Hacked Off – The Met and the Tories

The latest scandal to hit British politics is the widespread alleged wire(less) tapping of phones by News International (Rupert Murdoch’s) News of the World (NoW).

The political dimension is focused on the Tories – their Communication supremo Andy Coulson is the former Editor of the NoW who resigned over – the same allegations.

There are two public administration dimensions to this – both involving the police.

The first is why the Metropolitan (London) Police and concluded there is no point in further investigations because, although there is evidence the NoW commissioned the tapping of 3,000 or more phones of politicians and celebrities, they don’t have enough evidence of the actual tapping taking place, which is a crime.

This is a curious position. It has long been a crime in the UK to conspire to commit a criminal act even if the act itself is never actually committed. It used to be used against trade unionists and others. The now famous actor Ricky Tomlinson was jailed back in the 1970s during the building workers strike on conspiracy charges. More recently, conspiracy charges are frequently brought against terrorism suspects. So why should the newspapers be exempt? This is a puzzling. Are newspapers to be treated differently to trade unionists and terrorists? And if so, why?

The second question is: might it have anything to do with the fact that in this case pursuing conspiracy charges would almost inevitably lead to the need to question Andy Coulson and thereby another confrontation with the Tory hierarchy? The Met has just lost a Commissioner, effectively sacked by the incoming Tory Mayor of London, Boris Johnson. They were savaged over their decision to investigate Tory front-bench immigration spokesperson Damian Green. Might that be affecting the Met’s reticence to embark on a course of action that would probably bring them into another clash with the Tory party, the probable next government?

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