Cameron’s Watergate (LabourList 25th July 2009)

This post that went out on Labour List in 2009. I never archived to this website, mostly because it caused such a ferocious reaction that the Labour List editor, Alex Smith, said he regretted posting it. However, it later proved to be influential because it breached the taboo that said that the press couldn’t be touched. Following this, Journalists from The Washington Post were sent to London to assist The Guardian in researching hacking and this eventually led to the Leveson enquiry. I’ve uploaded it today in order that it doesn’t get lost.

I’m never short of admiration for David Cameron as a campaigner. He has no policies, but he is a brilliant man for the way he has pulled his party around and made them so electable. But it just seems strange the way this rash of thefts and bugging has been happening since he’s been around.

First we had the Damian Green business where a civil servant stole information that was embarrassing to the Labour government and then chanelled it to the press through this MP. Although the Tories point out that Gordon Brown once leaked a document, Gordon went on the record. Next we had Derek Draper’s email being hacked and then published by those ironically accusing him of wishing to smear, when all he did was consider it, before thinking better of it. Then the expenses file; a member of the Conservative Party selling revelations to The Telegraph when The Sunday Times was the obvious buyer, but wouldn’t have led on the Duck House story. It’s all a bit weird.

So why would David Cameron hire a man that Fleet Street considered to be unemployable? Coulson’s News of the World scoops were all explained by the original prosecution, so that’s not his attraction. Nor is he a party animal; he voted for Blair.

So why, why, why would David Cameron hire a man who had recently been involved in a scandal where people had been sent to jail for stealing information from public figures? Everyone knew that the hacking was massively more widespread on the basis that the News of the World had broken so many stories in the previous couple of years and this was the explanation. So why would a future prime minister want to have anything to do with him? Why?

Cameron says “Everyone is entitled to make a mistake”. But surely this must be because there is a deep bond of friendship that can overcome this stain on Coulson’s character? What other explanation would David Cameron have for employing and sticking by a man with an apparent expertise in hacking people’s phones? He could have any press officer in the world, why Andy Coulson?

When Cameron first came in, Michael Portillo gave us a talk at Progress and told us that there is no longer an ideological difference between Labour and the Tories. I thought at the time that he didn’t believe that but that he was simply repeating the thoughts of Cameron. It’s as if this Tory leader has done a brilliant job of making his party electable, but has never concerned himself with what he’ll do once he’s in office.

Maybe some policy and ideology will suddenly appear before him once he’s in office, but I don’t think so. Policy is created before entering government, while you’ve got time to think. Once in, the daily grind of crisis after crisis makes it extremely difficult to form new ideas.

I think it’s just a game. I think that David Cameron has never been interested in what to achieve in office. It’s all nothing more than a great big tribal game, and winning is the only goal. There is no integrity and only one rule: never get caught. The problem is, of course, that everyone gets caught in the long run, and it may well be his downfall.

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