Loose ends for James Murdoch, Coulson’s vetting and Cameron’s false allegations re me
Posted on 21 July 2011 | 2:07pm
A few thoughts on some of the many loose ends still threatening to stifle the full truth or, perhaps, strangle some of the key players in the phone hacking scandal.
First, for James Murdoch – I am finding it very hard to understand how on Tuesday he could reveal his shock at learning that News International part paid the legal bills of a convicted felon, yet it was not until Wednesday that this arrangement was brought to an end. Let me see if I understand this properly – he thought it was wrong when first he learned of it, yet not wrong enough to terminate the arrangement. Odd. Certainly one for a follow up letter from the select committee, who should also press on the financial arrangements made with Andy Coulson when he left News International, and when he later went to work for the Tory Party.
Also for Mr Murdoch Jr – when he authorised the out of court settlement for PFA chairman Gordon Taylor, am I right in understanding that Mr Taylor had been the victim of a criminal not civil offence, and if so why was that not brought immediately to the attention of the police?
There are many more follow up questions the select committee may wish to ask, but those two are among the more obvious.
For Mr Cameron, who had yesterday promised to answer all and every question, there is the loose end of the exact nature of discussions he had with Mr Murdoch Sr and/or other News executives about the BSkyB deal.
But the one which seems to be exciting journalists today is the question of what vetting procedures Andy Coulson went through when he moved with Mr Cameron from opposition to government. I fear there could be some unravelling ahead with regard to the current official line that Mr Coulson did not go through developed vetting because he did not need to attend key meetings and he did not need to see sensitive and secret material.
I am sure that when Mr Cameron became PM, the expectation among the waiting civil service would have been that the key people around him would have had access to key meetings and papers. So either someone – Mr Cameron or Mr Coulson- decided that the communications director should not be on that list of new faces to be put through developed vetting. It would be good, if this were so, to know the reasons. Or, the civil service – possibly encouraged by the Palace – decided that Mr Coulson should not have the access predecessors in the role had done.
Whichever it is, there was something very odd going on here. It would be wrong to say it would be impossible to do the job without access to sensitive material for which DV status is required. But it would certainly be a lot harder.
I suspect that in coming days journalists will quite easily be able to ferret out information to the effect that Mr Coulson had been at meetings and seen papers he was not, apparently, cleared to see.
Finally, to journalists and twitterers who have been asking if I have had a reply to my letter to the Cabinet Secretary asking for the government to produce any evidence to support the claim the Prime Minister made in the House yesterday that I falsified government documents, the answer is no. I have been assured there will be one, however.
Things can get very heated in the Commons, and things get said which shouldn’t be, but our system does depend on the public trusting ministers to tell the truth at the Despatch Box, and what Mr Cameron said is not true, and he knows it is not true.
I was approached by a man at St Pancras this lunchtime who put the situation rather well. He said Mr Cameron’s line on Coulson was that he was innocent until proven guilty, but that when it came to me, I was guilty despite having been proven innocent – by three separate and thorough inquiries into the allegations.
I have a lot of respect for anyone who puts their head above the parapet and goes high up in politics and despite our very different beliefs and values, that includes David Cameron, because I know what a tough job he has. But he cannot make statements like the one he made yesterday, under parliamentary privilege, and expect me just to sit there and take it.
That is why I will keep pressing for a reply, and the withdrawal of the false allegation he made, gleefully seized upon needless to say by, among others, a lowlife rewriter of history named Gilligan, who was rightly condemned by the same inquiries which cleared me. What Gilligan says is of little worth or value. The same cannot be said of the Prime Minister. What he says carries weight.
The Cabinet Office assures me they are working on a reply ‘with urgency’, so I hope the matter can be resolved today.