Andy coulson

A history of spinners, from Robert Walpole to Damian McBride and Andy Coulson

A full colour Andy Coulson looms ominously behind a black and white David Cameron on the front cover of Andrew Blick and George Jones’s book on aides to the Prime Minister. In a week when another former prime ministerial adviser, Damian McBride, has been spilling the beans on life behind the scenes of Gordon Brown’s government, the story of the apparatchiks who work in the shadows of the people in power seems ripe for revelation. However, if this makes you think that the text is going to be filled with juicy disclosures about today’s politics then, after a compelling first chapter detailing the workings of Cameron’s Downing Street, you will

CCHQ is already carrying out Andy Coulson’s GQ advice on Ukip

The Conservative party may have lost its summer momentum, but at least it isn’t worrying about Ukip at the moment. Former spin chief Andy Coulson is doing some worrying in this month’s GQ on the Tory party’s behalf, warning that the party needs an even stronger message on Europe to counter the threat of Nigel Farage’s party. But some of his advice will hearten CCHQ, as spinners and researchers are already ahead of Coulson. The article says: ‘UKIP must be taken seriously so as to expose just how empty-headed it really is. Every utterance must be recorded and analysed, every speech given proper attention by some of the bigger, more

Ed Miliband and David Cameron get personal in PMQs

When Ed Miliband began at PMQs by asking about Egypt, it looked like he was going to do six high-minded questions on foreign affairs and thus dodge the political attack the Tories had lined up for him. But that wasn’t Miliband’s plan, after a couple of questions on Egypt he shifted to education. I suspect that by the end of session, he wished he stuck to what’s going on in Tahrir Square. For Cameron took the return to domestic politics as an opportunity to relentlessly batter Labour over its links to Unite and Unite’s behaviour in Falkirk. Cameron and Miliband went at each other with real needle. There was a

The Boris bandwagon picks up more speed

Hardly a day goes by these days without a story about Boris Johnson and the Tory leadership. Yesterday, it was Andy Coulson’s revelation that David Cameron believed Boris Johnson would be after his job once he’d been London Mayor. Today, it is The Economist talking about ‘Generation Boris’, the more libertarian inclined voters who the magazine suggests will sweep him to Downing Street in 2020. Now, for Cameron having as his main leadership rival someone who isn’t an MP is not actually that bad, however infuriating some in his circle might find the press and the party’s love affair with the London Mayor. What’s most striking about Boris, though, is

Isabel Hardman

What do women think about Palestine, Sam Cam?

The Tories spend a lot of time and money scratching their heads about why women voters are deserting them. Today we were dropped a little clue as to why. Andy Coulson’s GQ article contains all sorts of helpful advice for the Prime Minister including this nugget: ‘There are few people in Number Ten with a better eye and [Samantha Cameron] could play a key role in the winning back of female voters. As a small example Sam would, I think, agree that when her husband talks about the importance of family he should be careful to include the words ‘single’ and ‘parent’ each and every time.’ We’re back to the

Alex Massie

Tom Watson’s Strange Sheridan Obsession

I see that, following Andy Coulson’s detention as part of a police investigation into perjury at the Tommy Sheridan, er, perjury trial,  Tom Watson MP is up to his old tricks. To wit: After the detention of Coulson, Tom Watson MP reiterated his claim that Sheridan’s perjury conviction was “unsound”. He said: “Tommy Sheridan was convicted on an eight to six verdict of a jury in a Scottish court. Mr Sheridan lost his liberty and is still the subject of restrictions on his movement. “The detention of Andy Coulson further highlights why Mr Sheridan’s conviction was unsound. It is now abundantly clear that members of the jury were not in

