Huhne on Coulson: “either complicit or incompetent”

The BBC reports:

Conservative communications chief Andy Coulson has told MPs he did not “condone or use” phone hacking when he was editor of the News of the World. Mr Coulson quit as the editor after a reporter was jailed for hacking.

Although he said he had not known about it, he told the culture committee he regretted things going “badly wrong” and had taken responsibility by going.

Lib Dem shadow home secretary Chris Huhne has not been won over by Mr Coulson’s performance today:

Andy Coulson’s defence is that he did not know what was going on despite the mounting evidence that his newsroom was widely using illegal phone hacking. Either he was complicit in crime, or he was one of the most incompetent Fleet Street editors of modern times. Neither should be a top recommendation to David Cameron.”

Andy Coulson hasn’t won me over, either. His defence appears to be that by resigning he has drawn a line under the newspapers’ phone-tapping scandal. This was a line echoed by Tory leader David Cameron, when he initially sprang to Mr Coulsion’s defence:

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.”

Yet what Mr Coulson is accused of is not a mere sacking offence: it is a criminal offence. This isn’t something that can or should be erased by a voluntary resignation with a handsome pay-off from Rupert Murdoch. That the Tory leader apparently cannot recognise that sharp truth is deeply concerning.

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  • Martin Land 21st Jul '09 - 9:10pm

    You have got to admire Cameron’s Tories. Corrupt and inept even BEFORE they get into power. They really are streets ahead of Blair in 1996-97!

  • Herbert Brown 21st Jul '09 - 11:27pm

    Agent Orange:
    “We are still waiting for Party President Baroness Scott to provide a report on how the party is progressing with an ‘independent’ audit of peers expenses. Her silence is hardly inspiring confidence.”

    That’s because there isn’t going to be – and there never was going to be – an independent audit of Lib Dem peers expenses.

    The independent review referred to in Ros Scott’s statement in May was – it turned out – nothing to do with the party, but a review of peers’ allowances in general, set up by the House of Lords itself. Apparently it’s now going to be conducted by the Senior Salaries Review Body.

    When I enquired about this to Cowley Street, I was told initially that “There is no reason to “clear” Liberal Democrat Peers of impropriety because no-one has been accused of impropriety” and then – when I pointed out that very specific accusations of impropriety had been made – that they “do not find any grounds for believing that Lord Rennard has broken any rules regarding Lords Allowances”.

    So it’s pretty clear that no further action is going to be taken by the party on this.

  • If you or Huhne think there is a criminal offence present the evidence against Coulson to the Police.
    But then, as the Grauniad admitted, there is no evidence.
    Soon, there will be no Huhne….

  • Herbert, Agent Orange,

    Yes. It is terribly wrong.

    Of course, this party owes a great deal – metaphorically! – to Rennard. But so what? No doubt Labour believe they owe a great deal to Blears and Hoon, which is why they got preferential treatment while the far less culpable Ian Gibson took the rap. That isn’t right, and nor is the way we have acted.

    We could have taken tough action. Or we could have quietly found a way to repay the taxpayer ourselves and let Rennard retire gracefully. We haven’t done either.

    We’re not as sleazy as the other two big parties, but we’re letting people think that we are. We don’t tell massive lies all the time in our election campaigns, like the other two do, but by repeatedly perpetrating silly obvious fiddles with bar charts, we are allowing the Tories and Labour to get away with the claim that we are the dishonest party.

    What we need is a kick in the backside. That’s why I’m supporting Craig Murray in Norwich on Thursday!

  • I do not see a contradiction in Cameron’s statements. It is perfectly reasonable for Coulson to say he stood down because he did not approve of what went on and not know about it at the time seeing as he stood down when it all came out into the open. It is conceivable he did not know anything about it at the time and then the statements are fair and it is also conceivable he knew and resigned out of guilt however that is not the currently accepted version of events.

    This all smacks of rather cheap politics and Chris Huhne’s comment have the air of a desperate man.

  • David Allen: having witnessed the abuse of the allowance system by Lib Dem Cllrs I have no sympathy with the notion that the Lib Dems are any less susceptible to temptation than Tories or Labour.

    As a party the Lib Dems are particularly pious about their probity however, which makes facing up to the Rennard scandal or the need to repay stolen funds all the harder.

    None of which is aided by your leaders and their shameful support for Rennard.

  • Herbert Brown 22nd Jul '09 - 9:31am

    “I will write to Scott asking for a clarification.”

    Good luck with that, but I suspect you’ll only get a variant of the same formula I had repeated to me several times by Cowley Street.

    Here’s another version of it:
    “The Lords Whips Office are satisfied that all satisfied the rules of the system as was then established. However, they have said themselves that the allowance scheme was vaguely drawn and lightly policed.”

    The line, presumably, is that there was a tacit understanding that peers could designate whichever of their residences they chose as the main one, and that it would be accepted with no questions asked. So that to claim in respect of an occasionally-visited seaside flat wasn’t really in breach of these “vaguely drawn and lightly policed” rules.

  • Touch of the glass houses, Christopher

  • Foregone Conclusion 20th Jun '10 - 2:24pm

    I don’t get it. Where’s the hypocrisy? Have I missed something?

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