Events continued to surprise me yesterday and today in the hacking scandal. I didn’t expect Met Commissioner Stephenson to stand down, but he did. After that I shouldn’t have been surprised when Yates went, but I was.
Two people have gone for hiring Neil Wallis: a man who hasn’t yet even been charged let alone convicted of any wrong doing. As such I am unsure I will be celebrating: two senior police officers were in charge of an organisation facing serious allegations over corruption and they resign not over that but over who they hired to handle Public Relations. Something seems wrong here to me.
More interestingly, two people have stood down for hiring someone considered toxic due to their association with the News of the World, but someone who hired his boss remains in post.
For the first time since the start of the scandal I am seriously wondering if Cameron can survive this.
On balance I come to the conclusion that he can. There are several reasons:
- No Tory will wield the knife. I don’t think all the Conservative party are even sure there is a problem with Cameron having hired Coulson.
- Following on from that there isn’t an obvious successor. A piece by Henry G Manson on political betting examined the possible successors. When the best bet looks like Hague I’d imagine most Tories would like to sit and wait for bit. See my PS for an example.
- It isn’t a confidence issue, and the Liberal Democrats are quite enjoying Cameron being a bit inconvenienced. I can’t see how Labour can drive a wedge between the coalition here: the crude attempt to last week was undermined by sensible reactions from the government in agreeing to the motion.
- Cameron hasn’t broken the law or been caught doing anything wrong personally. Spin doctors are dodgy: don’t forget that Malcolm Tucker rang true to the Labour spin machine. I would question his judgement in appointing Coulson but that is hardly a resignation issue for the PM.
- The scandal includes Labour too, and no amount of whitewash can remove that fact.
- Least significantly the scandal is blowing itself out: given the failure of Gordon Brown’s accusations to stick to the Sun it appears that it hasn’t spread to other papers. The flip side of this claim is that we haven’t gone even two days without something significant happening if you include the resignations. (I also ought to add that although the obtaining medical information part has been rejected, I don’t recall the blagging of financial details being dealt with: did I miss this or has this been (tacitly) accepted by the Sun?)
What might change this? If Coulson is charged or convicted then it might be a different matter. At that point number 3 and 4 begin to look shaky.
However I am now actually thinking about it which I wasn’t on Friday.
Post Script: If you need to cheer yourself up try saying “The Prime Minsister, Michael Gove”…