Tag Archives: BSkyB

Coulson convicted – now Cameron has serious questions to answer

Beleaguered: A weary-looking David Cameron tried to defend his choice to employ convicted phone hacker Andy Coulson in a BBC interview.

Beleaguered: A weary-looking David Cameron tried to defend his choice to employ convicted phone hacker Andy Coulson in a BBC interview.

The conviction of former Downing Street press supremo Andy Coulson on charges of conspiracy to hack telephones should have serious consequences for David Cameron, the Prime Minister who brought him into the heart of the UK government after he committed these crimes.

Cameron has said he takes “full responsibility” for employing Coulson. He may regret those words in the future.

Interviewed by the BBC, he said: “I did so on the basis of undertakings I was given by him about phone hacking and those turn out not to be the case.” What undertakings? That he hadn’t taken part in any hacking or that he was very good at it and wouldn’t get caught?

For a Prime Minister in charge of a barely-legitimate Coalition government with an agenda to destroy Britain’s best loved institutions, such as the National Health Service and the Welfare State, the presence of a person who could infiltrate the telephone communications of others, providing information that could be used to stop them, would be a huge asset.

Pressed on what he asked Coulson and what assurances he was given, Cameron said: “We covered all this in the Leveson Inquiry.” This is not a rock-solid alibi as Cameron was found to have, let’s say, selective amnesia about certain issues. His relationship with the Murdoch press – of which Coulson is a former employee – was one of them, and it is appropriate that more questions should be asked – and answers demanded – about the level of influence exerted on the British government by the man Private Eye describes as the ‘Dirty Digger’.

At the Leveson Inquiry, Cameron could not say:

  • Whether or not George Osborne obtained assurances from Andy Coulson about phone hacking before hiring him for the Conservative Party.
  • Whether he spoke to Rebekah Brooks about Andy Coulson before his Downing Street appointment.
  • How many conversations he had with Mrs Brooks about Coulson.
  • Whether he raised the issue of phone hacking with Coulson in Westminster or over the phone while on holiday.
  • Where and how Coulson repeated his assurances about phone hacking.
  • What Nick Clegg said to him about Coulson.
  • Who else raised concerns about Coulson with him.
  • Whether or not any Tory MPs expressed concerns about Coulson.
  • Whether he discussed Coulson and phone hacking with Rupert Murdoch.
  • Whether he sought direct assurances on hacking from Andy Coulson when revelations appeared in the New York Times (isn’t that now a Murdoch paper?) on December 1, 2010.

“I gave someone a second chance and it turned out to be a bad decision,” Cameron said yesterday – but this won’t wash, according to the Labour Party’s deputy leader, Harriet Harman.

“He [Coulson] was not somebody who’d admitted what he’d done and was turning over a new leaf,” she said.

Labour leader Ed Miliband, interviewed (again) by the BBC, got straight to the point: “David Cameron brought a criminal into the heart of Downing Street… David Cameron must have had his suspicions about Andy Coulson, and yet he refused to act.

“This taints David Cameron’s government because we now know that he put his relationship with Rupert Murdoch ahead of doing the right thing… He owes this country an explanation.”

Coulson’s connection with the Murdoch press was also hugely useful to Cameron at the time. Did he hope that the appointment would buy him favour with the 37 per cent of the British media owned by Murdoch? Was there a reciprocal arrangement, with the UK government showing extra favour to the Murdoch media – such as its plan to grant permission for Murdoch to buy the 61 per cent of BSkyB that he did not own (since aborted, partly due to bad publicity)?

As Roger Cohen wrote in the New York Times in July 2011, “It is hard to resist the impression that Cameron was completely in the thrall of Brooks, Murdoch and his son James Murdoch.”

What about the huge volume of emails – around 150 – between Cameron and Brooks that were withheld from the Leveson Inquiry and kept from the public domain, even after a Cabinet Office ruling in October 2012 that the public should see them?

