Piers Morgan launched a scathing attack on Ed Miliband following his comments about Andy Coulson, the former editor of the News of the World found guilty of phone hacking at the Old Bailey yesterday.
The leader of the labour party called for Prime Minister David Cameron to extend his apology and explain why he hired Coulson as his director of communications and took “a criminal into the heart of Downing Street”.
His comments followed a brief television interview with Cameron yesterday, in which the PM said he took “full responsibility” for employing Coulson following his verdict.
“This isn’t just a serious error of judgment, it taints David Cameron’s government because he put his relationship with Rupert Murdoch ahead of doing the right thing,” Miliband said. “This is not some small or accidental mistake. He stuck with Andy Coulson over a long period of time.
Hacking trial: The verdicts in full
Hacking trial: The verdicts in full
1/7 Rebekah Brooks
The former News of the World editor and News International chief executive has been cleared of conspiracy to hack phones; misconduct in public office for allegedly signing off payments to a Sun journalist's 'number one military contact' between 2004 and 2012; conspiracy to pervert the course of justice after seven boxes were allegedly removed from the NI archive just days before 2011 arrests
2/7 Andy Coulson
Former News of the World editor and Downing Street spin doctor guilty of conspiracy to hack phones from 2000 to 2006. The jury failed to reach a majority verdict on charges of conspiracy to commit misconduct in a public office by allegedly paying police officers for two royal directories. He could face a retrial.
3/7 Stuart Kuttner
Retired managing editor cleared of involvement in phone-hacking conspiracy spanning six years
4/7 Cheryl Carter
Brooks' former personal assistant, cleared of conspiracy to pervert the course of justice by removing seven boxes from the News International company archive just days before she was arrested in 2011
5/7 Charlie Brooks
Racehorse trainer and Rebekah Brooks' husband, cleared of perverting the course of justice around the time of police searches in July 2011
6/7 Mark Hanna
Former News International director of security, cleared of perverting the course of justice
7/7 Clive Goodman
The former News of the World royal editor, could face a retrial after the jury failed to reach a verdict on charges of committing misconduct in public office for allegedly paying police officers for two royal directories
“He was warned by the deputy prime minister [about the phone hacking], he saw stories in newspapers, he was warned by newspaper editors and yet still he refused to act and even today he is defending some of the conduct of Andy Coulson.”
Morgan, who declared his support for “friend” Coulson on Twitter yesterday, branded Miliband a “two-faced cowardly, opportunistic fraud” and said he’d rather have the editor working in government than the labour leader.
He also expressed his opinion that Cameron should be prosecuted for contempt for issuing his apology for Coulson while he still faced two charges of conspiracy to commit misconduct in public office at the time he made the statement.
As for Ed Miliband - I'd rather have Andy Coulson in the heart of Downing Street than that two-faced, cowardly, opportunistic fraud.Piers Morgan (@piersmorgan) June 25, 2014
David Cameron should be prosecuted for contempt. His race to knife his close ally in the back yesterday was an outrageous abuse of process.Piers Morgan (@piersmorgan) June 25, 2014
His social media commentary came after the judge presiding over the phone hacking trial, Mr Justice Saunders, accused the PM of launching “open season” on Andy Coulson and said he was “very concerned” by his response.
“My sole concern is to ensure that justice is done,” Mr Justice Saunders told the PM. “Politicians have other imperatives and I understand that. Whether the political imperative was such that statements could not await all the verdicts, I leave to others to judge.”
He added: “I consider that what has happened is unsatisfactory so far as justice and the rule of law are concerned. The press in court have been extremely responsible in their reporting of this case but when politicians regard it as open season, one cannot expect the press to remain silent.
“I accept that this case is very unusual if not unique, but the situation could occur again and I would urge that discussions take place to try and set up a better system of dealing with it.”
Downing Street said Mr Cameron had taken “the best legal advice” before making his televised statement, but did not confirm whether said advice had come from Attorney General Dominic Grieve.
A spokesperson for the Labour party said Ed Miliband had been careful in his own televised statement so as not to raise issues of Coulson's character or the facts of the trial.
“It seems to us that these are matters between the judge and the Prime Minister,” a senior Labour source told PA. “We were responsible in our reaction to the Prime Minister's statement.”
The jury has since been discharged after failing to reach verdicts on two charges against Coulson and ex News of the World royal editor Clive Goodman of conspiring to commit misconduct in a public office by paying police officers for two royal directories.
A decision on whether there will be a re-trial will be made on Monday.
Fellow former News of the World editor, Rebekah Brooks, was cleared of all charges, as were four other defendents.