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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John McDonnell praises New Labour as he enters conciliatory mode

The shadow chancellor sought to build a bridge between the past and the present by crediting the 1997 government. 

Ever since Jeremy Corbyn became Labour leader, John McDonnell has been on a mission to reinvent himself as a kinder, gentler politician. He hasn’t always succeeded. In July, the shadow chancellor declared of rebel MPs: “As plotters they were fucking useless”.

But in his Labour conference speech, Corbyn’s closest ally was firmly in conciliatory mode. McDonnell thanked Owen Smith for his part in defeating the Personal Independence Payment cuts. He praised Caroline Flint, with whom he has clashed, for her amendment to the financial bill on corporate tax transparency. Jonathan Reynolds, who will soon return to the frontbench, was credited for the “patriots pay their taxes” campaign (the latter two not mentioned in the original text).

McDonnell’s ecunmenicism didn’t end here. The 1997 Labour government, against which he and Corbyn so often defined themselves, was praised for its introduction of the minimum wage (though McDonnell couldn’t quite bring himself to mention Tony Blair). Promising a “real Living Wage” of around £10 per hour, the shadow chancellor sought to build a bridge between the past and the present. Though he couldn’t resist adding some red water as he closed: “In this party you no longer have to whisper it, it's called socialism. Solidarity!”

As a rebuke to those who accuse him of seeking power in the party, not the country, McDonnell spoke relentlessly of what the next Labour “government” would do. He promised a £250bn National Investment Bank, a “Right to Own” for employees, the repeal of the Trade Union Act and declared himself “interested” in the potential of a Universal Basic Income. It was a decidedly wonkish speech, free of the attack lines and jokes that others serve up.

One of the more striking passages was on McDonnell’s personal story (a recurring feature of Labour speeches since Sadiq Khan’s mayoral victory). “I was born in the city [Liverpool], not far from here,” he recalled. “My dad was a Liverpool docker and my mum was a cleaner who then served behind the counter at British Homes Stores for 30 years. I was part of the 1960's generation.  We lived in what sociological studies have described as some of the worst housing conditions that exist within this country. We just called it home.”

In his peroration, he declared: “In the birthplace of John Lennon, it falls to us to inspire people to imagine.” Most Labour MPs believe that a government led by Corbyn and McDonnell will remain just that: imaginary. “You may say I'm a dreamer. But I'm not the only one,” the shadow chancellor could have countered. With his praise for New Labour, he began the work of forging his party’s own brotherhood of man.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.