Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Coulson does a Hague

I have decided to invent a new term.  I’m hoping that it will enter mainstream use, perhaps through the initial medium of word of mouth and then into some internet lexicon of frequently used terms, before becoming as popular as the use of the word ‘gate’ after any political scandal.

The phrase will be ‘to do a Hague’. From now on, this will refer to someone who doesn’t think through their actions, despite having every reason to do so. It could refer also to those caught between twin accusations – perhaps that of someone accused of either abuse of a position of power, or incompetence for not having identified a potential conflict of interest.  Maybe there could be a verb form – ‘You’ve been Hagued’.

After my discussion yesterday of the issues that have affected William Hague and his quite extraordinary statement responding to media whispers about his homosexuality, the foreign secretary must surely be glad that it is someone else’s turn in the spotlight.

It seems as though Number 10 communications chief Andy Coulson, former editor of the News of the World, may be questioned again over his role in a 2007 scandal in which royal editor Clive Goodman was jailed for conspiracy to access phone messages left for royal aides.

Coulson maintains, as he has always done, that he had no knowledge of Goodman’s actions.  Indeed, no evidence has ever suggested differently and he has received the full backing of the office of the Prime Minister.  However, without Cameron’s heavyweight presence at the helm due to his paternity leave, the rumours about Coulson’s role in the matter have persisted like a bad smell, prompting Shadow Education Secretary Ed Balls to state earlier this week that Coulson's role at the heart of Number 10 meant that the government's 'integrity' was under question.

For me, Coulson has done a Hague.  While he may well be correct in his assertion that he did not order or have knowledge of Goodman’s activities, the unfortunate question remains of why he did not know what his own staff were doing.  From the detail in the stories that would surely have resulted from such phone tapping, can Coulson not have wondered about the sources of such information?  Should he not have made more effort to find out?

Days pass, the media focus remains and it seems increasingly likely that Coulson will be questioned by Metropolitan Police Assistant Commissioner John Yates about his role in the events that took place three years ago.  Despite their vocal public support, senior Conservatives may well be beginning to get twitchy.  The coalition has quietly built up a decent amount of political capital in the first hundred days since its inception, but Cameron has spoken in the past of 'returning integrity' to government, and with each passing day, Coulson is becoming more and more dirty by proximity.  He will fervently hope that he is not the first high-profile figure to be sent to the coalition’s sacrificial altar.

Share your thoughts in the comments.

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