21 July 2009

Coulson is safe but damaged

The Commons culture, media and sports select committee took evidence from Andy Coulson this morning.  His evidence went on for about 1.5 hours.  Andrew Sparrow had one of his indispensible live blogs.

Coulson was open, humble and at ease with what had to say.  By being frank in his opening statement saying, “mistakes were made” during his time as editor deflected questioning about the the procedures that were in place during his watch:

I gave the reporters freedom as professional journalists to make their own judgments and I also gave them plenty of resources.

We spent money in pursuit of stories at the News of the World, more money than most newspapers, and I make no secret of the fact.

Things went badly wrong under my editorship of the News of the World.

I deeply regret it. I suspect I always will. I take the blame because ultimately it was my responsibility. I am not looking for sympathy and I am unlikely to get any today.

But when I resigned I gave up a 20 year career with News International and in the process everything I worked towards from the age of 18. But I think it's right that when people make mistakes, they take responsibility and that is why I resigned.

What was clear from all the evidence given today is that the procedures and checks in place at the NOTW to control reporters and finances were lamentable, and, as Coulson says, he has to take responsibility for that.

Is Coulson now in the clear?  So, long as he doesn't remain the story and his evidence is accepted and not challenged further then he is safe.  David Cameron will be mightily relieved.  Ironically, though, he is damaged because “Hackgate” happened on his watch.  The timing of his evidence also helps, coming as it does on the last day before the recess.

So, no smoking gun and no new revelations.  Whether he remains in post in the critical period leading up to the election and beyond remains to be seen.

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