12 July 2009

Coulson’s “second chance” revisited

Little surprise that “Hackgate” does not take centre stage in the Sunday papers, although there is plenty of coverage.  Alan Watkins, Andrew Rawnsley and Matthew d'Ancona devote their columns to story and obviously focus on the role of Andy Coulson.

Watkins on Coulson’s second chance:

There is at least one puzzling feature. Why was Mr Coulson given this particular new job in the first place? Mr Cameron told us last week that he believed in giving people a second chance. But it is surely not the function of the Leader of the Opposition to provide a rehabilitation centre for the morally infirm. Mr Cameron must have known what Mr Coulson's failings were when he appointed him.

Now Rawnsley:

The Tory leader then got unrelaxed. "Yes, of course, it's wrong for newspapers to breach people's privacy with no justification," he said. This was his adjusted line, which he delivered at an uncomfortable doorstep outside his house. "But I believe in giving people a second chance." I enjoyed that. Didn't you? This made it sound as if the Tory leader appointed Andy Coulson as his director of communications as an example of compassionate Conservatism in action. The Tories are apparently running an expensive rehabilitation scheme to give a "second chance" to editors of red tops who have been forced to resign.

The bold is obviously mine.

I find it fascinating that both these astute commentators make exactly the same point.  As the story unfolded last week, it was the “second chance” quote from Cameron that was a worry.  It was if he knew of Coulson’s involvement or had just been told the full story.  As Rawnsley says:

This is the first time in a long while that David Cameron has made a bad call about his immediate response to a controversy.

Indeed so. 

Maybe, as d’Ancona suggests it is best that this affair should break now and that it will do the Tories no harm at all.  Hmmm.  That is rather wishful thinking on his part.

As Watkins says:

The story went out – and it was repeated last week – that Mr Coulson "did not know" what his subordinates were getting up to. It defies belief that he did not know. In any case, he ought to have known and in any event he carries the responsibility. That is the nature of the editor's job. He or she is the person who goes to jail.

Andrew Neil made the same point last week:

If this behaviour was systemic in the newsroom, why would you not know about it, why would you of all people, not know about it? Either you're incompetent or complicit.

When experienced journalists start speaking with the same voice, you have to wonder whether the truth has yet to be revealed about Coulson’s role.

The key event is yet to come and this is when Coulson gives evidence to select committee on culture, media and sport.

There is little point making predications at this stage.  At the end of the day the truth always outs itself.

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