David Cameron's Downing Street Director of Communications Andy Coulson's resignation today brings an end to a political saga that has been running for months.
The resignation of David Cameron’s Downing Street Director of Communications Andy Coulson today brings an end to a political saga that has been running for months. Coulson, who was widely credited with helping Cameron hone his media strategy, cited coverage of his prior role as editor at News of the World during the phone-hacking scandal, admitting it had made it difficult to dedicate himself to his position.
He explainined it had been:
“…a privilege and an honour to work for David Cameron for three-and-a-half years…”
“Unfortunately, continued coverage of events connected to my old job at the News of the World has made it difficult for me to give the 110% needed in this role. I stand by what I’ve said about those events but when the spokesman needs a spokesman, it’s time to move on.”
Cameron’s media mouthpiece will not be leaving his role immediately, leaving time for Downing Street to line up a replacement.
Coulson had been widely credited with establishing strong links to his former employers in the Rupert Murdoch-owned News International, parent organisation of The Sun, News of the World, Times and Sunday Times. His appointment seemed to have worked, with The Sun claiming ‘Labour’s Lost It’ before the 2010 election and endorsing Cameron’s Conservatives.
However, repeated accusations of Coulson’s involvement in the phone hacking scandal have plagued him during his stint as Director of Communications.
It intensified after the News of the World suspended its news editor Ian Edmondson last month over allegations of phone hacking between 2005 and 2006 which are said to have involved the actress Sienna Miller. Coulson was editor at the time and quit in January 2007 on the day the paper’s royal editor Clive Goodman was jailed for four months for illegally hacking phones, including those of the royal family.
Coulson maintained he was unaware of the scandal but resigned saying he took ‘ultimate responsibility’ for Goodman and private investigator Glenn Mulcaire’s actions. His innocence was maintained at a Press Complaints Commission investigation in May 2007 that found no evidence that he or anyone else at the paper had been aware of Goodman’s activities, something the later resignation of Edmondson seemed to refute.
Coulson had also been the subject of previous allegations regarding bullying at News of The World that had become a major news story. The paper was forced to pay sports reporter Matt Driscoll £800,000 for unfair dismissal and disability discrimination.
Driscoll went on to explain:
“Andy Coulson was at the heart of all of this. He should look at himself and decide if his actions in the course of the way I was treated were correct. If I were him, I would find it very hard to look in the mirror. I was subjected to unprecedented bullying and he did nothing to stop it, if anything he accelerated it. I didn’t do anything wrong.”
Other victims of the News of The World phone hacking scandal are said to include former footballer Andy Gray and actor/comedian Steve Coogan, with some of those affected by the hacking suing the paper. Coulson’s resignation comes on an already busy news day with Tony Blair giving evidence at the Chilcot enquiry and amidst the revelations around Alan Johnson’s resignation from the shadow cabinet.
Reports tonight say Coulson quit as former reporters at the paper were about to reveal he had known about the phone hacking which was putting pressure on the former editor. His resignation and subsequent explanation shows that when the spin doctor becomes the news story, as in the case of one of his predecessors Alastair Campbell, it’s almost impossible for the man in questions to stay on.Like this article? Sign up to Left Foot Forward's weekday email for the latest progressive news and comment - and support campaigning journalism by making a donation today.