Murdoch and the Big Lie | openDemocracy
The story seems to be this, drawn from Dial M for Murdoch (pp. 107-10, 167-181). After Cameron had put Andy Coulson in charge of his press and media operation in 2007, it emerged that as Editor of News of the World Coulson had employed Jonathan Rees.
Back in 1989 Rees was a partner with Daniel Morgan running a private detective agency. Apparently Morgan was concerned about Rees’ connections to corrupt police. After having a drink with Rees in a pub Morgan was murdered. Rees denied he was responsible. He went on to run a lucrative business obtaining stories while the police were suspicious and began to bug him. They recorded him saying “No one pays like the News of the World” and, more important, discovered that he was planning to plant cocaine on someone to fit her up. After he did so, he was charged with perverting the course of justice and given a seven-year sentence in 2000. Released in 2005 he was promptly re-employed by… Andy Coulson at the News of the World.
Meanwhile the police were convinced that he had murdered Morgan and put him on trial, charging him and three others in 2008. By this time Coulson was working for Cameron in his office as leader of the opposition. The case eventually collapsed in March 2011 after the police spent £50 million, as the defence undid incompetent paperwork stretching back 20 years. But between 2008 and 2011, although it had emerged that Coulson had employed and used Rees, he could not be named because of the trial. Soon after the case collapsed Tom Watson learned that Rees, “had – using a variety of methods including blagging, corruption and burglary – illegally acquired personal data about royalty, leading politicians and other senior members of the establishment on behalf of News of the World and other red-top newspapers”.
The really important aspect of this story is that a shudder went through the political class in late 2009-2010 as they learnt about Coulson re-employing a known convict of Rees’ calibre. This was the moment when it became clear to our official opinion formers in all parties, newspapers and departments, that what was going on at News International respected no bounds and went well past the hacking of celebrities and minor royals. The story could not be told in public for risk of contempt of court while the murder trial dragged on. But something could and should be done. It was evident that Cameron was likely to become Prime Minister. He had to be warned: employing Coulson was no longer a matter of giving a “second chance” to a man who denied knowledge of phone hacking. Coulson had used a known heavy-duty bad guy with a criminal record to benefit from further extensive illegality and must not be allowed into No 10.
There is something marvellously English about it. A line of people who loathed Cameron felt it was their absolute duty to warn him for the good of the country, even if it would strengthen his claim on office should he indeed shed Coulson on winning the election.