Am I being too sanguine? I asked this of myself a week ago after posting on the Euro crisis. Now I’m asking myslf the same thing over my recent posting on the hacking crisis. Could there be a lot more trouble than I was predicting for David Cameron and the Police?
Consider this article in Lib Dem Voice on Cameron. This develops the idea that there was a lot of railroading of the rules when the PM hired Andy Coulson as his Downing Street (i.e. Civil Service) press adviser. The pressure building up on this story could prove intolerable. Of course the public at large won’t take a great deal of interest in this, but it’s sort of thing that can obsess people in the Westminster bubble. And this bubble, to switch metaphors in midstream, is the pond in which Mr Cameron swims; he can’t survive if it becomes poisonous, even if the world outside is fine.
I also bought Private Eye for the first time in years this week. This is thick with innuendo about actual police bribery, using travellers’ cheques, which goes against my suggestion that this is quite rare in the modern force. And lots of innuendo about the closeness of the Murdoch empire to both the Police and government.
The problem is that I share a characteristic with Mr Cameron – my first reaction to trouble tends to be to play it down. This can be be very useful; it tends to calm people down, buy you time for a more considered view, and stop time-wasting. Too many people have the opposite tendency to panic at everything. But it can leave you flat-footed on those occasions when trouble is both real and unexpected. I remember being most senior person in our Moorgate office when the 7/7 bombs went off; for the first few hours I was behind the curve. To compensate what you need is to have some good advisers close to you who can challenge your assessment. Ironically this was one of the things that Mr Coulson did for Mr Cameron, and did very well, as far as I can make out. In fact it’s because he was so effective in the job he was employed for that Mr Cameron has difficulty in understanding that the fuss amounts to much. But if Mr Coulson used his privileged position to improperly advance the interests of the Murdoch empire, then there’s real trouble.
Still, I may have been right on the Euro crisis. The can has been kicked down the road again. There was a lot of relief after last week’s summit of the Euro leaders; no doubt as the detail comes to light people will be less reassured. In one sense it gets more and more difficult to kick the can each time – but it is equally clear that the Eurozone’s leaders have the political will to do the necessary. Gradually a new architecture for managing the Euro zone is emerging. It is one that condemns the UK to the sidelines, but that’s another story for another day.