Saturday News Review

Coulson falls on sword

Andy Coulson, one of the key members of David Cameron‘s inner circle, has resigned as Downing Street’s director of communications, saying the wave of allegations that he was involved in illegal phone hacking when editor of the News of the World made it impossible for him to continue. “When the spokesman needs a spokesman, it is time to move on,”Andy Coulson Coulson said in a carefully crafted statement which had been in preparation for 48 hours. Downing Street insisted his departure was not precipitated by any fresh piece of damning evidence that would undercut Coulson’s claim he was unaware that phone hacking was prevalent at the News of the World under his editorship. Officials said the steady drip of allegations, and the likelihood that they would continue through civil court cases and possible police inquiries, was taking a toll on Coulson’s family and making it harder for him to focus. – the Guardian

Mr Coulson said the claims, which concerned his time as editor of the Sunday tabloid, meant he could not give the Prime Minister the “110 per cent needed”. The departure was a blow to Mr Cameron, who said that his aide had been “punished for the same offence twice”. Mr Coulson stood down as News of the World editor in 2007 soon after a reporter from his paper was jailed for phone hacking. The Prime Minister reluctantly agreed to accept the resignation on Wednesday evening, but it was not announced until yesterday because they had to finalise a timetable for his departure. The timing led to claims that the Government was trying to “bury bad news” while Tony Blair was appearing at the Iraq inquiry and the furore over Alan Johnson’s resignation was still dominating the news schedules. – the Telegraph

Several powerful individuals in Britain will be hoping that yesterday’s resignation of Andy Coulson, Downing Street’s director of communications, signals the end of an uncomfortable chapter. It will not and it should not. Mr Coulson himself still has many questions to answer. “I stand by what I’ve said,” he asserted in his resignation statement yesterday. This refers to Mr Coulson’s claim that he had no knowledge of phone hacking while he was editor of the News of the World and that Clive Goodman, who was jailed for the offence in 2007, was a lone rogue operative at the paper… It is important to remember that the phone hacking that took place at the News of the World was unambiguously criminal behaviour. There was not even the slightest hint of a public interest defence in what took place. If it turns out that Mr Coulson ordered the hacking, he should face the full force of the law. Mr Coulson’s resignation should not be the end for the News of the World either. Earlier this month, Ian Edmondson, an executive at the paper, was suspended over allegations that he sanctioned phone hacking. That appears to explode the defence that hacking was the work of a single bad apple. It also suggests that the newspaper intentionally misled with its categorical denials that impropriety went any further than Goodman. Urgent questions need to be asked of the Metropolitan Police too, which has adopted the position of the three wise monkeys throughout this affair. – the Independent

Blair gives evidence

During his four and a half hours of evidence, Mr Blair shed new light on the extent of the promises he made to George W Bush about Britain’s readiness to join in military action. In a candid admission of the assurances he gave the president during meetings and notes sent to him in 2002, Mr Blair said he had made clear Britain would be “up for” joining an invasion if necessary. “What I was saying to the president was very clear and simple: you can count on us. We are going to be with you on this. I’m not going to back out because the going gets tough,” Mr Blair said he told President Bush. “But here are the difficulties and this is why I think the UN route is the right way to go.” He also admitted keeping the US president in the dark over Lord Goldsmith, his chief legal adviser, who had initially concluded the March 2003 invasion would be illegal without further clearance from the United Nations. Mr Blair said he had to continue to support the US in military action, even though he knew he may have to withdraw that support if Lord Goldsmith had not changed his mind over the legality of the war at the last minute. – the Independent

The former prime minister came to the Chilcot inquiry early this morning, perhaps to avoid an anticipated large number of protesters. Barely 50 were there. More arrived later but were almost outnumbered by a large police presence. Throughout the hearings, and only occasionally subjected to sharp questioning, Blair described how he told Bush during a phone conversation in December 2001, well over a year before the invasion, that “if [regime change] became the only way of dealing with this issue, we were going to be up for that”. Inquiry documents show how government lawyers, including Lord Goldsmith, the attorney general, repeatedly warned that regime change as an objective of military action would be unlawful. Asked about letters he wrote to Bush, which the inquiry has seen but is prevented by Whitehall from disclosing, Blair said: “What I was saying to President Bush was very clear and simple: ‘You can count on us. We are going to be with you in tackling this but here are the difficulties.’ As you see, the rest of the note is actually about all the issues and difficulties.” The difficulties were spelt out in a memo, declassified today, sent by Blair to Jonathan Powell, his chief of staff, shortly before he met George Bush at the president’s ranch in Crawford, Texas, in April 2002. “I do not have a proper worked-out strategy on how we would do it,” Blair told Powell. After referring to the need for a “game plan”, he added: “I will need a meeting on this with military folk.” – the Guardian

HARD lessons have to be learned from the Iraq war, but let’s not pretend that the ongoing inquiry will change anyone’s mind. The public investigation is necessary and Tony Blair’s style of government – with critical voices and civil servants cut out of decision-making so the then Prime Minister could commit Britain to the US invasion – was left looking distinctly threadbare after yesterday’s exchanges. Yet it is the process which was at fault rather than any preconceived mendacity on the part of Mr Blair, a politician motivated by good intentions who made a catastrophic error. Had he involved the Cabinet properly, listened to the security services and respected Whitehall’s finest he might never have embarked on George W Bush’s military misadventure. That he did leaves an indelible stain on a Labour Government which did much to improve the lives of people in Britain and abroad, where it helped to combat poverty in the developing world. History will judge Mr Blair on Iraq. Indeed it already has and the unfavourable verdict recognises a terrible foreign policy mistake. – the Mirror

Balls and Miliband show of unity

In his first day in the job after his dramatic elevation following the sudden departure of Alan Johnson, Mr Balls said he was “at one” with the Labour leader. Mr Balls had previously attacked Labour’s pre-election commitment to halve the deficit in four years. That put him at loggerheads with Mr Miliband and Labours last chancellor, Alistair Darling and led to him being dubbed “Britain’s number one deficit denier” by the Conservatives. But yesterday Mr Balls said that he had previously thought the pace of reduction was not deliverable, but improved growth rates had altered the position. He said: “Let’s be clear, Ed and Alan in the last few months have led a determined opposition against the fast, reckless and deep cuts that the coalition are putting through and I’m clear, if there was a Labour government today, we would be halving the deficit over four years, in fact we would be over-achieving.” In a sign of unity Mr Balls will move office into the same suite as the Labour leader’s the Commons. The two offices were used by David Cameron and George Osborne when they were in Opposition. – the Telegraph

One Response to “Saturday News Review”

  1. Robert says:

    Lets be honest about this except for the phone tapping he has been a pretty good spin doctor for the Tories taking the flack away from Cameron.
    Now a position is open you have to have the touch f the ordinary person, to explain to Cameron do not do that or do that because the ordinary people will not do it when in a recession.

    Campbell anyone.

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