Tom Watson is readers’ hackgate hero

In a close fought contest, Tom Watson has emerged as the Uncut readers’ hackgate hero.  His intervention on David Cameron during the Parliamentary statement was the public’s choice for goal of the month with 26% of the vote, 4% ahead of his other entry, the questioning of Rupert Murdoch at the Select Committee which secured 22%.

Ed Miliband’s pivotal PMQ performance from the start of July was joint third with Dennis Skinner on 20% of the vote, followed by Steve Coogan on 12%.

In voting throughout Friday, Ed Miliband built up a solid lead over the chasing pack, but was overhauled on Saturday by Watson’s two entries. Despite a late rally on Sunday, Miliband was not able to catch Watson.

The vote reflects the pivotal role Tom Watson has played in doggedly pursuing this issue for the past few years as well as the quality of his contributions in the Parliamentary statement and the Select Committee hearing.

As the scandal has unfolded, the twittersphere has been abuzz with who would play the central characters in the inevitable movie. This being a British scandal, the casting choices are somewhat different to the Redford and Hoffman partnership in All The President’s Men.

Currently the hot favourite to pick up the plum part of Tom Watson is Nick Frost.

They’ve been tweeting and agreeing though who Simon Pegg will play remains unclear. But given the nature of a scandal which continues to grow and grow, there are bound to be some new casting opportunities that emerge in the coming days.

Chief amongst these will potentially be the role of George Osborne. Studiously silent throughout proceedings so far, he has all the makings of a villain who emerges in the third reel as the puppet master, pulling the strings.

After all, it was Osborne who pressed for the Coulson appointment and Osborne who has always maintained his own very close relations with the lords and ladies at the court of Murdoch.

An interesting question on the Coulson appointment is what assurances did Osborne seek when he initially approached Coulson, and what were given.

Number ten’s almost deliberate attempt to look the other way on Coulson, both in terms of the Prime Minister’s limited discussions with his press secretary and the lower level of vetting, might well have been predicated on assurances from Osborne that all was well.

And in the last couple of days, the strange case of Osborne’s December trip to New York where he dined with Rupert Murdoch, just two weeks before the regulator was due to rule on the BskyB bid, has begun to attract some press attention.

In the same way David Cameron was bombarded with questions on the nature of his discussions with Rebekah Brooks and the Murdochs on the bid, Osborne is going to face increasing scrutiny as to what was and wasn’t said.

The current Treasury line that the bid was not discussed is barely sustainable.  If David Cameron has acknowledged having “appropriate “ conversations about the bid with News Corp executives when he has met them, what are the odds these same executives won’t have raised the bid with Osborne?

When the full details of cabinet ministers dealings with the Murdoch empire are released in the next few days, watch for Osborne’s line on what was discussed at his meetings to move into alignment with Cameron’s.

Inside the Tory circles, the prospect of George Osborne becoming embroiled in Hackgate is viewed with almost with greater alarm than the Prime Minister’s entanglement. For all of the damage to Cameron’s reputation, few expect him to have said anything privately to News Corp executives that crossed the line with regards to the BskyB bid.

In contrast, Osborne has a reputation for, in the words of one Tory adviser, “running the mouth”.  His delight in plotting and machiavellian chicanery for the sake of it frequently get the better of him.

Corfugate, back in 2008, was a typical example of Osborne’s suspect judgement.

His insatiable desire for political manoeuvring meant he leaked details of his conversation with Peter Mandelson on the Deripaska yacht when there was no need. For all of the short term embarrassment to Mandelson, he must have known there would be some comeback.

Nat Rothschild’s subsequent allegation that Osborne had solicited a donation for the Tories from Oleg Derpipaska, a foreign national, flatly in contravention of British electoral law, nearly cost him his job.

The episode highlighted both Osborne’s dangerous addiction to political intrigue and propensity to sail close to the wind when dealing with powerful businessmen. These tendencies could yet provide a dramatic new twist to the Hackgate storyline.

Simon Pegg would be well advised to brush up on his Bullingdon mannerisms.

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