Andy Coulson, David Cameron’s former director of communications, has been arrested and charged with perjury as part of the Strathclyde police investigation into evidence given at the Tommy Sheridan trial in 2010. Coulson who was called as a witness by Tommy Sheridan during his perjury trial denied in court knowing anything about a culture of phone hacking at the News of the World when he was editor or payments to corrupt police officers. “I don’t accept there was a culture of phone hacking at the NoW. There was a very unfortunate, to put it mildly, case involving Clive Goodman. No one was more sorry about it than me; that’s why I resigned.”
He went on to say,”All I can tell you is that, as far as my reporters are concerned, the instructions were very clear: they were to work within the law and within the PCC [Press Complaints Commission] code. It’s in their handbooks.”
Bob Bird, the Scottish editor of the NoW also said in court he knew nothing about the hacking of Tommy Sheridan’s phone by Glenn Mulcaire (the private detective used by the NoW) or any other surveillance methods used by the NoW. He also claimed he could not find email correspondance between the NoW and Glenn Mulcaire about the investigation that the paper did into Tommy Sheridan. Bird said they had been “shipped off to Mumbai”. This turned out to be a lie.
Within a few months of giving this so-called evidence the “industrial scale” phone-hacking scandal broke in all its ferocity following the Milly Dowler revelations. Coulson resigned as Cameron’s spin doctor and by July 2011 the toxic News of the World had been forced to close after 168 years of publication.
Coulson’s arrest is a disaster for Cameron who has been desperate to distance himself from Murdochgate. Coulson was his in his employ when he gave his dodgy evidence in Tommy Sheridan’s trial. His government is currently under siege for their obvious support for Murdoch and his bid to take 100% control of BskyB. Jeremy Hunt, the Tory culture secretary claimed he was only “sympathetic” to Murdoch’s bid, in reality he was placed in post following Vince Cable’s resignation to try to ensure that the bid was passed.
The fallout from Murdochgate included the resignation of the head and deputy head of the Metropolitan police who were exposed as having helped cover- up widespread criminality at News International. Under mass public pressure Cameron was forced to sanction the Leveson enquiry. There are also three separate enquiries by the Met police into aspects of the phone-hacking scandal, including one looking at payments by journalists to corrupt police officers.
Labour MP Tom Watson, who has played an heroic role in helping to expose the rotten and corrupt practices of the Murdoch empire (see the review of his book Dial M for Murdoch) travelled to Scotland to hand in a dossier to Strathclyde police in 2011. The information contained within it led to the setting up of Operation Rubicon which has seen 50 police officers investigating possible perjury by witnesses during Tommy’s trial, evidence of phone-hacking in Scotland, data protection breaches including email hacking and possible payments to police officers.
It is this operation that has led to the arrest and charging of Andy Coulson after being detained by police at his home in London and driven to Glasgow to Govan police station. It will now be up to the Scottish Crown office to decide whether to proceed with a perjury trial.
Tommy Sheridan who has fought a titanic battle with the News of the World over the past six years, which included a 2006 defamation victory over the now defunct paper said: “We were led to believe by Mr Coulson and his acolytes at News International during my trial and the initial phone hacking investigations that the problem was a rogue reporter. It’s the equivalent of the bad apple in the barrel. Well I think we all know now there is no bad apple in the barrel, what there is, is a rotten orchard full of bad apples. We now have a start to what will hopefully become criminal charges and hopefully Mr Coulson won’t be lonely, but he’ll be joined by colleagues in the future”
His solicitor, Gordon Dangerfield, added: “We have very strong grounds of appeal and will be lodging a full appeal in due course. We believe that when the whole truth comes out, the public will be given an entirely new perspective on what the Tommy Sheridan trial was really about. It is safe to say that many people will have their eyes opened for the first time.”
Tom Watson said “Tommy Sheridan was convicted on an 8 to 6 verdict of a jury in a Scottish court. Mr Sheridan lost his liberty and is still the subject of restrictions on his movement. The detention of Andy Coulson further highlights why Mr Sheridan’s conviction was unsound. It is now abundantly clear that members of the jury were not in full possession of the facts. If they knew what the police now know, It seems impossible not to conclude that Mr Sheridan would be a free man. His conviction should be urgently reviewed. And if the first minister has any honour, he would launch an immediate inquiry into illicit information techniques practiced by News International’s employees in Scotland.”
The aforementioned first minister, Alex Salmond, has been largely silent over the scandalous actions by Murdoch and News International. He even wrote an article for the first edition of the newly launched Sun on Sunday earlier this year. Salmond is the only politician in the Western world who has maintained a close relationship with the pariah Murdoch – including inviting him round to his official residence for tea and biscuits a few months ago.
End the vendetta
The Socialist Party has consistently opposed the political vendetta faced by Tommy Sheridan and his family and supporters.
The Tommy Sheridan perjury conviction hinged on the unprecedented decision by the Scottish Crown to pursue an inquiry following Tommy’s 2006 defamation victory over the NoW. Lothian and Borders police carried out that inquiry and millions was spent trying to secure a politically-driven conviction of Tommy Sheridan who was a key leader of the mass anti-poll tax movement that ended the career of the iron lady Margaret Thatcher in the early 1990’s.
Andy Coulson and other News International figures gave evidence that subsequently has been proved to be false.
The conviction against Tommy Sheridan is indeed unsafe and unsound and should be overturned. A full trade union-led public investigation should also be carried out into this political vendetta against one of Scotland’s leading socialists.