The Coulson affair could be bad for us all

MPs and the Met mixed together make a toxic brew. Add the media and it becomes explosive. And this early in a new government’s life too.   The Damian Green affair, Cash for honours, and now Hackgate require nerves of steel and a very tight lip from the likes of Yates of the Yard. If like the Guardian you find it incredible that Andy Coulson really knew nothing, Yates is being evasive. (See the Sparrow blog’s critique of his Today interview). But if  you are agnostic, you can put much of the furore down to journalists’ refusal to apply the standrds they demand from others to themselves. Both professions have their constraints over discussing evidence which clash with MPs’ amour propre, already badly bruised when you throw in the expenses scandal.

I marvel how my old trade can have it both ways. They truffle around gloriously for weaknesses in others. Yet on this one, it’s the journalists who could wrap up the whole controversy in an instant. The New York Times refuses to release the info from their unnamed sources. How rare for the lion king of the US media to use them at all. Why did they? For the same reason that Yates pleads lack of evidence. Because journalist sources refuse to sing on the record, except the measly one who was quoted.

Short of a change of culture, I don’t see how Andy Coulson’s assassination by innuendo is going to work. The real result may be to place Cameron/ Coulson’s relationship with the media only four months into government on the same footing as Blair/ Campbell’s by 2003. Dire.  And the Met’s relationship with MPs, almost as bad. A early victory for the coalition’s enemies? Probably, but it  could have unwelcome unintended consequences  for all, further down the road.

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  • lover not a fighter

    Coulson claims that he did not know what his henchmen were doing.

    Shouldn’t the leader of Henchmen know whats occuring.

    So he is incompetent or a liar. This man will go far.

  • beancounter

    Coulson and wire-tapping?
    A heady brew
    Hackgate or Watergate?

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    A Privacy Law would surely be a good thing.
    And thats what the Journalists fear and what the bad guys want.
    On balance it is what the Public wants. Although the Publics record on reading tabloid exclusives is not heart warming.
    As Ive indicated before there are two types of Journalist.
    The “real” journalist attached to respected broadcasting and paper outlets and…….well frankly the pond life attached to tabloids.
    It is a pity that in the wider freemasonry of journalism, their fates are entwined.
    Arguably the serious investigative news journalist needs some slack to expose wrongdoing in public office.
    Arguably the tabloid hack needs a restraint.
    Its not good enough that the tabloid hacks should scream “Press Freedom” to protect their “right” to entrap cricketers, minor bankrupt “royalty” or pay off floosies who “expose” Premiership footballers.
    It beggars belief that the Journalists dont know whats happening in their own world.
    Alas real and tabloid journos are members of the same profession (sic), sign up to the same ethics (sic) and are members of the NUJ.

    Would it be helpful if the NUJ put out a statement saying our folks dont do this sorta thing. And we disapprove.
    Or is Journalism the one craft where we can expect “omerta”….no whistleblowing.
    It strikes me that if a story so scandalous had emerged in any other aspect of public life, journalists would have established “sources” to bring us the truth.
    This is a story……and a subject that they have manifestly neglected.

    As to Cameron/Coulson…..Cameron no doubt regrets the appointment but the decision was made last year and Cameron has to go along with it. and in Govt the Liberals have to swallow it.
    Will Coulson be there in 18 months?
    I doubt it.
    A soft landing.
    Chairman of the Press Complaints Commission.
    Gin and tonics all round!.

  • lover not a fighter

    He is only a spin doctor.

    Wring his neck and get on with it. Wet Tories are even worse that blood sucking baby eating Tories.

    The problem with Wet Tories is that you end with the same results as the blood sucking baby eating variety but it is actually more painful because it takes longer to get the deed done.

  • I’ve argued elsewhere – hopelessly, I know – that this is a moment of opportunity for Cameron.

    Coulson will have to go, sooner or later. Cameron could yet come out of this smelling of violets, and doing us all a favour.

    As I’ve argued there, there are two different contexts:

    One (which sparked the re-ignition) is the struggle between the NYT and the newly-Murdochified WSJ for bragging rights across the tri-State region.

    The other is whether UK politics continue to be Berlusconied by the Murdoch media’s pernicious stranglehold.

    Cameron should be happy to open the latter issue as widely as possible. He may lose the Murdoch Good-Housekeeping-Seal-of-Approval (which has nowhere else to be conferred, anyway). On the other hand, with a single bound Our Hero is free to be his own man: statesmanship and a niche in history instantly guaranteed.

    Just now, I caught John Whitingdale MP responding to the reference to the Committee of Privileges. I shall look for the text on Hansard tomorrow: seemed as reasonable explication of where we are.

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    The reputation of Journalists is of course even lower with the Public……than the politicians and others like premiership footballers …they oversee on the Publics behalf.
    Journos have a right to be nervous .after all one of their own ended up doing porridge. So nice to see a few get nervy enough to blow a whistle or two (“disgruntled…not to be trusted”).

    By its nature the membership of Committee on Priveleges is squeaky clean and currently chaired by Kevin Barron who last year famously put his expenses claims in the window of his constituency office (Im not aware of any journo who does the same).
    So anxious to uphold the reputation of parliamentarians its reasonable to expect that the politicians think its pay back time for what journos did last year on Expenses.

    There will be blood on the carpet. Karma. What goes round comes round.
    The defence that “it was the system…..everybody was doing it” didnt work for politicians last year so hopefully we will be amused by journos trying that line.
    Mr Redfellow is right….there is an opportunity for Cameron to distance himself from the Dirty Digger.
    But theres also an opportunity for “real” journalists to distance themselves from the tabloid hacks. Will they take the opportunity? Probably not.

    Where is Michael Crick? John Sweeney?……er Kay Burley?