The Ballad of Andy and Rebekah

Martin Hickman on the phone hacking trial

For three years David Blunkett, then the Labour home secretary, had an affair with Kimberly Fortier, publisher of the Spectator. The affair came to an end in the summer of 2004. A few weeks later, on Friday 13 August, Andy Coulson, editor of the News of the World, showed up at Blunkett’s office in Sheffield to ask whether he was having an affair with a married woman. Blunkett recorded their conversation. The tape became the most important single piece of evidence in the phone hacking trial that has just come to an end. Blunkett avoided confirming Coulson’s story, saying that he was entitled to a private life. But he had a question of his own: how did Coulson know he was having an affair? ‘People do talk,’ Coulson said. He claimed that the story could be managed, that he didn’t want to ‘damage’ the secretary of state and that there was no need to name his lover. ‘What I am saying to you,’ he told Blunkett, ‘is that I am prepared to run the story … That will obviously give the News of the World a fairly prominent piece – I don’t think necessarily a splash but probably a page one story with a spread inside. And I think that will bring it to an end.’ The following Sunday, the News of the World splashed the story. Four months later, Blunkett resigned from the cabinet.

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