Coulson scandal: Read all about it! Or maybe not…

Andy Coulson’s dark past has once again returned to haunt him. Following allegations earlier this year that Coulson encouraged phone-hacking during his time at the News of the World, David Cameron announced his belief that everyone should have a second chance.

Andy Coulson’s dark past has once again returned to haunt him, due to a New York Times report yesterday.

Following allegations earlier this year that Coulson encouraged phone-hacking during his time at the News of the World, David Cameron announced his belief that everyone should have a second chance.

He even went close to suggesting that Coulson’s resignation from the NotW was a moral one, saying:

“It’s wrong for newspapers to breach people’s privacy with no justification. That is why Andy Coulson resigned as editor of the News of the World two-and-a-half years ago.”

The Press Commission, when investigating the original allegations, complained that

“Throughout we have repeatedly encountered an unwillingness to provide the detailed information that we sought, claims of ignorance or lack of recall, and deliberate obfuscation.”

This time, however, the claims are far more substantial than before, and the prime minister is under pressure to reconsider his choice of Director of Communications and Planning. Tom Watson, the Labour MP, has written to No 10 demanding a full judicial inquiry.

As the New York Times revealed in a 6,000-word report, the previously unproven allegations have been given new life. According to the NYT:

“A dozen former reporters said in interviews that hacking was pervasive at News of the World.”

Coulson is alleged by one source to have ‘actively encouraged’ phone-tapping. This is a serious challenge to Coulson’s claim to a Commons select committee earlier this year that “I have never had any involvement in it at all.”

Left Foot Forward has previously revealed Tory attempts to whitewash Coulson’s record, with Liam Fox wrongly claiming that he was not involved in the succesful tribunal claim of sportswriter Matt Driscoll, who won £800,000 from the paper on the basis of unfair dismissal. Cameron’s media adviser is unlikely to be Nick Clegg’s favourite member of the No 10 staff, as he appears to have been responsible for a smear campaign against the Lib Dem leader in the run up to the election.

Predictably, the NYT’s investigation has been ignored thus far by Rupert Murdoch’s News International media empire: The Sun and The Times websites are yet to cover the story. Even the Washington Post – the NYT’s main rival in America – has ignored the allegations. But, strangely, the BBC has also failed to report them. Beyond the indictment of Coulson, the report also alleged that the Metropolitan Police had colluded with News International to cover up evidence of phone hacking.

As Will Straw reported in June, Coulson continues to use his control over the press to his personal advantage, preventing his £475,000 salary from appearing in a widely-reported list of ‘top civil service fat cats’. It’s unlikely to work this time.

Update 03 September 1100hrs

As a commenter has rightly pointed out, Coulson’s salary was £475,000; it is now £140,000.

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