The British press, playing catch up to the New York Times, is understandably focused on the fate of Andy Coulson, David Cameron’s communications chief, when it comes to the story of News of the World phone tapping. But the really interesting element of the NYT investigation is the very close relationship between the Met and News International. A mutually beneficial pattern is described, when the NotW gets a crime scoop, makes a show of handing the details to the police, and then writes up a fawning account of the police operation the following week.
As it happens, I just bumped into John Prescott in the House of Lords. He was pointing out that the key to this story for him is less Coulson’s future and much more that relationship between the police and the Murdoch outlets. And he singled out Andy Hayman — the former head of counter-terrorism and intelligence at the Met who was involved in covering up the circumstances surrounding the death of Jean Charles de Menezes — saying he should have been warning ministers about the phone tapping. He compared, too, the enthusiasm with which the Met persued Tony Blair’s Downing Street over the honours scandal, with the apparently slow start to a proper investigation of the NotW claims.
This is a key passage from the NYT investigation:
Scotland Yard also had a symbiotic relationship with News of the World. The police sometimes built high-profile cases out of the paper’s exclusives, and News of the World reciprocated with fawning stories of arrests.
Within days of the raids, several senior detectives said they began feeling internal pressure. One senior investigator said he was approached by Chris Webb, from the department’s press office, who was “waving his arms up in the air, saying, ‘Wait a minute — let’s talk about this.’ ” The investigator, who has since left Scotland Yard, added that Webb stressed the department’s “long-term relationship with News International.”