It is not often that a breaking news story stops me getting into the car and going to see my Mum up north before heading on to Burnley tomorrow to carry on with the film I am making on the club’s promotion to the Premiership.
The News of the World phonetap story is one such. Maybe deep down I did not like breaking the pattern I have set since starting to blog of doing one every day. So here is today’s.
It sounds to me like a serious story, with a lot of serious issues attached to it.
The law is the law and we are all meant to obey it. If the early reports of The Guardian story are right, then this sounds like they are exposing a newspaper with at its heart a culture that has accepted, condoned and benefited from law breaking to further its own interests. If the number of phones tapped as claimed by The Guardian turns out to be right – well into four figures – then it has been doing so on a systematic basis.
It then becomes very hard to be anything other than sceptical about the claims made at the time of the jailing of the paper’s Royal reporter that senior executives did not know that lawbreaking in pursuit of stories had been going on. And the fact, again as reported by The Guardian, that News International have already shelled out a million pounds in out of court settlements, suggests they now know at a very senior level that something very wrong has gone on. If what they had been doing was anything other than indefensible, they would have defended it.
The Guardian would appear to have a scoop. But this is now also a test for the rest of the media. I suspect the practise of phonetapping of newsworthy people, or at least the turning of a blind eye to how stories about them arrive, has not been confined to this paper or this group.
Also, how the other News International papers cover the story will be subject to closer examination than is usual. The Times in particular has its own reputation to think of here. It cannot and must not just be a corporate voice.
Given the role of David Cameron’s communications chief Andy Coulson, who was editor at the News of the World when the phonetap scandal first led to the jailing of Clive Goodman, this may be the point at which the press finally start to put on Cameron and Co the kind of media pressure Labour leaders have had to deal with for years.
It is not my place to advise Cameron, or Coulson. But if it were, I would be saying to Cameron to find out very quickly whether Coulson did act in any way improperly, and to act accordingly if he thinks he did. And if I were Coulson, I would be totally honest with Cameron to help him make that decision.
When the Damian McBride emails first surfaced, it was obvious where it was going to end. If Cameron thinks that this situation might also end in him having to lose his right-hand man, better to do it quickly.
As for the police, as John Prescott said this evening, if he as deputy Prime Minister was having his mobile phone tapped, and the police have known about that, it is pretty extraordinary that JP was not told.
I really have missed the rush hour traffic now, and I’m off. For once, I can stay tuned to Five Live without cursing the fact there’s no football on. Interesting story, interesting times.
Whilst your comments are interesting and understandable, I find it quite naive for anyone to have a belief that the press, politicians and high ranking civil servants have integrity in their approaches to newsworthy stories, attracting votes and climbing the career ladder. I am sure that phones have been tapped since Alexander Graham Bell decided to ‘phone home’!
This is shocking and then it’s not. Think about it. Employers and spouses use P.I.s as a matter of course these days. Then there’s the internet which is rearing an entire generation of people who lack any notion of privacy. By the same token, we over-thirties allow our privacy to be trampled upon for the sake of convenience or to fight terrorism. We should not be surprised when professions which use surveillance to do their jobs, including investigative journalists, pushing the boundaries further and further.
I don’t wish Andy Coulson ill but Cameron’s Conservatives have been getting away with murder for far too long. Something had to turn up. As you say, the law is the law and let’s hope it takes it’s course.
This is abhorrent but exciting in a way. Very State of Play — the TV series, I mean.
“As for the police, as John Prescott said this evening, if he as deputy Prime Minister was having his mobile phone tapped, and the police have known about that, it is pretty extraordinary that JP was not told.”
Yes, that is interesting. One could be reading about this all day — if one didn’t have work to do.
Where is the Labour Party – apart from you and JP – on this story? If the boot was on the other foot, they wouod be kicking hard.I just watched Newsnight. Andrew Neil was terrific on the press side of thimgs, but there is a political issue here and we need Labour voices putting on pressure and making clear this is also about Cameron and the kind of people he has around him
I am completely baffled, but maybe it’s my lack of knowledge showing. How were these people able to hack into and tap people’s phones? Isn’t it illegal to do so without a legal reason to do so (unless you’re a member of some government intelligence and it doesn’t matter what country they work for, they’re all as crooked as Nixon and his cronies were)…how did a mere newspaper get that access and what was their legal justification?
I’m not much of a conspiracy theorist, but, I will admit, my first thought when I read the article was “Max Moselely did say after the trial last year that he will find out who was behind the information leak and that they would be dealt with, and well, the chickens have definately come home to rooost now”. However, it’s an amusing thought, though probably untrue.
Very interesting story. If true that NoTW paid £200,000 or so to private investigators, then it can’t be possible for senior execs to know nothing.
With Clive Goodman – not necesarily phone taps, but if you have mobile number and phone is switched off, it’s easy to listen to messages on voicemail as the required PIN is almost always a factory default number such as 1234. This is how many stories were obtained.