Could it get more toxic for David Cameron?
Amid all of the drama of pies and right hooks, things may have got worse for the Prime Minister David Cameron. During her grilling in front of the Culture committee, Rebekah Brooks was asked who had been editing the News Of The World newspaper when she was away on holiday. She was reluctant to give the information away, eventually revealing that it would have “presumably” been her deputy. Perhaps the reason for her reluctance was the story they were quizzing her on was the Milly Dowler story, and the deputy “presumably” editing was Andy Coulson.
Brooks, who refused to elaborate on claims from the New York Times that she had conversations implicating the rest of Fleet Street in illegal activities, claimed she only found out about the Milly Dowler phone hacking just two weeks ago. Instead the blame may be shifted onto Andy Coulson as the man at the top ultimately responsible for the story.
In a week where senior figures at the Met and News International have begun to take responsibility for actions of those below them, parallels have been drawn with a lack of responsibility being shown by the Prime Minister in appointing Andy Coulson. The issue of Milly Dowler’s phone being hacked could be pin-pointed as the exact moment this story was taken on by the rest of Fleet Street and taken out of the Westminster village. With an issue like this so close to the heart strings of the public, Brooks was quick to distance herself from the story when the details of hacking first transpired about it. With the buck being passed to Coulson, he is becoming more and more toxic.
This leaves an obvious problem for the Prime Minister. The more toxic Coulson becomes, the more the Prime Minister’s judgement is being called into question. His loyalty to Coulson may be seen as commendable to those in his inner circle, but to the public at large it remains baffling. As the pressure increases on Coulson the pressure in turn increases on Cameron, with the Labour Party calling for an apology from him regarding his appointment of Coulson. Cameron needs to put some distance between him and his former Press Secretary. He has nothing to gain from sticking by him. His loyalty to people has never been in danger of being called into question, as Andrew Lansley and Ken Clarke will testify. Fresh claims uncovered by the people at Panorama are claiming that Neil Wallis was advising Coulson before the 2010 general election, and look set to only make matters worse for Cameron. This comes after outgoing Assistant Commissioner to the Metropolitan Police, John Yates, revealed that an offer to brief the Prime Minister on aspects of the phone hacking scandal was rejected by Chief of Staff Ed Llewellyn due to the Prime Minister’s relationship with Andy Coulson. Now is the time for the Prime Minister to end his de-facto association with Coulson, before the latest public outcry is delivered to his doorstep.