Sorry to keep harping on about what is essentially a Westminster story, but Simon Heffer has an intriguing angle on the kinds of stresses inside the Tory party as a result of their leader’s doughty (and patrician) handling of the #murdochgate crisis:
The police may not be interested though I fail to understand why but the House of Commons is, and is likely to summon Mr Coulson to ask him, again, what he knew. Not knowing about one reporter’s breaking the law may be just about feasible, even though large sums of his newspaper’s money changed hands in the course of the crime. Not knowing about a systemic programme of voicemail-tapping seems simply incredible. Dave supports his mate Mr Coulson loudly and publicly. In the same way, he supports shadow ministers and mates like George Osborne, Francis Maude, Michael Gove and Jonathan Djangoly: all of whom, in the eyes of some of their colleagues, have questions still to answer about their attitude to the use of public money. To many increasingly bitter Tory MPs, ethical behaviour, or even the public perception of it, is not the test the leader has applied in making judgements of whom to back and whom to drop: it is whether the person under scrutiny has the mark of the leader’s favour, or is useful. In all the horrors of the last few weeks, only one of Dave’s close circle has bitten the dust Andrew MacKay, and he realised the game was up.
Nothing new to investigate, he concluded after a brisk look through the file. “Yard won’t probe Tory’s spin doctor on phone taps,” is the Mail’s page 10 verdict, next to a photo of the toothsome Nigella Lawson, whose phone records were targeted. The FT, normally on the respectable (who says?) side of Fleet Street’s culture wars, also took its cue from Yates. A disappointment, but the paper is going through one of its more Tory cycles. It gave the affair extensive treatment on the inside pages of the UK edition.
The Yard’s decision, which was greeted with relief in David Cameron’s office, was admirably speedy of Yates, who took well over a year to marshal his lack of a case against Tony Blair and his minions in the loans-for-honours affair. During that period, newspapers and TV were fed a lot of information damaging to Blair. Yates suspects No 10 briefed against itself. I retain my suspicions, which yesterday’s turn of events have not diminished. He is a smart political copper.
Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty