Friday, July 10, 2009

Cameron, Coulson and a lot of writs...

The Conservatives still seem to be trying to hold the line that their Director of Communications does not have a problem with the growing scandal at the News of the World. Iain Dale points out that the Police will not be prosecuting Mr. Coulson and seemingly regards this as something that he can simply ride out.

Frankly, I don't think he can, and I think that one of David Cameron's most commendable characteristics - his loyalty to his colleagues- is in grave danger of proving to be his greatest weakness. It was always going to be a risk hiring Coulson for the big - and very well paid- job of Director of Communications. The fact is that Coulson had indeed had to resign over the bugging of phones of members of the Royal household. That was a specific case and the Police decided that even though he was the editor, he did not have a case to answer. So only two, more junior, figures were sent to gaol.

However, what the Guardian allegations reveal is that the operations were on such a gigantic scale that the editor of the News of the World could hardly have failed to know about them. In other words it does seem that Mr. Coulson has a case to answer, and although Assistant commissioner, John Yates has indicated that further prosecutions will not be forthcoming on current evidence, this position could change if further evidence is revealed. Meanwhile, there is the issue of civil action- and that could really get messy.

Coulson is horribly exposed and Cameron would be making a grave error of judgement if he decides to keep him and then finds that he is submerged in a blizzard of litigation- even without criminal prosecution. As with the tangled affair of George Osborne last summer, Mr. Cameron may find that loyalty has a price for his own credibility. The Tories can not yet be so confident that they can dismiss this- and to try to do so looks like complacent arrogance.

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