Cameron was expected to face hard questions about his relationship with Coulson during Prime Minister’s Questions today (June 25). At the time of writing (11am), and based on his comments in the BBC interview, it seems likely that all we will hear is more evasion.

Is this really the behaviour of a man who should be the British Prime Minister?

Follow me on Twitter: @MidWalesMike

Join the Vox Political Facebook page.

Vox Political needs your help!
This independent blog’s only funding comes from readers’ contributions.
Without YOUR help, we cannot keep going.
You can make a one-off donation here:

Donate Button with Credit Cards

Alternatively, you can buy Vox Political books!
The second – Health Warning: Government! is now available
in either print or eBook format here:

HWG PrintHWG eBook
The first, Strong Words and Hard Times
is still available in either print or eBook format here:

SWAHTprint SWAHTeBook

Syria: The right decision for the wrong reason?

A statesman emerges: Ed Miliband's decisions on Syria have revealed courage and determination to do what is right. They show he has the potential to be a great British statesman.

A statesman emerges: Ed Miliband’s decisions on Syria have revealed courage and determination to do what is right. They show he has the potential to be a great British statesman.

It looked as though we were all heading for another pointless adventure in the Middle East, but a day in politics really is a long time, isn’t it?

On Tuesday evening, there seemed to be consensus. The leaders of the main UK political parties had met to discuss the situation in Syria – in particular the evidence that an attack involving chemical weapons had taken place – and had parted in broad agreement that military action was warranted in order to discourage the use of such devices.

But then Labour’s Ed Miliband changed his mind. It seems likely he held a meeting with members of his own party who helped him devise an alternative plan.

In his blog on Tuesday, Michael Meacher laid down several reasons for delaying any new military adventure:

  • The UN weapons inspectors currently working in Syria have not had enough time to find conclusive proof of chemical weapon use. Attacking on the basis of the evidence we currently hold would be reminiscent of the attack on Iraq, where we were assured Saddam Hussein held weapons of mass destruction. We later discovered – to our shame – that he did not;
  • Where 100,000 citizens have already been killed by conventional means, it seems extremely odd to use the deaths of 1,000 by other means as an excuse to wade into the fray; and
  • What about international law? How would Russia and China react if the UN Security Council, on which they both sit, rejected military action but the UK – along with the USA and others – went ahead with it anyway? And wouldn’t this light a powder keg in the Middle East, kicking off a larger, regional conflict – the outcome of which cannot be predicted?

Mr Miliband concluded that it would be far better to wait for stronger evidence and he notified David Cameron that he would be tabling an amendment on Syria when Parliament is recalled today (Thursday). This would insist that a vote should be taken only after the weapons inspectors have delivered their report. He said Parliament should only agree criteria for action – not write a blank cheque (for those who want war).

This writer was delighted – the decision was almost exactly what I had suggested when I responded to a poll on the LabourList blog site, although I had added in my comment that the only decision open to Parliament was to offer humanitarian aid to non-combatants affected by the fighting between the different Syrian factions.

The decision indicated not only that Labour had learned its lesson from the Blair-era decisions to invade Afghanistan and Iraq, but that Mr Miliband had also paid attention to the will of the British people; those opposing another war outnumber those supporting it by around two to one.

Mr Cameron was now in a very difficult position as, without Labour’s support and with only limited backing from his own party, it was entirely possible that he would be defeated if he suggested military action in the Commons today.

Defeat in a major vote is, of course, something that no government voluntarily provokes. He had no choice but to change his mind, and now Parliament is being recalled to approve humanitarian aid and agree to the course of action put forward by Mr Miliband.

So now all my wishes appear likely to be granted.

It is the correct decision. But it was not the decision Cameron wanted. He wanted war.

It is also a decision that has been clearly dictated by the actions of the Opposition leader. Let’s make no bones about it, Ed Miliband called this tune and David Cameron danced to it.

