Thursday, July 07, 2011

David Cameron, Andy Coulson, Rebekah Brooks & the Chipping Norton set

So what about David Cameron, Andy Coulson, Rebekah Brooks & "The Chipping Norton" set?

There are defining moments when a spotlight is shone into a world and all of a sudden everything is seen in brutal the lights going up in the nightclub so everyone can see who it is they've been dancing with then trudge bleary eyed to the exit shaking their heads. Northern Rock and Lehman Brothers brought the suicidally greedy, debt-addicted bankers to their senses, the MPs expenses scandal presented us with a scandal that was beyond parody as we saw how the noses were in the troughs. This News of the World scandal may well be the a watershed for journalism but it may also be a defining moment in how politicians cosy up to the media.

This is not a party political point. Labour were almost as bad as the Conservatives (I say "almost" because Labour have had John Prescott & Alistair Campbell shouting from the rooftops about press corruption for years whilst David Cameron invited Andy Coulson into the inner sanctum when he was fresh from resigning after the original hacking scandal). The Andy Coulson appointment underlines how desperate politicians are to get on the right side of the media (and News International in particular). Reading this piece in the Telegraph makes you realise how much Cameron is thick as thieves with Rebekah Brooks & Andy Coulson

David Cameron, who has returned from Afghanistan as a profoundly damaged figure, now faces exactly such a crisis. The series of disgusting revelations concerning his friends and associates from Rupert Murdoch's News International has permanently and irrevocably damaged his reputation.

Until now it has been easy to argue that Mr Cameron was properly grounded with a decent set of values. Unfortunately, it is impossible to make that assertion any longer. He has made not one, but a long succession of chronic personal misjudgments.

He should never have employed Andy Coulson, the News of the World editor, as his director of communications. He should never have cultivated Rupert Murdoch. And – the worst mistake of all – he should never have allowed himself to become a close friend of Rebekah Brooks, the chief executive of the media giant News International, whose departure from that company in shame and disgrace can only be a matter of time.

It was called the Chipping Norton set, an incestuous collection of louche, affluent, power-hungry and amoral Londoners, located in and around the Prime Minister's Oxfordshire constituency. Brooks and her husband, the former racing trainer Charlie Brooks, live in a house scarcely a mile from David and Samantha Cameron's constituency home. The two couples meet frequently, and have continued to do so long after the phone hacking scandal became well known.

PR fixer Matthew Freud, married to Mr Murdoch's daughter Elisabeth, is another member of this Chipping Norton set. When Mr Cameron bumped into Freud at Rebekah Brooks's wedding two years ago, he and Mr Freud greeted each other with exuberant high-fives to signal their exclusive friendship.

The Prime Minister cannot claim in defence that he was naively drawn in to this lethal circle. He was warned – many times. Shortly before the last election he was explicitly told about the company he was keeping. Alan Rusbridger – editor of The Guardian newspaper, which has performed such a wonderful service to public decency by bringing to light the shattering depravity of Mr Murdoch's newspaper empire – went to meet one of Mr Cameron's closest advisers shortly before the last election. He briefed this adviser very carefully about Mr Coulson, telling him many troubling pieces of information that could not then be put into the public domain.

Mr Rusbridger then went to see Nick Clegg, now the deputy prime minister. So Mr Cameron and Mr Clegg – the Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister – knew all about Mr Coulson before last May's coalition negotiations. And yet they both paid no attention and went on to make him the Downing Street director of communications, an indiscretion that beggars belief.

So the Prime Minister is in a mess. To put the matter rather more graphically, he is in a sewer. The question is this: how does he crawl out and salvage at least some of his reputation for decency and good judgment? This is a potentially deadly moment. If the Prime Minister plays his cards wrong, his public image will change in a matter of a few days. From a popular and respected national leader, he will come to be defined by his ill-judged friendship with the Chipping Norton set. This kind of personal degradation has happened before. By the end, Harold Wilson was irreparably damaged by his friendship with dodgy businessmen such as the raincoat manufacturer Lord Kagan. The Macmillan premiership fell apart under the weight of revelation from Lord Astor's Cliveden set.

Pretty harsh stuff coming from the most staunch of the Tory press.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Cameron is a rat. He deserves to drown in this sewer of shit along with his 'fag' Osbourne and all the other tory turds.