Huhne on Coulson: "either complicit or incompetent"

by Stephen Tall on July 21, 2009

The BBC reports:

Conservative communications chief Andy Coulson has told MPs he did not “condone or use” phone hacking when he was editor of the News of the World. Mr Coulson quit as the editor after a reporter was jailed for hacking.

Although he said he had not known about it, he told the culture committee he regretted things going “badly wrong” and had taken responsibility by going.

Lib Dem shadow home secretary Chris Huhne has not been won over by Mr Coulson’s performance today:

Andy Coulson’s defence is that he did not know what was going on despite the mounting evidence that his newsroom was widely using illegal phone hacking. Either he was complicit in crime, or he was one of the most incompetent Fleet Street editors of modern times. Neither should be a top recommendation to David Cameron.”

Andy Coulson hasn’t won me over, either. His defence appears to be that by resigning he has drawn a line under the newspapers’ phone-tapping scandal. This was a line echoed by Tory leader David Cameron, when he initially sprang to Mr Coulsion’s defence:

It’s wrong for newspapers to breach people’s privacy with no justification. That is why Andy Coulson resigned as editor of the News of the World two-and-a-half years ago.”

Yet what Mr Coulson is accused of is not a mere sacking offence: it is a criminal offence. This isn’t something that can or should be erased by a voluntary resignation with a handsome pay-off from Rupert Murdoch. That the Tory leader apparently cannot recognise that sharp truth is deeply concerning.

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There is clearly a lie somewhere. Cameron’s first defence, as you say, was that Coulson resigned because he disapproved of the phone-tapping. Now Coulson says he had no knowledge of it. So which is it?

C4 just showed a clip of Coulson being confronted with one of his front-page exclusives which quoted phone messages left on Prince Harry’s phone by Prince William. Coulson said he couldn’t remember the story.

Somewhat to my surprise, this could yet get big. It has mostly been wishful thinking from the left so far.

by Alix on July 21, 2009 at 8:06 pm. Reply #

You have got to admire Cameron’s Tories. Corrupt and inept even BEFORE they get into power. They really are streets ahead of Blair in 1996-97!

by Martin Land on July 21, 2009 at 9:10 pm. Reply #

Stephen, while I completely agree with you what is the relevant difference between Coulson’s defence and the one the party is effectively using in regard to former CEO Chris Rennard.

What Rennard “is accused of (fraud) is not a mere sacking offence: it is a criminal offence. This isn’t something that can or should be erased by a voluntary resignation with a handsome pay-off from (the Liberal Democrat Party). That the (Liberal Democrat) leader apparently cannot recognise that sharp truth is deeply concerning.”

We are still waiting for Party President Baroness Scott to provide a report on how the party is progressing with an ‘independent’ audit of peers expenses. Her silence is hardly inspiring confidence.

Meanwhile she has effectively prejudiced the credibility of such a process and her ability to take forward any recommendations from it objectively by hosting at least two parties with Lord Rennard (staff boat party, candidate party in the Lords) whilst making dozens of statements praising him to the rafters.

Nick Clegg has been notably silent bar a few canons of praise.

So to Martin’s comment “Corrupt and inept even BEFORE they get into power.” what are Scott and Clegg doing to prove we are different?

I am completely underwhelmed and disappointed so far.

by Agent Orange on July 21, 2009 at 9:54 pm. Reply #

I’m with the Left here.

Thank god, the self important prick. Like I said on Lib conspiracy, I’m an addicted media fan that reads ALL papers to collate info inc NOTW and with that I know all about the editors and their desp rise to enter News International or Tory party as Coulson has shown…

Furthermore, Private Eye were going on about this last year…

And I was really surprised that when Coulson became Tory Com director, the Guardian gave him a glowing ‘report’, not mentioning why he resigned…

I guess they were sitting on this. Good.

by rantersparadise on July 21, 2009 at 11:27 pm. Reply #

Agent Orange:
“We are still waiting for Party President Baroness Scott to provide a report on how the party is progressing with an ‘independent’ audit of peers expenses. Her silence is hardly inspiring confidence.”

