Diary: Brown was naive – but that's not a crime

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The Independent Online

With the phone-bugging story moving at such head-spinning speed that a whiplash pandemic seems imminent, this is the moment to stand back and reflect on the anguished disbelief of Gordon Brown and Tony Blair. The Independent on Sunday reveals that both have asked police to find out whether they were victims of the News of the World snooping, and this is evidently the truth (Gordon has kept schtum while Mr Tony confirmed it, in his traditional way, with a categorical denial).

The pain will be as intense for them as for Alastair Campbell, who put all his dwindling confidence in News Interational while lecturing everyone else about shabby ethics. Gordon attended the wedding which allowed Rebekah Wade to re-style herself as Mrs Brooks, while Mr Tony famously arrived at a Christmas party, at Elisabeth Murdoch's home, on that same Rebekah's arm.

God alone knows how these three would cope should the spotlight turn to chief executive Rebekah and her editorships of the NotW and the Sun. Call them fools, but this is no time for gloating. Yes they were naive – who would deny that about chaps who built a case for war on stuff plagiarised from a dim American teenager? But naivete is not a crime, and none should take pleasure in the sight of decent men traumatised beyond endurance by a sense of trust betrayed.



If there was one institution Blair and Brown trusted more than News International, it was the very Metropolitan Police to whom they have now complained. Me, I'm sick of carping about the police's scandalous failure to investigate. In 2005, officers recaptured my stolen car, with the thieves at the wheel. The minute they bring charges on that one – not easy, on such scant circumstantial evidence – they'll have the time and manpower to glance at the News of the World. Until then, cut them some slack.

* Good to see the Labour MP Tom Watson ignoring the moans about people using Twitter to plug commercial interests. Tom tweeted excitedly on Saturday night about the Sunday Mirror's "government-shaking" scoop (defibrillator paddles on standby: Lord Strathclyde had an affair). Now more than ever, with the relationship between press and politicians under lose scrutiny, it is crucial that backbenchers retain access to tabloid news lists. As long as they get reimbursed for any advertising work that ensues.



* I was distressed by the open mic humiliation that afflicted Richard Keys and Andy Gray on Saturday. The loveable Sky Sports scamps were overheard doubting lineswoman Sian Massey's ability, on gender grounds, to grasp the offside rules. I can't speak for Richard but this was entirely out of character for Andy, the neo-feminist thinker who once introduced himself to a fellow hotel guest, according to the Sun, with a lyrical, "You've got great fucking tits."

* Almost as gratifying as Miranda Hart's hat-trick at the British Comedy Awards was Roy Clarke's lifetime achievement award. Down the decades, nothing has exercised the nation's chuckle muscle like Last Of The Summer Wine, and the organisers will struggle to find such a richly deserving recipient next year. Mind you, Bobby Davro probably isn't up to all that much on a January night.

* The first show on Andy Coulson's successor is in. Former Sun political hack George Pascoe-Watson is the 11-4 favourite (you can't have too many News International alumni in the job), with our own former deputy editor Ian Birrell next on 7-2. The BBC's Guto Harri and retired shock jock Jon Gaunt are on sevens, and it's 11-1 against an overdue return for Bernard Ingham. The late Charles Hawtrey looks skinny on 14-1, and the value may be David Yelland, quoted at 16-1 to become the first dry drunk since Alastair C and first ex-Murdoch editor since Andy C to hold the post. Tom Bradby and X-Factor sensation Cher Lloyd are 33-1 shots, with that ageless Young Tory Nick Robinson on 50-1. It's 66-1 bar those.

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