In a rowdy special session of Parliament on Wednesday, UK Prime Minister David Cameron was grilled by the House of Commons over his hiring of a former News Of The World editor who has been implicated in the phone hacking scandal, telling Labour leader Ed Miliband to “stop hunting feeble conspiracy theories and start rising to the levels of events.”
Miliband had accused Cameron of being “compromised by his relationship” with Andy Coulson, a former News Of The World editor now under arrest for his alleged role in the phone hacking scandal.
Cameron hired Coulson in 2007 as his communications chief, but Coulson resigned in January this year after the scandal resurfaced. Cameron maintains that Coulson denied any involvement in the scandal before he was hired, but in a New York Times article in September 2010, former NOTW reporter Sean Hoare, (found dead in his home earlier this week), said that Coulson not only knew about the hackings, but encouraged the practice.
“[Cameron] was hamstrung by a conflict of interest,” Miliband said: “But Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister shouldn’t have had to rely on briefings from his Chief of Staff. Here was a major investigation, published by leading global newspaper about the Prime Minister’s Director Of Communications.”
“I made the decision to employ him in good faith,” Cameron said, “because of the assurances he gave me. There was no information in that article that would lead me to change my mind about those assurances. But if it turns out that he knew about the hacking, then that would be a matter of huge regret, a matter of great apology, a disgrace not only that he worked in government but also, vitally, something that would be subject to criminal prosecutions.”
“With 20-20 hindsight and all that has followed,” Cameron also said in the hearing, “I would not have offered him the job and I expect that he wouldn’t have taken it. But you don’t make decisions in hindsight, you make them in the present. You live and you learn and, believe you me, I have learned.”
Miliband responded: “That isn’t good enough. It’s not about hindsight, it’s not about whether Mr. Coulson lied to him. It’s about all the information and warnings the Prime Minister ignored. He was warned and he preferred to ignore the warnings.”
Here are some highlights: