After Wednesday’s remarkable New York Times investigation into phone-hacking at the News of the World, which suggested that the former editor and now No 10 communications director, Andy Coulson, had “actively encouraged” the practice, come fresh revelations from the Labour MP Tessa Jowell, who says her mobile phone was tapped at least 28 times during the period she served as a cabinet minister in the last government.
Jowell told the Independent:
I know I was tapped 28 times by May 2006 because the police told me. I had a call when I was on holiday in August 2006 from the Met to say that I had been tapped, but they asked me to do nothing except increase the security on my phone. Later, they came back to me and said I wouldn’t need to be a witness in this case. I also had a call from Vodafone about improving security.
Meanwhile, Jowell’s former cabinet colleague John Prescott intends to seek a judicial review to establish if his phone was hacked while he was in government. Prescott was not satisfied by the results of a Scotland Yard investigation into the affair, which concluded that there was “no evidence” that his phone had been hacked.
Yesterday, Alan Johnson added to the clamour for action, arguing that Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constablulary should review the Metropolitan Police’s investigation of the case. Such calls are, predictably, being given short shrift by the government. Making a connection between this affair and the case of the Foreign Secretary William Hague, Duncan said last night on BBC Radio 4’s Any Questions that “things are getting ramped up in the media based on rumour and innuendo and, as in the William Hague case, I don’t think it’s acceptable in this case. And unless anybody comes forward with any clear evidence this is not something that should be pursued.”
That’s certainly the line emanating from No 10 itself. The BBC’s Gary O’Donoghue reports that a “very senior source in the government” has insisted to him that Coulson’s position safe. “Andy is going nowhere,” the source said.
One wonders, though, how long they can hold the line. As my colleague George Eaton argued earlier in the week, “If Coulson did know about the phone-hacking then he’s too wicked to be the Tories’ spin chief, and if he didn’t know then he’s too stupid to be the Tories’ spin chief.”