That from Andy Coulson in the Commons today. He and the News International team are sticking to the story that Goodman was a single bad apple even though by their own admission they deliberately ran an extremely loose ship. That Goodman rather than Coulson took the jail term adds to the faint smell of corporate evasion. Here’s what wikipedia currently says about plausible deniability:
…refers to the denial of blame in loose and informal chains of command where upper rungs quarantine the blame to the lower rungs. In the case that illegal or otherwise disreputable and unpopular activities become public, high-ranking officials may deny any awareness of such act or any connection to the agents used to carry out such act.
Coulson kept rigidly to the News International corporate line: “as far as I am aware there is no evidence linking the non-royal phone hacking by Glenn Mulcaire with any member of the News of the World staff.” Although he works for the Leader of Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition (and importantly, putative Prime Minister), according to Guido he still acts like he is still the boss in the office he supposedly once left in disgrace.
It depends where you come from on the political spectrum as to what you are likely to make of all of this. For the most part, Tories have taken the view that if they have no evidence of malfeasance Coulson’s critics should better put out or shut up. Labourites view it as a way of damaging their most effective political opponent since, erm, John Major.
In fact, as we noted earlier, the underlying issue here is that a private corporation appears to be systematically invading the privacy of citizens for its own private commercial purposes. Those voices who rightly proselytised the need to keep a weather eye on the police and other organs of the state, have suddenly fallen silent when the potential miscreant turned out to be a fabulously wealthy Australian-born, naturalised US citizen with a (possibly erroneous) reputation of helping those he ‘befriends’ get into office.
Nothing more can be expected from Murdoch and Co. A parliamentary select committee is not a court of law. It cannot summons the former Murdoch director back from the United States to be confronted with his previous assertion that Goodman was the only man. Even the company’s team who did appear seemed happy to ignore tangible evidence that Mulcaire was not the only lawbreaker known to senior management.
For now, Coulson keeps his job. But despite the spin, he is damaged goods. Not to mention a nasty little hostage to fortune. The longer Mr Cameron is tied so closely to a Murdoch ‘company man’, the more scope for people to start looking for correlations between Murdoch’s considerable UK business interests and the actions of the next Conservative Government. Mr Cameron has already shown a slightly disturbing willingness to comply to Mr Murdoch’s wishes in at least one key regard.
It’s possible Cameron will, at a time of his own choosing, let Coulson go as quietly as can be arranged. In the meantime there may be some interesting hares out there and running. We await to see if any of them make it home in one intelligiable piece…
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