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.


George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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It's Gary Lineker 1, the Sun 0

The football hero has found himself at the heart of a Twitter storm over the refugee children debate.

The Mole wonders what sort of topsy-turvy universe we now live in where Gary Lineker is suddenly being called a “political activist” by a Conservative MP? Our favourite big-eared football pundit has found himself in a war of words with the Sun newspaper after wading into the controversy over the age of the refugee children granted entry into Britain from Calais.

Pictures published earlier this week in the right-wing press prompted speculation over the migrants' “true age”, and a Tory MP even went as far as suggesting that these children should have their age verified by dental X-rays. All of which leaves your poor Mole with a deeply furrowed brow. But luckily the British Dental Association was on hand to condemn the idea as unethical, inaccurate and inappropriate. Phew. Thank God for dentists.

Back to old Big Ears, sorry, Saint Gary, who on Wednesday tweeted his outrage over the Murdoch-owned newspaper’s scaremongering coverage of the story. He smacked down the ex-English Defence League leader, Tommy Robinson, in a single tweet, calling him a “racist idiot”, and went on to defend his right to express his opinions freely on his feed.

The Sun hit back in traditional form, calling for Lineker to be ousted from his job as host of the BBC’s Match of the Day. The headline they chose? “Out on his ears”, of course, referring to the sporting hero’s most notable assets. In the article, the tabloid lays into Lineker, branding him a “leftie luvvie” and “jug-eared”. The article attacked him for describing those querying the age of the young migrants as “hideously racist” and suggested he had breached BBC guidelines on impartiality.

All of which has prompted calls for a boycott of the Sun and an outpouring of support for Lineker on Twitter. His fellow football hero Stan Collymore waded in, tweeting that he was on “Team Lineker”. Leading the charge against the Murdoch-owned title was the close ally of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and former Channel 4 News economics editor, Paul Mason, who tweeted:

Lineker, who is not accustomed to finding himself at the centre of such highly politicised arguments on social media, responded with typical good humour, saying he had received a bit of a “spanking”.

All of which leaves the Mole with renewed respect for Lineker and an uncharacteristic desire to watch this weekend’s Match of the Day to see if any trace of his new activist persona might surface.


I'm a mole, innit.