Coulsongate is throwing some very important light into a very murky area. It now seems clear that the police knew that the private investigator Glenn Mulcaire and the News of the World royal reporter Clive Goodman had illegally intercepted the voicemail messages of many more politicians, sportsmen, celebrities and others than just the 8 for which they were jailed. The New York Times has quoted detectives, however, as alleging they did not pursue these investigations because of their close relationship with Murdoch’s newspaper. This raises key questions about Britain’s power structure and how it works.
Did anyone acting on behalf of Murdoch and the then editor of the News of the World Andy Coulson (now Cameron’s director of communications) contact the Met to get them to call off their inquiries? We know now that Scotland Yard repeatedly tried to get the CPS to ring-fence the evidence in order to conceal the identity of well-known victims. We know too (from paperwork currently in the hands of the CPS) that “a vast number of unique voicemail numbers belonging to high profile individuals have been identified as being accessed without authority”. So why did Andy Hayman, the Met officer in charge, originally claim that they had found “only a handful” of victims, which was then repeated by senior Yard officers in press briefings?
A central tenet of a civilised and democratic society is that the various power institutions – the political system, the banks and financial sector, industrial corporations, criminal justice and security services, and the media – must operate independently and at arm’s length from each other in a manner that is transparent and accountable. If they are found covertly to collude with each other in order to give surreptitious and improper assistance to one of the other powerful forces in society, it is a very serious threat about which Parliament should be urgently demanding a thorough and comprehensive public inquiry.
The main target so far has been Coulson because of his close connection to Cameron. That is certainly important, but the sacking of Coulson should only be the start of the matter, not its closure. A detailed and methodical inquiry into the operation of the Met is long overdue, following such egregious episodeds as the former Met Commissioner Sir Ian Blair’s over-cosy relationship with New Labour plus the lethal G20 demonstration as well as this latest cover-up.