A new bombshell in the phone hacking scandal

Former NoW royal editor Clive Goodman alleges that phone hacking was "widely discussed" at editorial

Just when you thought the phone hacking scandal had reached a lull, Clive Goodman's bombshell of a letter turns up. The letter (which you can read here) was released this afternoon by the DCMS select committee and is potentially devastating for Andy Coulson's defence. Goodman alleges that phone hacking was "widely discussed" at editorial meetings until Coulson banned "explicit reference" to it; that Coulson offered to let him keep his job if he did not "implicate" the paper; and that his own hacking was carried out with the "full knowledge and support" of other senior NoW journalists (whose names have been redacted at the request of Scotland Yard). It's yet more evidence of a gigantic cover up.

Goodman's missive could also prove disastrous for Murdoch consigliere Les Hinton, who received a copy but failed to pass it to the police, and who told the select committee just days later (on 6 March 2007) that the tabloid's former royal editor was "the only person" involved in phone hacking. The letter, which is addressed to News International's director of human resources, Daniel Cloke, is dated 2 March 2007 and was sent shortly after Goodman had served a four-month prison sentence for phone hacking. It was intended as an appeal against Hinton's decision to dismiss him for "gross misconduct".

Significantly, as the Guardian's Nick Davies reports, two versions of Goodman's letter were supplied to the committee. One, supplied by law firm Harbottle & Lewis, was redacted to remove the names of NoW journalists, at the police's request. The other, which was supplied by News International, was redacted to also remove all references to hacking being discussed at editorial meetings.

There's also more bad news for the Murdochs themselves. In a separate letter, Harbottle & Lewis criticises the pair's evidence to the select committee as "hard to credit" and "self-serving". The law firm points out that its investigation was limited to whether Goodman hacked phones with the knowledge of other journalists, not whether "general" criminality took place at the tabloid. Thus, it was dishonest of the Murdochs to present a letter from the firm as evidence that News International had received a clean bill of health.

The select committee, which accurately described the evidence as "devastating", has said that James Murdoch is "likely" to be recalled but that Rupert Murdoch is not. In an allusion to Murdoch senior's ignorance and/or amnesia, Tom Watson said that the "devil is in the detail".

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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Rarely has it mattered so little if Manchester United won; rarely has it been so special they did

Team's Europa League victory offers chance for sorely needed celebration of a city's spirit.

Carlo Ancelotti, the Bayern Munich manager, memorably once said that football is “the most important of the least important things”, but he was only partly right. While it is absolutely the case that a bunch of people chasing around a field is insignificant, a bunch of people chasing around a field is not really what football is about.

At a football match can you set aside the strictures that govern real life and freely scream, shout and cuddle strangers. Football tracks life with such unfailing omnipresence, garnishing the mundane with regular doses of drama and suspense; football is amazing, and even when it isn’t there’s always the possibility that it’s about to be.

Football bestows primal paroxysms of intense, transcendent ecstasy, shared both with people who mean everything and people who mean nothing. Football carves out time for people it's important to see and delivers people it becomes important to see. Football is a structure with folklore, mythology, language and symbols; being part of football is being part of something big, special, and eternal. Football is the best thing in the world when things go well, and still the best thing in the world when they don’t. There is nothing remotely like it. Nothing.

Football is about community and identity, friends and family; football is about expression and abandon, laughter and song; football is about love and pride. Football is about all the beauty in the world.

And the world is a beautiful place, even though it doesn’t always seem that way – now especially. But in the horror of terror we’ve seen amazing kindness, uplifting unity and awesome dignity which is the absolute point of everything.

In Stockholm last night, 50,000 or so people gathered for a football match, trying to find a way of celebrating all of these things. Around town before the game the atmosphere was not as boisterous as usual, but in the ground the old conviction gradually returned. The PA played Bob Marley’s Three Little Birds, an Ajax staple with lyrics not entirely appropriate: there is plenty about which to worry, and for some every little thing is never going to be alright.

But somehow the sentiment felt right and the Mancunian contingent joined in with gusto, following it up with “We’ll never die,” – a song of defiance born from the ashes of the Munich air disaster and generally aired at the end of games, often when defeat is imminent. Last night it was needed from the outset, though this time its final line – “we’ll keep the red flag flying high, coz Man United will never die" – was not about a football team but a city, a spirit, and a way of life. 

Over the course of the night, every burst of song and even the minute's silence chorused with that theme: “Manchester, Manchester, Manchester”; “Manchester la la la”; “Oh Manchester is wonderful”. Sparse and simple words, layered and complex meanings.

The match itself was a curious affair. Rarely has it mattered so little whether or not United won; rarely has it been so special that they did. Manchester United do not represent or appeal to everyone in Manchester but they epitomise a similar brilliance to Manchester, brilliance which they take to the world. Brilliance like youthfulness, toughness, swagger and zest; brilliance which has been to the fore these last three days, despite it all.

Last night they drew upon their most prosaic aspects, outfighting and outrunning a willing but callow opponent to win the only trophy to have eluded them. They did not make things better, but they did bring happiness and positivity at a time when happiness and positivity needed to be brought; football is not “the most important of the least important things,” it is the least important of the most important things.

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