Friday 3 September 2010

Help! Who can meet the 'Coulson challenge'?

Andy Coulson, Government director of communications, famously denies any knowledge of the large-scale criminal phone-tapping activity which took place at the News of the World while he was its editor.

Next Left can not tell you whether or not his denial is true. What we can, however, observe is that it appears close to impossible to find anybody in journalism who sincerely believes Andy Coulson's account.

Nor is this a left versus right thing. Those Labour politicians who had their phones extensively hacked find the "bad apple" theory quite hard to swallow, as do many other public figures and celebrities caught up in the NOTW operations.

That sceptical view is dominant in every London newsroom, and pretty widely held on the right too.

Andrew Neil, who has edited for Rupert Murdoch, was absolutely incredulous last summer at the idea that a News International editor would not know where his scoops were coming from.

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."

Neil argued it was one of the most important media - and indeed policing - stories of our times. And that appears prescient, following the exhaustively researched New York Times magazine feature published this week, citing several sources who state clearly that Coulson was fully aware of the criminal activities.

One former editor said Coulson talked freely with colleagues about the dark arts, including hacking. “I’ve been to dozens if not hundreds of meetings with Andy” when the subject came up, said the former editor, who spoke on condition of anonymity. The editor added that when Coulson would ask where a story came from, editors would reply, “We’ve pulled the phone records” or “I’ve listened to the phone messages.”

Ex-NOTW reporter Sean Hoare says on the record that Coulson asked him to hack phones: "He was well aware the practice existed. To deny it is simply a lie".

"Everybody knew. Even the office cat knew", another senior News of the World journalist told the US paper of record.

Still, the possibility remains that sometimes the office cat will have better sources than the editor.


So it will, of course, be important for Andy Coulson to show that this widespread scepticism is unfair and unfounded. Next Left, always keen to be helpful, has worked out how he can do just that.

So let us introduce the "Coulson challenge" - which we would like to issue to newsrooms across London.

This blog will be considerably less impressed by - and indeed ready to entirely reject - the deep scepticism one encounters among journalists about the affair if we were to read - from a leading journalist or commentator in any non-Murdoch owned paper:

"Of course, Andy Coulson did not know about the phone-tapping operation which took place while he was editor of the News of the World. It is quite absurd to suggest that he might have done".

All that we now need is to find one of the massed ranks of the commentariat to put their name and professional reputation to a statement like this. It is obviously a challenge which an experienced spinner should be able to meet in his sleep.

Which means that - amidst all of the growing calls for inquiries and investigations - we should all be able to look forward to a much happier outcome.

So, by early next week, we look forward to hearing Mr Andrew Coulson seeing off the cynics and rehabilitating his public reputation, so that he can continue to do his important taxpayer-funded work promoting Prime Minister David Cameron's image as the man the nation can trust.

1 comment:

Red Rag said...

The liars toast. This weekend will be the beginning of the end for him,

Has anyone interviewed the office cat in the NOTW yet?