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Posts Tagged ‘Fleet Street’

Call Scotland Yard: Britain’s Prime Minister Is in Deep Trouble

Posted by Ram Kumar Shrestha on July 18, 2011

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David Cameron presented himself to British voters as the candidate of change. He certainly hasn’t let them down. The

British Prime Minister David Cameron holds a press conference with South African President Jacob Zuma following their meeting at Union Building in Pretoria, South Africa, on July 18, 2011. (Photo: Jerome Delay / AP)

Prime Minister can claim personal responsibility for triggering a series of unexpected and convulsive changes to public life in Britain that have left Britons, in the words of one habitually understated government official, “gobsmacked and agog.” Over just two weeks, the turbulence has toppled Britain’s top cop and thrown London’s Metropolitan Police Service (widely known as the Met or Scotland Yard) into crisis, shuttered the nation’s biggest Sunday newspaper, led to the arrests of some of the most prominent names in journalism, revived the moribund career of Labour opposition leader Ed Miliband and shaken a global media empire to its foundations. And this is only the beginning as questions mount over the damage to Cameron’s own credibility.

It all goes back to a single decision taken by Cameron in 2007: to make Andy Coulson, a former editor of the now defunct tabloid the News of the World from 2003 to 2007, his communications supremo. Coulson had resigned from the News of the World after the prosecution of Clive Goodman, its royal editor, and Glenn Mulcaire, a private investigator retained by the newspaper. The pair had hacked into the phones of the royal princes and their household. Coulson accepted “full responsibility” for what happened on his watch but has denied knowledge of illegal activities during his editorship or at any other time during his Fleet Street career. “There have been rumors about that kind of activity, I suppose, and media commentators have written about it,” he told members of the House of Commons Culture, Media and Sport Committee in 2009. “It has been in the ether of the newspaper world for some time, but no, I have never had any involvement in it at all.” Cameron deemed such assurances sufficient to give Coulson “a second chance,” and upped the stakes on this gamble by bringing Coulson with him to 10 Downing Street after scraping into power at the head of the Conservative–Liberal Democrat coalition in 2010 — this despite the emergence of fresh evidence that suggested the number of hacking victims might extend into the thousands and well beyond palace walls. Coulson’s second chance expired this January when he left his Downing Street post; he was arrested on July 7 by police investigating allegations of voicemail interception and corrupt payments to police.

(PHOTOS: Inside the World of David Cameron)

Coulson and the nine others arrested so far in relation to these two separate police inquiries must be presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty by law. In overriding others’ advice to appoint Coulson, Cameron must be presumed naive or arrogant or unduly focused on schmoozing with the tabloid press and especially Coulson’s former bosses, Rebekah Brooks and Rupert Murdoch and his son James. If Coulson had not provided such a tempting target, Britain’s Guardian newspaper may not have pursued its investigations with such diligence and backbench critics of the Prime Minister probably wouldn’t have kept up their pressure to reopen inquiries into the News of the World. Even when the allegations that the tabloid commissioned the hacking of messages left for murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler surfaced, Cameron could have responded to the shocking development with calm and authority. Instead he has found himself playing catch-up to Miliband, his novice opponent suddenly transformed into a caped crusader against what he calls “a culture of irresponsibility” that underpinned not only #hackgate but also the banking crises and the scandal over MPs’ and peers’ expenses. In the latest demonstration of Miliband’s newfound power, the Labour leader planned to use a speech on July 18 to call for Parliament to delay its summer recess to discuss the hacking affair and its extraordinary repercussions. Before he stood up to speak, Cameron used a press conference during a long-planned visit to South Africa to say he was inclined to extend the parliamentary session. Read the rest of this entry »

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