That’s because there isn’t going to be – and there never was going to be – an independent audit of Lib Dem peers expenses.

The independent review referred to in Ros Scott’s statement in May was – it turned out – nothing to do with the party, but a review of peers’ allowances in general, set up by the House of Lords itself. Apparently it’s now going to be conducted by the Senior Salaries Review Body.

When I enquired about this to Cowley Street, I was told initially that “There is no reason to “clear” Liberal Democrat Peers of impropriety because no-one has been accused of impropriety” and then – when I pointed out that very specific accusations of impropriety had been made – that they “do not find any grounds for believing that Lord Rennard has broken any rules regarding Lords Allowances”.

So it’s pretty clear that no further action is going to be taken by the party on this.

by Herbert Brown on July 21, 2009 at 11:27 pm. Reply #

If you or Huhne think there is a criminal offence present the evidence against Coulson to the Police.
But then, as the Grauniad admitted, there is no evidence.
Soon, there will be no Huhne….

by Old Hack on July 22, 2009 at 12:16 am. Reply #

Herbert, Agent Orange,

Yes. It is terribly wrong.

Of course, this party owes a great deal – metaphorically! – to Rennard. But so what? No doubt Labour believe they owe a great deal to Blears and Hoon, which is why they got preferential treatment while the far less culpable Ian Gibson took the rap. That isn’t right, and nor is the way we have acted.

We could have taken tough action. Or we could have quietly found a way to repay the taxpayer ourselves and let Rennard retire gracefully. We haven’t done either.

We’re not as sleazy as the other two big parties, but we’re letting people think that we are. We don’t tell massive lies all the time in our election campaigns, like the other two do, but by repeatedly perpetrating silly obvious fiddles with bar charts, we are allowing the Tories and Labour to get away with the claim that we are the dishonest party.

What we need is a kick in the backside. That’s why I’m supporting Craig Murray in Norwich on Thursday!

http://www.putanhonestman.org

by David Allen on July 22, 2009 at 12:28 am. Reply #

“do not find any grounds” – it’s hard to find grounds if you’re not looking, are ignoring all questions about the subject, and have deliberately flouted the party’s constitution and rulebook by refusing to call an investigation.

I will write to Scott asking for a clarification.

by Agent Orange on July 22, 2009 at 1:22 am. Reply #

I do not see a contradiction in Cameron’s statements. It is perfectly reasonable for Coulson to say he stood down because he did not approve of what went on and not know about it at the time seeing as he stood down when it all came out into the open. It is conceivable he did not know anything about it at the time and then the statements are fair and it is also conceivable he knew and resigned out of guilt however that is not the currently accepted version of events.

This all smacks of rather cheap politics and Chris Huhne’s comment have the air of a desperate man.

by Meandyew on July 22, 2009 at 7:53 am. Reply #

David Allen: having witnessed the abuse of the allowance system by Lib Dem Cllrs I have no sympathy with the notion that the Lib Dems are any less susceptible to temptation than Tories or Labour.

As a party the Lib Dems are particularly pious about their probity however, which makes facing up to the Rennard scandal or the need to repay stolen funds all the harder.

None of which is aided by your leaders and their shameful support for Rennard.

by Old Hack on July 22, 2009 at 7:57 am. Reply #

“I will write to Scott asking for a clarification.”

Good luck with that, but I suspect you’ll only get a variant of the same formula I had repeated to me several times by Cowley Street.

Here’s another version of it:
“The Lords Whips Office are satisfied that all satisfied the rules of the system as was then established. However, they have said themselves that the allowance scheme was vaguely drawn and lightly policed.”

The line, presumably, is that there was a tacit understanding that peers could designate whichever of their residences they chose as the main one, and that it would be accepted with no questions asked. So that to claim in respect of an occasionally-visited seaside flat wasn’t really in breach of these “vaguely drawn and lightly policed” rules.

by Herbert Brown on July 22, 2009 at 9:31 am. Reply #

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