Leading article: Andy Coulson has departed, but uncomfortable questions remain

Share
Related Topics

Several powerful individuals in Britain will be hoping that yesterday's resignation of Andy Coulson, Downing Street's director of communications, signals the end of an uncomfortable chapter.

It will not and it should not. Mr Coulson himself still has many questions to answer. "I stand by what I've said," he asserted in his resignation statement yesterday. This refers to Mr Coulson's claim that he had no knowledge of phone hacking while he was editor of the News of the World and that Clive Goodman, who was jailed for the offence in 2007, was a lone rogue operative at the paper.

Mr Coulson made this argument when he resigned after Goodman was convicted. He repeated it to the Commons Select Committee in 2009. Yet if he stands by that, why did he resign yesterday? It seems unlikely that a tough operator like Mr Coulson would step down for no reason.

It is important to remember that the phone hacking that took place at the News of the World was unambiguously criminal behaviour. There was not even the slightest hint of a public interest defence in what took place. If it turns out that Mr Coulson ordered the hacking, he should face the full force of the law. Mr Coulson's resignation should not be the end for the News of the World either. Earlier this month, Ian Edmondson, an executive at the paper, was suspended over allegations that he sanctioned phone hacking. That appears to explode the defence that hacking was the work of a single bad apple. It also suggests that the newspaper intentionally misled with its categorical denials that impropriety went any further than Goodman.

Urgent questions need to be asked of the Metropolitan Police too, which has adopted the position of the three wise monkeys throughout this affair. The force seems to have failed to investigate the original phone hacking properly. Officers did not question senior executives at the newspaper whose names appeared on papers of Glenn Mulcaire, the private investigator who was found guilty along with Goodman. And the Met did not inform thousands of high-profile individuals that their phones might have been hacked.

The police have spurned chance after chance to do their job properly. The assistant Met Police commissioner, John Yates, looked again at the original evidence last year but decided there would be no further investigation. The Crown Prosecution Service has also appeared curiously uninterested. What has propelled this case forward, bringing new evidence to light, is press reporting and civil actions brought against the News of the World by the celebrity targets of phone hacking.

David Cameron has questions to answer too. This affair casts serious doubt on the Prime Minister's judgement. He saw fit to appoint Mr Coulson as the Conservative Party's director of communications when the former editor was tarred by association with the phone-hacking scandal. Why would he want such a compromised spokesman? Was he naive enough to believe Mr Coulson's assurances? Or did he not care about what had taken place? Neither scenario is very comforting.

What this saga reveals is the ominously dominant position of Rupert Murdoch's News International media empire in our national life. An iron triangle consisting of Downing Street, News International (owner of the News of the World) and the Metropolitan Police attempted to rubbish this investigation and tried to sweep wrongdoing under the carpet. Yesterday's resignation must be the start of accountability, not the end.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

HR Generalist (standalone) - Tunbridge Wells - £32,000

£30000 - £32000 per annum: Ashdown Group: HR Generalist (standalone) - Tunbrid...

Year 3 Teacher Plymouth

£23500 - £40000 per annum: Randstad Education Plymouth: Year 3 Primary Teacher...

Junior Software Developer - Newcastle, Tyne & Wear - £30,000

£25000 - £30000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Junior Web Developer / J...

Systems Administrator (SharePoint) - Central London - £36,500

£35000 - £36500 per annum: Ashdown Group: Systems Administrator (SharePoint) -...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Girls were by far the most worried about their appearance, the survey found  

English children are among the unhappiest in the world – we are failing them

Natasha Devon
 

Daily catch-up: eurogloom, Ed in Red and Cameron’s Wilsonian U-turn on control orders

John Rentoul
'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes': US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food served at diplomatic dinners

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes'

US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food
Radio Times female powerlist: A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

Inside the Radio Times female powerlist
Endgame: James Frey's literary treasure hunt

James Frey's literary treasure hunt

Riddling trilogy could net you $3m
Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

What David Sedaris learnt about the world from his fitness tracker
Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Second-holiest site in Islam attracts millions of pilgrims each year
Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
Al Pacino wows Venice

Al Pacino wows Venice

Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

Neil Lawson Baker interview

‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering