Coulson: is that a gun? Is it smoking?

Will David Cameron keep his Murdoch trained spin doctor if he becomes Prime Minister after today's UK General Election? A scandal could be in the offing if he does.
George Brock
6 May 2010

If as seems likely David Cameron takes over in Number 10, before he even composes the new premier's letter to the commanders of our Trident submarines giving them their sealed orders if London is taken out by a nuclear assault, the first decision he will have to take is whether or not he takes along Andy Coulson. By his staff you shall know him. In a widely read post The Heart of the Matter here on OK, I complimented Peter Oborne, the Conservative columnist, who had called for Coulson to be dropped on the grounds that "As deputy editor and then editor of the News of the World, he was presiding over what can only be described as a flourishing criminal concern". In a cross-post from his blog at City University, George Brock takes up the story. Anthony Barnett

Andy Coulson, ex-News of the World Editor and now David Cameron’s spin-doctor, has managed to steer mostly clear of the most recent revelations which have revealed a wider scale of phone-tapping at the News of the World than previously acknowledged. If Cameron makes it to No 10 Downing Street at the end of this week, odds are that Coulson will go there with his boss. Both men will be hoping that phone-tapping, and the sleazy private detectives who fixed it, will fade away.


But an elliptical hint of more revelations to come is buried in the back end of a story by Nick Davies in yesterday’s Guardian. The paragraph below didn’t make it into the print edition, but is on the web. Davies recalls that four private investigators were used by the paper while Coulson was deputy editor or editor and goes on:


“One of them was hired from his budget even though he had a track record of blackmail and the corruption of police officers. Coulson says he has no recollection of any of his journalists breaking any law.”


The opacity of that first sentence strongly suggests the presence of m’learned friends the lawyers or that something is sub judice for the time being. The “denial” in the second sentence of course is of something that hasn’t been alleged. More to come I’d guess.


Boom-boom postscript: those in charge of Coulson and his reporters have not yet lost their sense of humour about this.  Les Hinton (head of News International in the Coulson years and now CEO of Dow Jones) to the London Press Club awards lunch last week: “I thought I wasn’t going to be able to make it today. I left a voicemail message on Steve’s mobile to say so. I can’t tell you how surprised Colin Myler was to see me here.” Steve is the Press Club chairman Steve Oram and Colin Myler is the current Editor of the News of the World.

Stop the secrecy: Publish the NHS COVID data deals

To: Matt Hancock, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care

We’re calling on you to immediately release details of the secret NHS data deals struck with private companies, to deliver the NHS COVID-19 datastore.

We, the public, deserve to know exactly how our personal information has been traded in this ‘unprecedented’ deal with US tech giants like Google, and firms linked to Donald Trump (Palantir) and Vote Leave (Faculty AI).

The COVID-19 datastore will hold private, personal information about every single one of us who relies on the NHS. We don’t want our personal data falling into the wrong hands.

And we don’t want private companies – many with poor reputations for protecting privacy – using it for their own commercial purposes, or to undermine the NHS.

The datastore could be an important tool in tackling the pandemic. But for it to be a success, the public has to be able to trust it.

Today, we urgently call on you to publish all the data-sharing agreements, data-impact assessments, and details of how the private companies stand to profit from their involvement.

The NHS is a precious public institution. Any involvement from private companies should be open to public scrutiny and debate. We need more transparency during this pandemic – not less.

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