Friday, 21 January 2011

Put Out The Trash Day - Coulson Quits No.10

What unfortunate timing.

Andy Coulson has managed to announce that he's quitting as David Cameron's Director of Communications at the same time that sees Labour reeling from Alan Johnson's sudden resignation, when Tony Blair has had to confront the Chilcot Inquiry once more, and when a suspect has been arrested. for the murder of Jo Yeates.

A coincidence? Pull the other one.

News of The World Phone Hacking
Coulson resigned as Editor of the NOTW back in 2007, saying that he took ultimate responsibility for the scandal that resulted in Royal reporter Clive Goodman being jailed for conspiracy to access phone messages. Private investigator Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months on the same charge.

Coulson has since denied any knowledge in the scandal but it has continued to haunt him during his 3 year stint as David Cameron's main PR man. Coulson was interviewed by the police last November but the following month, Director of Public Prosecutions Keir Starmer said no new charges would be brought in the case, owing to a lack of admissible evidence.

Nevertheless, some public figures are taking civil legal action against the newspaper, and documents disclosed in those cases have led to new developments.

A Cloud Over No.10 Downing St
It was an eye-catching appointment when Cameron employed Coulson whilst he was Leader of the Opposition and many political commentators thought it ill-advised of Cameron to keep him on when he became Prime Minister.

Cameron's judgement really has been questioned on this issue and I'm amazed that Coulson has lasted this long.

He's now leaving because the continued media coverage of this scandal "made it difficult for me to give the 110% needed in this role".

Or, was it a matter of damage limitation? Did he and Cameron realise that he wasn't going to last and waited for the ideal PR moment to let the decision go public? Only last week in a BBC interview, Cameron was asked if it was true that Coulson had offered his resignation - the PM declined to answer. So it would seem that this has been bubbling underneath the surface for some time.

Answers Please
But this isn't the end of the matter. We need to get to the bottom of this squalid mess. How widely known and how deeply affected was this illegal surveillance? What has been the extent and the role of the Metropolitan Police in all of this? What does this mean for News International? Where is the ethics in all of this?

Coulson may be gone, but the stench of gutter journalism remains.

It's clearly, in West Wing parlance, 'put out the trash day'. But that trash is still stinking.

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