Chris Bryant: Queen warned Cameron about Coulson
It was, perhaps, only a matter of time before the Queen herself became embroiled in the hysteria surrounding #hackgate. The saga has already ruined the lives of hundreds of journalists; humiliated editors and media barons; destroyed confidence in Parliament and the police; brought down a 168-year-old newspaper; and cost a man his life. Now Labour’s Chris Bryant alleges that David Cameron was warned by senior members of the Royal Family about the unsuitability of Andy Coulson.
Entries at 9.10am, 9.26am, and 9.46am on The Guardian’s live-coverage of the phone hacking scandal (20 July 2011) read:
9.10am: Did the Queen tell David Cameron not to hire Andy Coulson? That's what the Labour MP Chris Bryant has just suggested on BBC News. He did not name the Queen, but he talked about "very senior" members of the Royal Family having doubts about the appointment of Coulson as Cameron's communications chief. Bryant said that he thought these warning had been passed on to Cameron's office.This is curious. The Queens has the constitutional right to warn her Prime Minister on any matter she sees fit. But it would be very odd indeed for her to comment personally on No10 staff, and it would also be rather irregular for ‘very senior’ members of the Royal Family or the Royal Household to express any such opinion. Further, one might ask how on earth Chris Bryant knows about such a warning – who is this ‘very good source?
The Queen's grandchildren had their phones hacked. And quite probably other members of the Royal Household ... I think it would be perfectly natural for very senior members of the Royal Family to be very troubled about the appointment. After all, Andy Coulson was the editor of the News of the World when the royal princes' phones were hacked. That is not in dispute. And Andy Coulson indeed resigned from the News of the World expressly because of the hacking of the royal princes' phones ... My understanding is that members of the Royal Family were very troubled about [the appointment] and that there were certainly attempts to make sure that the prime minister understood that.
Bryant said he knew this indirectly from "a very good source". He said that he had not spoken to the person involved directly, but that he had spoken to a person who had spoken to the person (a member of the Buckingham Palace staff, he seemed to imply) who "made quite clear to people that there was a high degree of anxiety about this". The message was passed on not directly to Cameron, but to "members of his team", Bryant said.
9.26am: On the BBC News Mark Harper, the Cabinet Office minister, has just said he cannot comment on Chris Bryant's allegations. (See 9.10am.) According to the BBC, Downing Street sources are already dismissing Bryant's claims as "complete rubbish".
9.46am: Chris Byrant says he has it on good authority that the Royal Family tried to warn David Cameron about hiring Any Coulson. (See 9.10am.) Number 10 says this is "rubbish". (See 9.26am.) Is there any way we can resolve these two claims? Perhaps the warning went to Ed Llewellyn and he just failed to pass it on?
Come on, Mr Bryant. You’re a theologian, a former Anglican vicar, and a stickler for truth, openness and transparency. So, assuming Her Majesty isn't a personal mate of yours, would you please disclose the identity of the friend of the friend of the very senior members of the Royal Family who warned the Prime Minister’s Office about the unsuitability of Andy Coulson?
You may do so privately via email if you prefer.