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with Coulson gone, bigger issues now confront Cameron. Hunt, Murdoch and the police

Posted on 22 January 2011 | 1:01pm

Sorry for giving away a Loose Ends trade secret by tweeting that I was recording it this morning. I think it used to be done live but what with live bands in the studio and stuff, it probably got a bit complicated, so you can hear it on Radio 4 at 615 this evening, just as Burnley cruise to a debut win for new manager Eddie Howe at Scunthorpe.

Football is probably the other reason it is no longer live. Clive Anderson is a big Arsenal fan, so morning is a better option all round for a programme not totally dependent on news.

I was on there to talk about my new book, Power and the People, which he definitely seemed to have read (or had a good researcher whose insights he was able to absorb). His main take seemed to be first that I worked too hard and second that I was quite devious,  perish the thought. But for obvious reasons – plus the fact Andrew Neil was also on the show, talking about a new documentary on how public schoolboys seem to be taking over the country again – we also covered the Andy Coulson situation.

I made the point that he was no longer really the issue, and that far from being the end, this was the beginning of perhaps the most important chapter in this unfolding drama.

The four big issues flowing from yesterday are 1. Cameron’s judgement in appointing Coulson when it was so clear the News of the World phone-hacking story would unravel. 2. The growing sense of industrial phone-hacking by the News of the World and the reputational battering News Corp will take as more and more private cases are mounted against them. 3. The seeming desire of Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt to waive through News Corp’s attempted buy-out of BSkyB without proper consideration – let me warn him that will be a disaster if he does, not least for him and Cameron and 4, the growing stench surrounding the police handling of this, which will go centre stage as it emerges how much they knew and how little they investigated.

The talk is of Coulson today. But as things stand I would say that points 2, 3 and 4 are where this scandal is now headed. Cameron’s judgement will be tested once more when his government is forced to decide upon 3.

  • Interesting stuff, although I’m personally pessimistic about where things will go from here. Newspapers like personalities: now that Coulson’s gone, only the most serious of journalists are going to carry on sniffing for leads. Or so I fear.

  • Jacquie R

    The phone-hacking scandal has done one good thing – it’s put a strong spotlight over media-related excesses, illegalities, corruption and coercion. We need to make the most of this to prevent the BSkyB takeover and highlight the harm of huge media empires.

    Julian Asssange says he has files on Murdoch and News Corp that he is keeping as “insurance” to protect himself. It would be a generous act of Asssange if he could release some of this information. And it would be particularly apprpriate if could coincide with Murdoch’s forthcoming visit to Britain. It might also help to halt Jeremy Hunt in his tracks, before he allows the BSkyB buy-out.

    More on this and Coulson on our blog at

  • Olli Issakainen

    I would like to give people a picture of News Corporation.
    It is the world´s third biggest media company. Rupert Murdoch is its chairman and CEO. The Murdoch family owns 40% of the company´s voting stock. News Corp´s revenue in 2009 was $30bn.
    The company already owns HarperCollins, New York Post, Wall Street Journal, Barron´s, 20th Century Fox, 20th Century Fox Television, MySpace, the Sun, the NoW, the Times and the Sunday Times.
    Due to its shareholding in BSkyB it also owns shares in ITV plc.
    Rupert Murdoch has kept the Times afloat, and has been a pioneer in media business.
    But as it is now possible to bundle information and products in the media industry, News Corp´s takeover of BSkyB should not be allowed. The merged company could use its dominant market position to destroy competitors.

    Ps. People interested in my views on Coulson etc. please see my comment to the previous blog.

  • Chris lancashire

    At least Coulson has gone. Labour is stuck with Balls. No reflection on Mr Milliband’s judgement of course.

  • David Sutherland

    You’ll never beat someone like George Galloway in a public forum – he’s too skilled. The Scottish accent might not have been as embarrassing as him miaowing on BB, but it reduced the effect of your reply.

  • I am a great admirer of Alistair Campbell. I am 65 years old next month and life has taught me that our now fragile democracy needs people like Alistair to redress the unhealthy imbalance of the press in favour of the Conservative party. Following the performance of Sky News in the run up to the last election, I was moved to join the Labour Party as I felt my monthly financial contribution would be of assistance. I am now very worried that if Rupert Murdoch gains control of B Sky B it will be to the detriment of Labour

  • Stuart Litobarski

    And, most probably the Police will complain they were bogged down by red tape!

  • Victoria Betton

    Alastair – what a media tart you are! I can’t read the paper, listen to the radio or watch the TV without you popping up this week x

  • Dave Simons

    If Coulson is innocent why has he resigned? Altruistic concern for the Conservative Party? Then why did it take him so long? And why has the ‘News of the World’ been paying out mega sums to shut people up? And why has the Met been obviously dragging its feet in an attempt to put the lid on proceedings? Doesn’t the atmosphere of the whole episode fairly pong of the first trial of the former Leader of the Conservative Party, Jeffery Archer? ‘At least Coulson has gone’ – anyone would think he’d done something honourable! And why the snide comparison with Ed Balls? Chris, you really must learn to argue your point clearly and kick the habit of coming out with these toxic one-liners – otherwise you just come across as as a chronically disgruntled yob..

  • Anonymous

    On the contrary. As a Scot myself, like Campbell, I thought Alastair’s Galloway mimickry was the second best bit. Second to reminding people that Galloway said to Saddam “Sir,I salute you and your indefatigability”.

    Now THAT reminder was the best bit.

    And “skilled”? Galloway is a numpty.

  • Issy Huckle

    Just wanted to say that I agree completely with your comments about private education. I was privately educated (hated every minute) but my three children attended a comprehensive school which, at that time, had no sixth form, poor results. However, they all managed to get to university and two are teachers (not great fans of Michael Gove!!!) and one works in the theatre. Unfortunately, I think that you are right in saying that it will never come to pass but I strongly believe that until we do away with private education this country will never have a chance of equality for all.
    Issy Huckle

  • David

    When was it ever a good idea to recruit government directors of communication from the street-fighting, sectarian gutter press? I hope this function returns to and remains with a professional civil servant.

  • Chris lancashire

    Yes, Dave but I like to stay above personal insults.

  • Ollie

    ” I am now very worried that if Rupert Murdoch gains control of B Sky B it will be to the detriment of Labour”

    There’s not a trace of irony in this statement. I guess it would be a better world for you if everything was done designed to advance your party, for example, the deeply entrenched bias within the BBC – which is not a voluntary payment, like a newspaper, but a compulsory levy on every household.

    And if Alastair Campbell is a hero of yours, I suggest you look long and hard at your moral compass.

  • Richard

    Your “Ban it” remedy for state education is undoubtedly the answer, followed by capital punishment for any refuseniks and cutting out the tongues of people who do not talk like what you think they should. You would sort out the class system all right.
    Catch a grip!
    Do away with the NEED for private education, by all means.

  • Thank goodness that Alistair Campbell has the tenacity to question the Tory press and it’s links with Rupert Murdoch. I instinctively feel that there is an unsavoury link between the appointment of Andy Coulston, the Conservative Party and B Skjy B.

  • Can I say that I am an avid news buff and follow both Sky and BBC news every day. I want to feel confident that the political reporting on these channels is as far as possible balanced. I am not at all confident that this will remain the case should Rupert Murdoch increase his stakeholding in BSkyB.

  • John Clayton

    Links with Murdoch? Boring to state the obvious I know, but Labour and Blair were going nowhere without that themselves. I’m not naive about it, I know that politics now is just a never ending cycle of hyocrisy and arguing for your team, but it’s why everyone’s bored of it. They know they are voting in the same self-serving political class that, despite anything they say to the contrary, have no empathy with the less powerful people.

  • I know that politics is a dirty game mostly played out behind closed doors with little regard to the absolute truth, but rather what may be expediently filtered to the general public in order to maintain their support and disadvantage opposition parties. A necessary part of the mucky filtration system is the press. All of this appears to work up to a point. However, when we start to hear about sting operations and “phone tapping” then matters start to become a little sinister, and is not helped by the apparent inertia of Scotland Yard (who one dearly hopes is politically impartrial). Why does “Watergate” readily spring to mind?