HACKGATE DAY 72: As Yates defends the Met, Murdoch continues to bombard his tormentors.

John Yates’ defence of his previous statements represents an awkward loyalty, but not criminality

Yates….contradicted by the DPP’s Keir Starmer

Independent reveals how Coulson knowingly hired former jailbird

Cant hath no fury like a mogul cornered. As I sat in the Virgin lounge at Heathrow last week, a Times Leader pompously complained of  ‘a whiff of the Profumo scandal’ surrounding Prince Andrew. This was an interesting observation, in that history shows quite conclusively how – at least in a security sense – Jack Profumo did nothing wrong at all. But we should not take Diggerant editorials as evidence of the Times’ belief in the Duke of York’s innocence: after a brief respite earlier in the week – and following a personal intervention by David Cameron – Newscorp continued its incessant attack on all those things that stand in its way. One wonders in fact what the PM is actually getting out of his personal insertion into the Antipodean backside; but there is little doubt that Rupert Murdoch would die a happy man if he could run with the headline ‘QUEEN HACKS BBC SWITCHBOARD AS YORK-HITLER LINK CONFIRMED BY SKY’.

Despite the brittle-glass nature of the house that Roop built, this has never held the old colonial boy back from stoning competitors. As Andrew Neill remarked the day after Jeremy Hunt’s leg-spreading politically courageous approval of the BSkyB takeover, “Murdoch would’ve sold his granny to gain access to BSkyB’s balance sheet”. As it turned out, the process was much easier: he bought the Government – which, being bankrupt, cost considerably less than la Matriarch Murdoch. Thundering now in the safety of a done deal, the Times went on to call the Duke ‘a Prince already infamous for louche company’, ignoring the obvious parallel of a Met Police force notorious for its acceptance of free Newscorp dinners.

Brass necks, like the poor, will always be with us. But top-brass necks have an extra thickness sufficient to make one wonder why their heads don’t constantly tumble backwards as they walk. Having applied for permission to clear his name on the subject of offering false evidence to Parliament – a request surely lying within the remit of Theresa May, but addressed to Jeremy Hunt VC – Deputy Top Cop John Yates performed the Nixonian trick of telling his accusers that, apparently, it is not a crime to hack somebody’s phone-messages until the victim listens to the voicemail himself. Predictably, nobody among the Commons Committee membership asked Yates why unauthorised monitoring of a leak before it’s been leaked is totally above board. But had he been present, the DPP’s Keir Starmer would’ve done, if only because he insists categorically that Deputy Assistant former whatnot Yates is talking through his truncheon.

As things turned out, John Yates’s defence bore all the hallmarks of those offered by the criminals still at large in this unfolding comedy-drama. Asked how many ‘sacks’ of hacking evidence he had seen in 2006, he replied, “Two or three”. But Yates wasn’t asked why he hadn’t talked about sacks full of illegal surveillance accusations, rather than ‘a dozen or so allegations’. An allegation is an allegation, whether or not it comes under the Yates or Starmer definition of law-breaking.

Another solid-brass neck emerged from its self-policed hideout yesterday, warning on Radio 4 that allowing the Cuts demo in London to go ahead was “asking for trouble”. If your name is Andy Hayman, I would’ve thought it was asking for trouble to say anything about asking for trouble – especially when you are already in a gigantic vat of trouble yourself. However, one suspects that Mr Hayman (who writes an annual crime column for the Sunday Times, a Newscorp title) feels that, for him at least, the danger time has passed. John Yates and David Cameron having leapt to the defence of his original ‘investigation’ into NotW phone-hacking, no doubt Hayman perceives himself to be invulnerable. Well, I know of at least one disgruntled celeb and another truculent politico who intend to change his mind on the matter. Like so much involving and surrounding Hackgate, it’s a case of waiting patiently to see which overconfident con-man cracks first.

In the meantime, we must continue to judge the wannabe gobbler-up of BSkyB by the people it employs. We must do this for the simple reason that, Chris Bryant aside, it is hard to find any of our legislators and regulators prepared to do so. Earlier this month, the Guardian gave us an opportunity to revisit this mode of character assessment, when it reported that former murder suspect Jonathan Rees ‘went to prison in December 2000 after a period of earning six-figure sums from the News of the World.’ Although no fan of the Guardianista myself, I am forced to show one paragraph from the piece as an example of succinctly polite assassination at its best:

“Rees, who had worked for the paper for seven years, was jailed for planting cocaine on a woman in order to discredit her during divorce proceedings. After his release from prison, Rees – who had been bugged for six months by Scotland Yard because of his links with corrupt police officers – was rehired by the News of the World, which was being edited by Andy Coulson”.

So tell me then, famous Fleet Street editor Andrew Coulson, what first attracted you to jailbird Jonathan Rees?

Inserting ‘Andy Coulson’ above for ‘Jonathan Rees’, of course, would justify directing the question towards the Prime Minister….and before that, Rupert Murdoch. One motive, however, does seem to be less in doubt: that is, the decision by Murdoch’s IT staff to undestroy 8,000 emails relating to the Sienna Miller case. It was allegedly prompted by a recent judicial ruling: I understand that painfully informal judge-on-defence-counsel action in chambers some weeks back made it clear that, were these e’s not to surface, other more objective IT forensics would start digging on their own account.

Not only is this an enormous number of emails to be devoted to just one phone-hack, it also highlights the human tragedy of Andy Coulson’s visual impairment. I would say ‘for all to see’, but that would entail a degree of cruelty quite uncalled for in such a severe case of disablement. Either way, last Friday The Independent broke the story, and a cracking piece it was. The paper is probably still way ahead of the pack in the Vince Cable Memorial Get Murdoch Stakes – probably because, like The Slog, it remains firmly convinced that there is a trail to follow. Whereas, during Watergate, Deep Throat kept on telling the dynamic Washington Post duo to ‘follow the money’, in this instance it may well be a case of following the hard drives. Although having said that, finding a money trail would be handy as well.

Having been out of the loop for much of the last ten days, I have little new to add to this avalanche of circumstantial evidence, save for one thing: John Yates is not a crook, and I would urge all fellow-sniffers to drop such a line of enquiry. He is in fact an honourable man placed in an impossible position by the appallingly dishonourable nature of many around him – and by considerations none of us can talk about as yet. I can’t tell you how I know this, beyond pointing out that – even under the monsoon rains of the Zambezi River – an occasional shaft of sunlight can unexpectedly break through.