Lembit Opik: 'Coulson should stand down'

The former Liberal Democrat MP Lembit Opik increased the pressure on Andy Coulson yesterday by questioning his competence and calling for him to stand down.

Mr Opik, who believes that he too was a victim of phone tapping by Mr Coulson's former paper, the News of the World, said the Government communications director's professed ignorance of what his employees were doing is damning in itself. "To take Coulson at his word, it's breathtaking to discover that the man in charge of a newspaper did not know what was going on," he said.

"The News of the World says it has a policy of zero tolerance of wrongdoing, but that means nothing with people like Coulson in charge because they don't know what they're tolerating. If Coulson wasn't able to discover what was going on in his office when he was an editor, why should anyone believe that he is displaying any greater competence in Downing Street?

"If the Government wants to avoid the compromising stories its predecessor got mired in, they have a right to expect Coulson to stand down until his name is cleared."

Mr Opik was puzzled by the information the News of the World was able to obtain about him when he became engaged in 2006 to Gabriela Irimia, one of the Romanian sisters who formed the singing duo The Cheeky Girls. He is now pursing a case through his lawyer, Charlotte Harris, to find out if his phone was hacked.

"Given the number of times the News of the World has run stories on me and contacted me about ridiculous and libellous matters, the circumstances all point to my phone being tapped," he said.

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