it came to being a little economic with the actualité, as former Tory leader Michael Howard could have told Cameron: he sacked Johnson from the Shadow Cabinet for lying over his affair with Petronella Wyatt. Coulson eventually gave up the unequal struggle and resigned; Dave made a statement at the time which means he is going to have to say sorry, and soon.
“I have an old-fashioned view about innocent until proven guilty”, he told the Commons. “But if it turns out that I have been lied to, that would be the moment for a profound apology. In that event, I can tell you I will not fall short”. He now has the additional problem of his pal Osborne making matters worse by equating Coulson with Damian McBride – not even prosecuted – to fend off Labour attacks.
Expectations within the Tory Party are that Cameron can get through this by being straight with the House, in the manner that he indicated three years ago. This may be possible. Meanwhile, the man in whose service all the hacking, and other less than savoury practices, were performed remains free to stick his bugle into the body politic as and when he sees fit. Rupert Murdoch remains The Great Survivor.