Let’s look at what Michael Meacher had to say about this. It is illuminating because it comes from a backbencher who has been outspoken in criticism of Mr Miliband in the past. He wrote in his blog: “It singles out Ed Miliband as a man of inner strength and integrity who can take the gritty decisions when they are most needed, and this is undoubtedly one of those times… The hardest thing for a Leader of the Opposition to do, bereft of any executive authority, is to challenge the prevailing structure of power and change it or even overturn it. No other Opposition Leader has succeeded in this as well as Ed Miliband.

“We have already seen him take on Murdoch over BSkyB and stop the biggest concentration of media power in UK history in its tracks, and then almost single-handedly block the press counter-attack against Leveson which would have left newspapers as unaccountable as ever.”

So it seems we will see the right decision taken, albeit for the wrong reasons – thanks to the courage, leadership and statesmanship of Mr Miliband.

There’s just one further question: If the big decision is being taken after the weapons inspectors report back, and they are unlikely to do so until Monday (we’re told)… That’s after MPs were scheduled to return to Parliament. The emergency recall is therefore an unnecessary extravagance.

I wonder how much MPs will be allowed to claim for it on expenses?

(Note: This has been written while events continue to develop. All information was accurate at the time of writing.)

Cameron – corrupt corporate whore, according to Meacher

A corporate whore servicing one of his clients: Apparently they're normally called 'Johns', but in the high-paid corporate whoring world they're known as 'Ruperts'. Both of them. Silly Ruperts.

A corporate whore servicing one of his clients: Apparently they’re normally called ‘Johns’, but in the high-paid corporate whoring world they’re known as ‘Ruperts’. Both of them. Silly Ruperts.

It seems opponents of the Coalition have realised its degraded claim to be a government is worthless and have decided to pour contempt on it at every opportunity.

I mention this after seeing Michael Meacher’s excellent column on David Cameron. The fake Prime Minister’s instincts, according to Mr Meacher are “that there is no such thing as the rule of law, and that the only things that ultimately matter are power, fear and money”.

These words should come as hammer-blows to Cameron’s credibility. It is to his credit that Michael Meacher has written them – but also to the shame of the Labour front bench that none of them had the guts to come out with it first.

Mr Meacher supports his claims by laying out a wealth of evidence that, while the comedy PM crows on and on about Labour’s (non-existent) pandering to the unions, “there is almost nothing… that Cameron won’t do, no commercial interest he will disdain, no policy he will refuse to alter if it will ingratiate himself with the sources of money and power… He has prostrated himself before a wide range of commercial interests by changing government policy to suit them in order to recruit their money and power for himself and his party in the lead-up to 2015”.

He supports his assertions as follows:

1. Cameron was determined to hand BSkyB to Rupert Murdoch, in exchange for support for the next general election (he failed in this attempt).

2. He ditched plans to remove branding from cigarette packaging. It has emerged that his advisor Lynton Crosby’s company lobbies on behalf of tobacco giant Philip Morris International.

3. Soon after Crosby was hired by Cameron, the government dropped plans for a minimum alcohol price. Crosby’s Australian company has represented an alcohol industry group campaigning heavily against similar plans in that country.

4. Crosby’s company also represents an oil and gas lobby group that campaigns aggressively for fracking, so now the UK government is encouraging fracking with tax breaks for the companies involved.

5. Crosby’s UK company represented rebel forces in Syria for six months, which may explain Cameron’s decision to send weapons to the rebels (but again failed in the attempt, thanks to a rare outbreak of sanity in the House of Commons).

The government will no doubt try to counter these arguments but there is no credible way of doing so. We are able to judge our politicians by what they do – not what they say – and the evidence is available for all to see.

So, ladies and gentlemen, let’s change the pitch of news reporting this summer. Instead of the usual ‘silly season’, let’s make it open season on Cameron and his cronies. Let’s get all the evidence against them together and make it clear to the general public, via all possible avenues, what a craven cadre of corrupt corporate prostitutes they all are.

It shouldn’t be too hard.