New phone-hacking questions for Coulson

Tory spin chief said to have "personally listened" to hacked phone messages.

Just in time for the Conservative conference, come yet more revelations about the News of the World phone-hacking scandal and Tory spin chief Andy Coulson's alleged role in it.

Coulson maintains that he had no knowledge of the affair and that the former royal editor Clive Goodman, jailed in 2007 for hacking into the phones of royal staff, was the only reporter involved. But this "rotten apples" excuse is rather undermined by a new finding from tonight's Channel Four Dispatches investigation.

A former senior NoW journalist reveals that Coulson personally listened to intercepted voicemail messages. He tells the programme:

Sometimes, they would say: 'We've got a recording' and Andy would say: 'OK, bring it into my office and play it to me' or 'Bring me, email me a transcript of it.'

It's never good news for a spin doctor when they become the story and the idea that Coulson, then NoW editor, was one of the few people at the paper who didn't know about the scandal is risible. In any case, as I've argued before, if Coulson did know then he's too wicked to stay in his post, and if he didn't know then he's too stupid.

Tonight's programme is presented by Peter Oborne, formerly of the Daily Mail and now chief political commentator of the Daily Telegraph, which should give it some real bite. Oborne, one of David Cameron's strongest supporters on Fleet Street, can't be dismissed as a partisan hack or a Labour lackey.

For now, the media's focus is rightly on Osborne's cuts but you do sense that Coulson is living on borrowed time.

UPDATE: Courtesy of Tweetminister, you can hear a preview of tonight's programme from Peter Oborne by clicking below.

Listen!

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

Getty
Show Hide image

An alternative Trainspotting script for John Humphrys’ Radio 4 “Choose Life” tribute

Born chippy.

Your mole often has Radio 4’s Today programme babbling away comfortingly in the background while emerging blinking from the burrow. So imagine its horror this morning, when the BBC decided to sully this listening experience with John Humphrys doing the “Choose Life” monologue from Trainspotting.

“I chose not to choose life: I chose something else. And the reasons? There are no reasons. Who needs reasons when you’ve got Radio 4?” he concluded, as a nation cringed.

Introduced as someone who has “taken issue with modernity”, Humphrys launched into the film character Renton’s iconic rant against the banality of modern life.

But Humphrys’ role as in-studio curmudgeon is neither endearing nor amusing to this mole. Often tasked with stories about modern technology and digital culture by supposedly mischievous editors, Humphrys sounds increasingly cranky and ill-informed. It doesn’t exactly make for enlightening interviews. So your mole has tampered with the script. Here’s what he should have said:

“Choose life. Choose a job and then never retire, ever. Choose a career defined by growling and scoffing. Choose crashing the pips three mornings out of five. Choose a fucking long contract. Choose interrupting your co-hosts, politicians, religious leaders and children. Choose sitting across the desk from Justin Webb at 7.20 wondering what you’re doing with your life. Choose confusion about why Thought for the Day is still a thing. Choose hogging political interviews. Choose anxiety about whether Jim Naughtie’s departure means there’s dwindling demand for grouchy old men on flagship political radio shows. Choose a staunch commitment to misunderstanding stories about video games and emoji. Choose doing those stories anyway. Choose turning on the radio and wondering why the fuck you aren’t on on a Sunday morning as well. Choose sitting on that black leather chair hosting mind-numbing spirit-crushing game shows (Mastermind). Choose going over time at the end of it all, pishing your last few seconds on needlessly combative questions, nothing more than an obstacle to that day’s editors being credited. Choose your future. Choose life . . .”

I'm a mole, innit.