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Sunday, September 05, 2010

Hague to jump ship and Coulson to face Cameron on Thursday

Hague to jump ship and Coulson to face Cameron on Thursday

Jump ship: The Prime Minister could face the problem of William Hague leaving politics after his denial of a relationship with aide Christopher Myers

The Prime Minister faces two big problems when he returns to work on Thursday. Namely, his Communications Director Andy Coulson and the Foreign Secretary, William Hague.

Can Coulson survive warmed-up old allegations that, while editor of the News of the World, he authorised reporters to hack into the mobile phones of royals, celebrities and politicians?

Will Hague jump ship, and leave politics altogether - thus endangering the coalition - after his extraordinary denial of an improper relationship with a 25-year-old aide, Christopher Myers, backfired and he is almost universally accused of poor judgment?

The removal of either would be a blow to Cameron's authority, no mistake. But would it be the end of the world?

Education minister Michael Gove, who is close to Cameron, suggested on TV yesterday that senior Tories were relaxed about the Coulson allegations.

He said Coulson - who resigned as News of the World editor when the phone hacking scandal came to light - had already been cleared by a Commons select committee and the police.

Without going into murky detail, he suggested the story had been dredged up again by the New York Times because of its rivalry in the U.S. with Rupert Murdoch, who controls the News of the World. (There might be something in this. I can't remember the last time the New York Times published an investigative article about British politics, and it certainly fears Murdoch)

It's possible that enough new angles might be found by The Guardian - which seems to be working in cahoots with the New York Times - to keep the story running, especially if it's found that Scotland Yard conspired with the News of the World to limit the hacking investigation.

But most people will conclude that all the self-righteous bluster, largely from disenfranchised Labour ministers, MPs and their media allies, is just another stick with which to beat the hated Tory-Lib Dem coalition.

Under fire: David Cameron's communications chief Andy Coulson faces allegations he authorised phone hacking as News of the World editor

It's possible Coulson might be forced out, but is this a major problem for Cameron? Not really. he can't be blamed for hiring a man who'd taken responsibility for the actions of others - and been cleared by a Commons committee and the police.

As for losing such a senior member of staff, Coulson's main job was getting Cameron into No 10, so his departure, even if it was unwarranted, would not be a disaster. I doubt if the shrewd ex-editor will starve if he has to leave Cameron's employ.

Neither is William Hague such a big problem. his astonishing statement - mentioning the failed pregnancies of his wife, Ffion, instead of trying to explain why he shared hotel rooms with his male aide - puts him in the same 'damaged goods' category as former Tory high-flier David Davis, who resigned pointlessly as shadow home secretary over what he saw as a matter of principle, but the party leadership felt was a rush of blood to the head.

There is more sympathy for Hague, true, but that doesn't get you very far in politics. especially as new details of his travels with Myers come to light - he's now reported to have taken the former driver he hired as a £30,000 assistant (his third) to Afghanistan, with a two-night stop in Bahrain.

If Hague does quit, the reason might be his realisation that he's going no further in politics. even if Cameron fell under a bus, the party isn't going to send for William any more. To that extent his departure might be a relief to Cameron. Gove described Hague yesterday as 'a real asset', which some might construe as damning by faint praise.

The Coalition faces great storms if it is going to last the five years over which Cameron and Nick Clegg have agreed to co-operate, but I don't think the departure Coulson or Hague, even on the same day, will trigger its collapse.

That'll only happen if we wake up one day and realise that splicing and dicing Tory and lib Dem policies and principles hasn't produced a Government we can trust which is improving our lives in any measureable way.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Ah but has Murdoch made his mind up yet?
When interviewed by Fox News (yes I know!!!) he refused to comment.