Cameron: Misled, Misguided, or Miscreant?
There are few things that make me as corybantic as politicians treating ordinary people like simpletons. During the last 24 hours I have felt like an elderly patient in a Panorama special – strapped to a bed against my will and being fed whatever “truth” No.10’s PR machine feels is convenient; like a sedative, every hour on the hour. Here are a few startling “facts”, being bandied about like pearls of wisdom found deep inside the hairy mollusc of the News of The World scandal:
- The News of The World uncovered many great stories which were beneficial to the British public.
No doubt they uncovered the odd one. Was this through a process of unbridled, investigative journalistic fervour? I sincerely doubt that. The truth is that if anybody illegally hacked into the phones of a few thousand powerful people, they would occasionally come up with stories which were in the public interest. It does not follow that it was their motive.
Let us look at a hypothetical. It is a few days before the News of The World mount their campaign to enshrine the military covenant. They are sent a video of a “three-in-a-bed gay romp” between David Beckham, Tom Cruise and the Dalai Lama. Ask yourselves a simple question: Which story would they choose to splash on their front page? I know the answer. You know the answer.
Yesterday on BBC News 24, Ann Leslie claimed that Rebekah Brooks turned down the MP expenses scandal when it was brought to her. Presumably some minor celebrity was engaged in some sexual act with some other minor celebrity.
So, for Jordan’s sake, let us stop pretending that what we lost was some august hotspot of journalistic brilliance. It was a hotbed of salacious sensationalism, badly written and punctuated, frequently taken to court over reporting the opposite of the truth.
- To suggest that the demise of the News of The World is no great loss is an act of shocking elitism.
The assumption underlying this idiotic claim is that the elite read the Observer and The Times, while the readership of the News of The World consists exclusively of cor-blimey-guv’nor chimney sweeps. This assumption is, to put it delicately, horse manure.
Recent readership figures show that the News of The World’s post-hacking sales of just under 3 million ABC1 readers (higher in terms of affluence, education and jobs) outdistances the Sunday Times and is more than the Sunday Telegraph, Observer and Independent on Sunday put together.
So, this particular chimney-sweep, with no shame, says No Thanks and Good-bye.
- The Guardian , BBC and the Labour party are responsible for bringing down this beloved British institution.
The Sun Politics account tweeted yesterday: “NotW – RIP. A loss to 1st class journalism. Ed Miliband, Guardian and BBC; how proud you must be of your work this week.” They later deleted their tweet and issued the following: “Please ignore last tweet re NotW – not authorised, and not the paper or its political team’s opinion”. Hacked, were you?
This is a most extraordinary attempt to deflect blame from the blameworthy. The reason the News of The World in no more, is perfectly clear to anybody who cares to look.
First, a series of decisions to act, as an organisation, both immorally and illegally put it in a difficult position. Second, its bosses made the bizarre choice to fold it rather than deal with the consequences.
The arresting officer is not the cause of the perpetrator’s conviction – his crime is.
- Rebekah Brooks was away/ involved with other projects/ on holiday/ unaware/ at the movies/ busy with a baseball bat and Ross Kemp/ on a manned mission to the International Space Station during any of these illegal activities. Ditto during their attempted cover up.
And here is the biggest pork-pie of them all:
- It is unfair to tarnish David Cameron for doing the thoroughly decent thing and giving a man a second chance.
The image of Cameron desperately pushed by Tory politicians and right-wing commentators is that of a trusting, wide-eyed, Bambi-like figure who asked for assurances from Andy Coulson and then, believing the apparently reformed chap at his word, gave the old bean a second chance. Turns out the chap was a scamp! Oh no!
I find this utterly unpalatable. We are talking about the Prime Minister, not Red Riding Hood. He is a savvy politician, the leader of the Tory party, and an ex PR man himself. It now emerges that he was warned about Coulson by senior Tory and LibDem colleagues. He dismissed concerns over Coulson’s involvement in the scandal as “a political stunt”. Boris Johnson went further, calling assertions regarding the extent of the hacking scandal “a load of codswallop cooked up by the Labour Party”.
Add to this, that Mr Coulson was not on his second chance – he was on his third one. During the period of Coulson’s tenure as Cameron’s right-hand-man, he was heavily implicated in an industrial tribunal which involved horrific bullying and ended up costing his old employer £800k. The tribunal found in December 2008 that the claimant had fallen victim to “a consistent pattern of bullying behaviour… The original source of the hostility towards the claimant was Mr Coulson, the editor; although other senior managers either took their lead from Mr Coulson and continued with his motivation after Mr Coulson’s departure; or shared his views themselves. Mr Coulson did not attend the tribunal to explain why he wanted the claimant dismissed.”
Is keeping this man on staff consistent with a Cameron who has constantly declared himself to be vehemently opposed to bullying? Or is it more consistent with the Flashman who is frequently accused of behaving like a bully in the House of Commons? The bully who dismisses experienced female politicians with “calm down dear”? It is precisely this duality, this inconsistency between the government’s rhetoric and its actions that is at the core of the Coulson appointment.
It has become increasingly clear to many over the last year that this government was elected on a platform of lies; student fees, VAT, reorganisation of the Health Service, EMAs – they are but a smattering of examples; U-turns, broken promises, misleading of the House of Commons and stretching the truth to its limits.
At the centre of this campaign, Andy Coulson – described by George Osborne as “an incredibly talented, dedicated and patriotic servant of this country”; described by David Cameron as “a hugely experienced journalist [who] will make a formidable contribution as a senior member of my team in building the most effective strategy and operation to win the next general election.”
He did make a formidable contribution. And Cameron did win the general election. Why deny this, just because the true nature of his contribution is now revealed?
Coulson was not hired despite his questionable pedigree. He was hired because of it.