Phone hacking: today’s charges

The Crown Prosecution Service this morning charged eight suspects in relation to phone hacking. These suspects, including Rebekah Brooks Andy Coulson face a total of 19 charges, which I’ve set out below. Rebekah Brooks, Andrew Coulson, Stuart Kuttner, Greg Miskiw, Ian Edmondson, Neville Thurlbeck and James Weatherup are all charged with conspiring to intercept the voicemail messages of well-known people and/or those associated with them without lawful authority from 3 October 2000 to 9 August 2006. Private investigator Glenn Mulcaire, who is the eighth person charged today, does not face this first charge for legal reasons, but four charges relating to Milly Dowler, Andrew Gilchrist, Delia Smith and Charles Clarke

Cameron: SpAds answer to me

David Cameron was visibly rattled by Robert Jay QC, Counsel to the Leveson Inquiry, earlier today. Counsel was examining the relationship between the PM and Rebekah Brooks. Counsel concentrated on the text that Mrs Brooks sent Mr Cameron on the eve of his 2009 party conference speech. Mrs Brooks’s use of Cameron’s phrase ‘in this together’, which he used extensively in the subsequent speech, has led some to argue that their relationship was too close. In the morning session, Counsel asked Mr Cameron how often he met Mrs Brooks socially at the weekend. Mr Cameron was vague in response, only offering ‘well not every week’ in answer. (Mr Cameron returned from lunch with

James Forsyth

Cameron’s difficult morning

David Cameron’s morning at the Leveson Inquiry has not been a pleasant experience for him. In the opening hour or so, Cameron was calm and statesmanlike. But as the inquiry moved onto his connections to News International and how Andy Coulson was hired, the prime minister was pushed onto the back foot. One could see why some in Number 10 refer to the inquiry as ‘the monster we have created’. The headline for tomorrow’s papers is, at the moment, coming from a text sent to him by Rebekah Brooks. The clinging text read, ‘But seriously I do understand the issue with the Times. Let’s discuss over country supper soon. On

Coulson easily handles his Leveson test

Andy Coulson’s evidence to the Leveson Inquiry was a reminder of why he rose so quickly. He never said more than he had to and never let his ego interfere with his judgment. It is a testament to his skill that we essentially learnt nothing new from his evidence this afternoon. But it should be remembered that Coulson wasn’t on that bad a wicket today. The Leveson Inquiry isn’t going to overlap with the criminal investigations going on and so there wasn’t much time spent on hacking or on payments to the police. Instead, the questions focused on his relations with politicians and Cameron and Osborne in particular. Helped by

Today’s theatrics will soon be overshadowed by Leveson

Today’s Cameron-Clegg event was meant to be very different from the one in the Downing Street garden two years ago: grittier, more real. Watching it, one was struck by the fact that the two leaders still seem comfortable in each other’s company. The dynamics between them are better than those between Blair and Brown two years in. But, thanks to the compromises of coalition, they lack a compelling growth message for the here and now — as opposed to the long term — at the moment. One of their other problems is that coalition makes everyone focus that much more on the political process. The ears of every journalist pricked

Leveson narrows Cameron’s fightback window

During the government’s recent troubles, Cameroons have talked about the ‘window’ for action that David Cameron will have if Boris does win the mayoralty. But that window got a lot smaller with the news that Andy Coulson and Rebekah Brooks are appearing at the Leveson Inquiry on Thursday and Friday next week. Their appearances means that, next week, the media won’t be dominated by discussion of the Queen’s speech but by one of Cameron’s biggest misjudgments: his decision to get so close to News International. If there are anywhere near as many text messages between Cameron and Brooks as Peter Oborne alleges then it will be, at best, horribly embarrassing

Telegraph reports that Wallis was paid for stories by the News of the World while working for Scotland Yard

The Daily Telegraph is tonight alleging that Neil Wallis was paid by the News of the World to provide crime exclusives while working as a consultant for the Metropolitan police. The paper claims that the News of the World paid Wallis £25,000 for information including the details of Scotland Yard operations during this period. According to the Telegraph, £10,000 of the £25,000 was for a single story. This revelation will increase the pressure on the police to reveal fully the extent of contacts between it and News International. But with Paul Stephenson already having resigned over the hiring of Wallis as a consultant, further resignations are unlikely. The other hack-gate

