Given the current febrile atmosphere of the election campaign here in the UK, this is worth revisiting. A comprehensive report by the Media Standards trust shows how politically targeted phone hacking at News of the World was – mainly under the editorship of Andy Coulson (the only surviving phone records to confirm hacking date from a year or so of his editorship
A striking number of targets were people in positions important to national security. Four consecutive Home Secretaries from 1997 to 2007 are reported to have been hacked, as well as many senior officers from the Metropolitan police (including Sir Ian Blair, John Yates, Mike Fuller, Andy Hayman, Brian Paddick and Ali Dizaei).
And it turns out that the News of the World was seven times more likely to hack a Labour politician than a Conservative one.
But what emerges most clearly is that the great majority of those who were hacked were people most of us had never heard of. Many were connected to public figures, but often simply by being related to them, or working with them, or being their friends. You might be hacked because you were, for example, the partner or ex-partner of a public figure, or a work colleague or a friend or acquaintance or a parent or step-parent.
The odd thing about the occasional Tory target of phone hacking is that, by and large, they were rivals to David Cameron such as Boris Johnson or David Davies.
Coulson become Cameron’s press supremo in 2007, a few months after resigning from New of the World post the conviction of Mulcaire and Goodman. According to Leveson Inquiry evidence, it was George Osborne who suggested the former NOTW editor for the job. Two years previous, during Cameron’s leadership content, Coulson’s paper had spoiled a Sunday Mirror scoop about Osborne’s association with a dominatrix, Natalie Rowe, and a friend who used cocaine. The NOTW was seen as much more favourable and defused the story. Cameron went on to win the leadership campaign.
By this time Cameron is in the members register of interests accepting hospitality from Coulson’s predecessor and erstwhile lover, Rebekah Brooks. Brooks’ weekend home, of course, was only a few miles away from Cameron’s constituency home.
So it’s probably no surprise Cameron wasn’t the target of phone hacking. But given the future trajectory of many of the players – especially around the 2010 general election – the political element in phone hacking leaves many elements yet to be explored