David Cameron’s headache just got worse. As I noted yesterday, the British prime minister’s closeness to the now-disgraced News of the World — and News International more generally — will inevitably lead to members on the opposition benches trying to tie him to the scandal. Those who would do so just got a shot in the arm, with the news that Andy Coulson, former News of the World editor and Cameron’s director of communications from 2007–2011, was arrested this morning on suspicion of phone hacking and corruption. According to the New York Times:
LONDON — British police arrested a former editor of The News of the World tabloid on Friday who had also been a senior aide to Prime Minister David Cameron, deepening the crisis swirling around Rupert Murdoch’s news empire over allegations of phone hacking and corruption.
Struggling to contain the biggest scandal since he took office more than a year ago, Mr. Cameron announced two separate inquiries into the revelations, saying “no stone will be left unturned.”
In a statement, Scotland Yard said Andy Coulson, Mr. Cameron’s former director of communications, had been interviewed at a police station in south London and was “currently in custody.”
While his arrest had been expected, it brought a new dimension to the scandal, turning it from one of claim and counter-claim to a question of criminal charges.
A police statement said the former editor had been arrested “on suspicion of conspiring to intercept communications” and “on suspicion of corruption allegations.” It said he had been interviewed by officers investigating illegal payments to corrupt police officers and phone hacking.
Guilt by association is an old political trick and a tired logical fallacy; but there is a case to be made here that Mr. Cameron’s judgement should be questioned, especially if the editor of the Guardian is telling the truth:
He was employed as Mr Cameron’s director of communications in 2007 but Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger claims he warned Mr Cameron’s team not to employ Mr Coulson.
Rupert Murdoch has resisted pressure to force Rebekah Brooks to resign
The prime minister said he did not remember receiving “any specific action or information about Andy Coulson” but would check with his officials.
Asked if he had “screwed up” on the decision to employ Mr Coulson, Mr Cameron said: “People will decide.”
He said: “I decided to give him a second chance but the second chance didn’t work. The decision to hire him was mine and mine alone.”