Andy Coulson, the UK coalition government’s official spin doctor in number 10 Downing Street, resigned as editor of The News of the World in 2007 when his royal correspondent Clive Goodman was convicted of illegal phone tapping.
At the time Coulson denied he knew anything about it but took responsibility all the same. He didn’t, however, end up in jail as Goodman and his supplier ‘private eye’ Glenn Mulcaire did.
Coulson subsequently repeated his denials to a Parliamentary committee.
Fleet Street, the (now fictional) location for the UK’s national newspapers is a pretty unshockable place but eyebrows headed into the stratosphere over these denials and the failure by the investigating Metropolitan Police to extend its investigation beyond the hapless Goodman and Mulcaire.
Now the New York Times is planning to run a piece in its Sunday magazine saying Coulson’s denials are lies and that phone tapping was going on at the NoW on an ‘industrial scale’ and even ‘the office cat’ knew about it. As did the esteemed editor. These ‘revelations’ come from former hacks at the NoW and its sister paper the daily Sun.
The NoW is owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation and it gave its full support to Coulson at the time, wheeling out Rupert’s New York-based right hand man Les Hinton, himself a former Fleet Street editor, to back up Coulson’s improbable view of things.
So this is a problem for Rupert too. In recent times he has set his sights on humbling the mighty New York Times by undercutting its ad rates with his own New York papers and aiming his recent acquisition the Wall Street Journal squarely at ‘the old gray lady.’ The NYT could be about to get its own back, provided its facts are right of course.
It’s also a problem for coalition prime minister and Tory leader David Cameron. If his spin doctor has broken the law he’ll clearly have to go. And Cameron’s judgement in appointing him in the first place will look very iffy indeed.