Cameron 'haunted' by Coulson hire

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Andy Coulson became the story - and resigned in January 2011
Andy Coulson became the story - and resigned in January 2011

David Cameron has offered a passionate defence of his decision to hire Andy Coulson at the end of an intense morning's questioning at the Leveson inquiry.

The prime minister said he had decided to give the former News of the World editor, who had edited the tabloid at the time when royal editor Clive Goodman was jailed for phone-hacking, a "second chance" because he had "done the honourable thing" by resigning.

Mr Coulson has been arrested in connection with the Metropolitan police's investigation into phone-hacking. Opposition politicians have repeatedly called the Conservative leader's judgement into question over his decision to hire Mr Coulson.

He pointed out that the Press Complaints Commission, the Commons' culture media and sport select committee, the Metropolitan police and the Crown Prosecution Service had also accepted the former editor's word.


"This was not just me accepting an assurance and blocking out everything that had happened subsequently," he insisted.

"It was a whole series of institutions accepting that view."

The Tory leader was embarrassed by a clash between his evidence and Mr Coulson's about when the reassurances that Mr Coulson was not involved in phone-hacking were given.

Mr Cameron claimed he had asked about phone-hacking during the final interview with Mr Coulson for the job in his parliamentary office, and again in 2009 before Mr Coulson appeared before MPs.

 "It was my decision... I don't try to shuffle off any responsibility to anyone else," he added.

"I was satisfied this was the right thing to have a former tabloid editor to help us with our media and communications."

Mr Cameron offered a rare insight into his assessment of the damage that decision eventually meant for him. He said: "This was a controversial appointment. It has come back to haunt both him and me."

'Yes he Cam!'

Eyebrows were raised in court room 73 over an October 2009 text from Rebekah Brooks to Mr Cameron, in which the former News International chief executive told Mr Cameron she was "so rooting for him" ahead of his leader's speech at the Conservative party conference.

The text concluded: "Speech of your life? Yes he Cam!"

Mr Cameron admitted he was friends with Mrs Brooks but said he thought had succeeded in combining their personal relationship with their professional one.

The prime minister also downplayed the extent to which his conversations with the Murdochs were about media policy.

"In my dealings with Rupert Murdoch most of the conversation has been about big international political issues," he said.

Earlier this week former prime minister Gordon Brown alleged that the Tories had done a 'deal' with the Murdochs, in which favourable newspaper coverage was exchanged for sympathetic policy decisions on media issues like Ofcom and the BBC licence fee.

Mr Cameron dismissed this as "nonsense". He added: "He has cooked up an entirely specious and entirely unjustified conspiracy to, I dunno, justify his anger."

The prime minister said he thought the 24-hour news agenda and technology developments had been a "change for the worse" from the point of view of politicians.

He said politicians had been "focused on getting their message across rather than regulation" and pledged that this would change in the future.

 "In the last 20 years the relationship has not been right, it's been too close," Mr Cameron said near the beginning of the session.

"I think we need to try and get it on a better footing."

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