Harriet Harman, the acting leader of the British Labor Party, says she plans to question Prime Minister David Cameron on Wednesday over the appointment of Andy Coulson as his official spokesman. Coulson is the former editor of Rupert Murdoch's News of the World tabloid who resigned last year following revelations that one of its reporters had been hacking into the phone conversations of Prince Harry and Prince William as well as British celebrities and politicians. Coulson has continued to maintain, however, that he knew nothing about the hacking -- even after a recent report in The New York Times indicating that at least a dozen reporters at the Sunday newspaper also engaged in telephone hacking. One of them was quoted as saying that the matter was a frequent topic of editorial meetings with Coulson. Harman said she will use her allotted time when MPs question the prime minister on Wednesday to raise the Coulson issue. Several British commentators see it as a threat to Rupert Murdoch's political power in the U.K., particularly if it is established that Coulson, whom they regard as a surrogate for Murdoch within Cameron's inner circle, had lied about his knowledge of the hacking. Appearing on Fox Business Network last year, anchor Stuart Varney attempted to ask Murdoch about reports that his News International, which oversees his British newspapers, had paid more than $1.5 million in settlements to keep the hacking matter quiet. "I'm not talking about that issue at all today. I'm sorry," he told Varney, who perhaps understandably failed to press the matter. (Like News International, FBN is owned by Murdoch's News Corp.) Murdoch later told Bloomberg News, however. "If that had happened, I would know about it." Several British columnists are now suggesting that his words may return to haunt him.

13/09/2010