Coffee House

Phone hacking fag-ends

21 July 2011

3:39 PM

21 July 2011

3:39 PM

Yesterday, in his statement to the Commons, David Cameron responded to a question from
Labour MP Helen Goodman about Andy Coulson by saying:

‘He was vetted. He had a basic level of vetting. He was not able to see the most secret documents in the Government. I can write to the hon. Lady if she wants the full details of that
vetting. It was all done in the proper way. He was subject to the special advisers’ code of conduct. As someone shouted from behind me, he obeyed that code, unlike Damian McBride.’

The story has developed since then. Channel Four have been told by unidentified sources that Coulson’s lack of top
level clearance would have impaired him from doing his job, and Michael Crick has been digging around and found that
Damian McBride and Alistair Campbell received the highest grade of vetting. In itself this doesn’t mean anything: perhaps Coulson went about his work without needing to be privy to classified
information. Even so, you imagine Cameron would prefer this story to disappear as soon as possible without further coverage.


Two other questions from yesterday’s session have inspired further inquiry. First Nick Raynsford claimed that senior government officials have been hacked: the Cabinet Office has asked
Raynsford to provide more information. Also, Tory MP Geoffrey Cox claimed that Lords Goldsmith and MacDonald were in possession of sensitive information about phone hacking in 2006, but did not
proceed with it. The Home Affairs Committee will examine the allegations.   

These snippets are diverting, but there is a sense that the phone hacking media storm may finally have blown itself out.

PS: In response to the commenter SinoSimon, it’s worth pointing out that Lord Goldsmith has vigorously denied the allegations made by Geoffrey Cox, which appear to have been
based on a Guardian story published on 5 April 2010. He said that ‘there is no truth at all in the suggestion that he authorised or instructed police to narrow their investigations in
relation to phone hacking.’

It’s also worth pointing out that the Director of Public Prosecutions has operational control of the Crown Prosecution Service, who would be responsible
for these matters, not the Attorney General.

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Show comments
  • ButcombeMan

    Frank P
    You will enjoy this.

    When I was interviewed by a bucolic, red nosed and (obviously) ex plod “vetter”, I put him at immediate discomfort by saying I knew him and had seen him in “the tank”, saying “you are ex Met”. (For the uninitiated “the tank” was the filthy bar that used to be in the bowels of NSY-may still be there, for all I know).

    He never quite recovered, worrying about what I knew about him and his drinking. Of course I had never seen him before at all but what he was, went through him as if through Blackpool Rock.

    The Guardian are getting very excited about this vetting issue and as I suggested might be the case, are saying this below, about Coulson’s never having developed vetting (DV).

    “A Whitehall source said the decision not to subject Coulson to developed vetting was taken by Jeremy Heywood, the Downing Street permanent secretary. The source said it was decided that, as director of communications, Coulson did not need access to highly secret material and that developed vetting was a costly, unnecessary expense.”


  • NewsDomestic

    I wonder if any News International hacks have been trying to gain insider information from the voicemails of Ofcom officials on their company’s bid for BSkyB…?

  • oldtimer

    @ Frank P
    july22 7:34am

    Thanks for the link. A very good article; I have added Melanie P to my blog reading list.

  • Marcellus

    How extraordinary that none of you media types have considered the possibility that the low level of clearance obtained by Coulson reflects well on the government. It shows that he was not involved in the manipulation of the DNA of government policy (or the micro-detail of its presentation) in the same way as people like Campbell and McBride. Coulson did not need the level of clearance necessary for him to talk to (and bully) the spooks because it was not his role to do so.
    Come on, David: step outside the bubble and smell the coffee.

  • Frank P


    Yeah, indeed they are. I used to know a couple before they died – laughing!

  • Frank P

    July 21st, 2011 9:10pm

    Yes, Melanie sounded the alarm at:

  • Silent Hunter

    Quote: “…it’s worth pointing out that Lord Goldsmith has vigorously denied the allegations …”

    LOL . . . Well he would, wouldn’t he.

  • oldtimer

    @ TGF UKIP and Frank P

    If you have not already heard, the BBC, aka the Bugger Britain Conspiracy, has now declared that AGW is the gospel truth and no opposing views by deniers or flat earthers is to be permitted, effective immediately. This now official BBC science policy.