Vice girl Rowe takes another hit at Osborne

“I said to George [Osborne] jokingly that when you’re prime minister one day I’ll have all the dirty goods on you, and he laughed and took a big fat line of cocaine,” says Natalie Rowe, a former madam of the Black Beauties escort agency, in an interview with ABC’s PM programme. She adds, “It’s been said in the newspapers that he was at university. He wasn’t. At the time he was working for [former Tory leader now foreign secretary] William Hague…I remember that vividly because he called William Hague insipid.” This is not the first time that Rowe has made these allegations against Osborne, as the above picture attests. The

BBC alleges that Coulson received hundreds of thousands of pounds from News Int while working for the Tories

Tonight, the main news is—obviously—the situation in Libya. But Robert Peston’s claim that Andy Coulson carried on receiving payments from News International, as part of his severance package, while working for the Tories is worthy of note. If true, this piece of news is a further embarrassment for the Tories and David Cameron. Even if the money was simply part of a severance deal, it does not look seemly for a political party to have a communications director who is in the pay of a media group (Though, it should be noted that these payments stopped at the end of 2007 once Coulson had been paid the amount he was

Breaking: Screws Editor Knew How Paper Got Its Stories! Shocker!

Boom! Phone-hacking is back and it’s yet more bad news for Andy Coulson and, by extension, David Cameron. The Prime Minister’s problem is that we are tasked with believing that he believed the former News of the World editor when Coulson claimed to have had no knowledge of phone-hacking (and other criminal acts) during his time at the paper. At best the Tory leader was deliberately naive; more probably – common sense tells us – he appreciated that the immediate advantages to having Coulson on his team were greater than the potential for embarrassment at some uncertain point in the future. Perhaps nothing would come of it anyway! Fingers crossed!

The phone hacking saga bursts back to life

The phone hacking saga has burst back to life this afternoon, with the publication of a letter by Clive Goodman that contradicts much of the evidence given by News International Executives to the Culture, Media and Sport Committee. Goodman’s letter (which you can read here) , apparently written on 2 March 2007, states that phone hacking was widely discussed in editorial meetings at the News of the World and that senior executives were informed of the practice, contrary to their protestations that Goodman was a lone rogue reporter. Goodman alleges that Andy Coulson banned references to phone hacking in meetings and then offered to save Goodman’s job if the disgraced reporter did not

Cameron lands Supercop as police acrimony mounts

Internationally renowned policeman Bill Bratton has agreed to advise the government on how to defeat gang culture. Bratton’s role is not official, but he will arrive for duty in the autumn nonetheless. The former LA police chief has already offered a diagnosis of Britain’s problems. In an interview with the Telegraph, he says that hoodlums have been “emboldened” by timid policing and lenient sentencing. Quite what this means for Ken Clarke’s justice policy, supported by the Liberal Democrats, remains to be seen. But the indications are that the government will bolster its law and order policies. Doubtless a wry smile will have broken across the face of Andy Coulson, who

Busting myths about Coulson’s security vetting

A recent turn in “Hackgate” has focused on the level of security clearance given to Andy Coulson. The insinuation is that Number 10 knew that Coulson would not be able to pass the so-called Developed Vetting level (DV) and therefore gave him a lower level. I have no idea what happened in No 10, or whether the allegations made against Coulson automatically disqualified him from obtaining DV level. But having been vetted several times, I can’t help but disagree with the way the story has been covered by some organisations. First, Coulson was, as far as I can gather, vetted to the Security Check (SC) level. That is not ‘the

Phone hacking fag-ends

Yesterday, in his statement to the Commons, David Cameron responded to a question from Labour MP Helen Goodman about Andy Coulson by saying: ‘He was vetted. He had a basic level of vetting. He was not able to see the most secret documents in the Government. I can write to the hon. Lady if she wants the full details of that vetting. It was all done in the proper way. He was subject to the special advisers’ code of conduct. As someone shouted from behind me, he obeyed that code, unlike Damian McBride.’ The story has developed since then. Channel Four have been told by unidentified sources that Coulson’s lack