The phone-hacking scandal takes a new twist

Tessa Jowell reveals her mobile was hacked 28 times.

After Wednesday's remarkable New York Times investigation into phone-hacking at the News of the World, which suggested that the former editor and now No 10 communications director, Andy Coulson, had "actively encouraged" the practice, come fresh revelations from the Labour MP Tessa Jowell, who says her mobile phone was tapped at least 28 times during the period she served as a cabinet minister in the last government.

Jowell told the Independent:

I know I was tapped 28 times by May 2006 because the police told me. I had a call when I was on holiday in August 2006 from the Met to say that I had been tapped, but they asked me to do nothing except increase the security on my phone. Later, they came back to me and said I wouldn't need to be a witness in this case. I also had a call from Vodafone about improving security.

Meanwhile, Jowell's former cabinet colleague John Prescott intends to seek a judicial review to establish if his phone was hacked while he was in government. Prescott was not satisfied by the results of a Scotland Yard investigation into the affair, which concluded that there was "no evidence" that his phone had been hacked.

Yesterday, Alan Johnson added to the clamour for action, arguing that Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constablulary should review the Metropolitan Police's investigation of the case. Such calls are, predictably, being given short shrift by the government. Making a connection between this affair and the case of the Foreign Secretary William Hague, Duncan said last night on BBC Radio 4's Any Questions that "things are getting ramped up in the media based on rumour and innuendo and, as in the William Hague case, I don't think it's acceptable in this case. And unless anybody comes forward with any clear evidence this is not something that should be pursued."

That's certainly the line emanating from No 10 itself. The BBC's Gary O'Donoghue reports that a "very senior source in the government" has insisted to him that Coulson's position safe. "Andy is going nowhere," the source said.

One wonders, though, how long they can hold the line. As my colleague George Eaton argued earlier in the week, "If Coulson did know about the phone-hacking then he's too wicked to be the Tories' spin chief, and if he didn't know then he's too stupid to be the Tories' spin chief."

Jonathan Derbyshire is Managing Editor of Prospect. He was formerly Culture Editor of the New Statesman.

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“Brexit is based on racism”: Who is protesting outside the Supreme Court and what are they fighting for?

Movement for Justice is challenging the racist potential of Brexit, as the government appeals the High Court's Article 50 decision.

Protestors from the campaign group Movement for Justice are demonstrating outside the Supreme Court for the second day running. They are against the government triggering Article 50 without asking MPs, and are protesting against the Brexit vote in general. They plan to remain outside the Supreme Court for the duration of the case, as the government appeals the recent High Court ruling in favour of Parliament.

Their banners call to "STOP the scapgoating of immigrants", to "Build the movement against austerity & FOR equality", and to "Stop Brexit Fight Racism".

The group led Saturday’s march at Yarl’s Wood Immigration Detention Centre, where a crowd of over 2,000 people stood against the government’s immigration policy, and the management of the centre, which has long been under fire for claims of abuse against detainees.  

Movement for Justice, and its 50 campaigners, were in the company yesterday of people from all walks of pro and anti-Brexit life, including the hangers-on from former Ukip leader Nigel Farage’s postponed march on the Supreme Court.

Antonia Bright, one of the campaign’s lead figures, says: “It is in the interests of our fight for freedom of movement that the Supreme Court blocks May’s attempt to rush through an anti-immigrant deal.”

This sentiment is echoed by campaigners on both sides of the referendum, many of whom believe that Parliament should be involved.

Alongside refuting the royal prerogative, the group criticises the Brexit vote in general. Bright says:

“The bottom line is that Brexit represents an anti-immigrant movement. It is based on racism, so regardless of how people intended their vote, it will still be a decision that is an attack on immigration.”

A crucial concern for the group is that the terms of the agreement will set a precedent for anti-immigrant policies that will heighten aggression against ethnic communities.

This concern isn’t entirely unfounded. The National Police Chief’s Council recorded a 58 per cent spike in hate crimes in the week following the referendum. Over the course of the month, this averaged as a 41 per cent increase, compared with the same time the following year.

The subtext of Bright's statement is not only a dissatisfaction with the result of the EU referendum, but the process of the vote itself. It voices a concern heard many times since the vote that a referendum is far too simple a process for a desicion of such momentous consequences. She also draws on the gaping hole between people's voting intentions and the policy that is implemented.

This is particularly troubling when the competitive nature of multilateral bargaining allows the government to keep its cards close to its chest on critical issues such as freedom of movement and trade agreements. Bright insists that this, “is not a democratic process at all”.

“We want to positively say that there does need to be scrutiny and transparency, and an opening up of this question, not just a rushing through on the royal prerogative,” she adds. “There needs to be transparency in everything that is being negotiated and discussed in the public realm.”

For campaigners, the use of royal prerogative is a sinister symbol of the government deciding whatever it likes, without consulting Parliament or voters, during the future Brexit negotiations. A ruling in the Supreme Court in favour of a parliamentary vote would present a small but important reassurance against these fears.