  • ButcombeMan

    Frank P
    As you no doubt well know, many of the “vetters” are ex MetPol plods.

  • Frank P


    “The most amazing thing to date about the phone hacking saga is that I haven’t, as yet at least, seen or heard the BBC ascribe it to “climate change”.”

    Ahh, but Wallis was working as a PR consultant for the UEA – so it’s only a matter of time.

    UKIP – I’ll stay awake and on watch.

  • Frank P

    Perhaps all the vetters are on Rupe’s payroll?

  • Frank P

    Phone-hacking fag ends what?

  • arnoldo87

    How very disappointing to hear the Prime Minister accuse Alastair Campbell of “falsifying documents” yesterday when he was in red-cheek mode during his Q & A session.

    The accusation has no basis in truth, of course, and no doubt a mealy-mouthed apology from Number 10 will follow in due course .


    The most amazing thing to date about the phone hacking saga is that I haven’t, as yet at least, seen or heard the BBC ascribe it to “climate change”.

    Plenty of time, though, so no doubt they will at some point, given that they appear to manage to do so with every other unwholesome story.

  • oldtimer

    The Cox intervention deserves to be investigated. Someone decided to put the lid on the enquiry at the time. Who? Why? And who else knew about this decision?

    Trinity-Mirror is keen that these issues should not be pursued. Guido has some interesting comments on alleged phone hacking at the Mirror.

  • Ian Walker

    If he had bog-standard SC clearance, he’d have been allowed access to Secret material, and supervised access to Top Secret relevant to his job.

    So it wouldn’t have stopped him doing his job.

  • Ghengis

    Tar and brush immediately come to mind

  • ButcombeMan

    It is very difficult to see how Coulson could have passed an unqualified Developed Vetting (DV) given the cloud over his history.

    Maybe it was never attempted because someone, maybe a senior Civil Servant, realised that? Just a thought!

  • Fergus Pickering

    There’s a SENSE, my dear fellow. Everyone’s bored to tears and Cameron commands the field.Now mug up some Finance, eh. The next bit is going to get difficult.

  • Baron

    The leading BBC story on my top google page this afternoon reads: “Global stock markets rise on reports that eurozone leaders have reached a provisional agreement on tackling the Greek debt crisis”.

    When the Senior was grilled, did well, the bunch of his inquisitors failing to land any punches, the BSkyB shares surged, the BBC didn’t notice.

    Fugging ‘objective’ tossers.

  • sinosimon

    so the fact that the chief law officer, and cabinet member Goldsmith KNEW about the scale and nature of the hacking FIVE years ago is ‘diverting’. way to go as standard bearers of the right…….

    this proves that the labour government was in possession of the full facts and did nothing….this from the law officer who was so remarkably pliant over the legality of the Iraq war.
    any self respecting journo would be crawling all over this. any supposed supporter of the government would be shouting it from the rooftops to burn it into the public’s mind. If this was a tory AG who had known for the last year can you imagine what the BBC would be doing? and all the Spectator does is call it diverting.

    shameful. just shameful. think about what this story means and get someone on it now!

    hansard col 986 search for 30 May and you’ll get it.

  • Tiberius

    Indeed it doesn’t mean anything, but that won’t stop the truly pathetic Crick trying to make it into something. He has had no credibility since his disgraceful pursuit of Betsy Duncan-Smith, a campaign for which he should not only have been given the boot, but for which he should have been ashamed (if only he were capable of such a reaction).

  • CmdKeen

    The highest level of vetting takes months to get and costs the government a large amount of money to achieve. It shouldn’t be given out willy nilly.

    Plus giving Alaistair Campbell access to lots of Top Secret intelligence reports didn’t exactly end well did it…

  • Yosemite Sam

    Like the e-mail story yesterday, this is one where its ‘heads I win tales you lose’. If Coulson had been given top level clearance it would have had the usual suspects jumping up and down saying disgraceful with his background. Similarly with the e-mails. Had Cameron met Yates you can bet your last pound that it would have been a disgrace – an absolute disgrace. Any system in which Cambell and MacBride can be given top clearance is flawed anyway.

  • Louisa

    Unless you keep banging on about it.