U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron will face questions in the House of Commons today after his former communications chief was found guilty of phone hacking.
Cameron made a public apology yesterday for hiring Andy Coulson, who had previously resigned as editor of Rupert Murdoch’s News of the World newspaper after one of his staff was jailed for intercepting voicemails. He said he’d believed Coulson’s assurances that he wasn’t involved and wanted to give him a second chance.
“David Cameron has very serious questions to answer; we now know that he brought a criminal into the heart of Downing Street,” opposition Labour Party leader Ed Miliband, who will lead the questioning in Parliament in London, said in a statement. “He was warned about Andy Coulson, the evidence mounted up against Andy Coulson, David Cameron must have had his suspicions about Andy Coulson and yet he refused to act.”
Coulson, who was one of Cameron’s closest aides until quitting in 2011, was found guilty at a court in London on a charge that dated from his time as editor of the News of the World. A few months after he left the editor’s chair in 2007, he accepted a job with Cameron and the premier stood by him in the face of warnings from colleagues and opponents.
“I’m extremely sorry that I employed him,” the prime minister said in a television interview yesterday. “It was the wrong decision. I asked him questions about if he knew about phone hacking. He said that he didn’t. I accepted those assurances. It was obviously wrong to employ him. I gave someone a second chance and it turned out to be a bad decision.”
When the Guardian newspaper reported in 2009 that hacking at the News of the World had gone far wider than the first court case revealed, Cameron said he had Coulson’s assurances that he hadn’t known about it and defended employing him.
According to Miliband, the decision to hire Coulson was less about second chances and more to do with a desire to win the support of News Corp. Chairman Murdoch, whose company then controlled four U.K. newspapers, ahead of the 2010 general election. Murdoch closed the News of the World in 2011.
“This isn’t just a serious error of judgment, this taints David Cameron’s government,” Miliband said. “We now know that he put his relationship with Rupert Murdoch ahead of doing the right thing.”