Guarding the PM: the very secretive Ed Llewellyn
Number 10 chief-of-staff asked police chief not to brief PM on phone hacking ‘for your sake and ours’
A senior Downing Street adviser has moved to the fore in the phone hacking fallout after former police chief John Yates told MPs yesterday that he was asked in an email not to brief the prime minister about the issue.
Ed Llewellyn, David Cameron's chief-of-staff, went so far as to suggest that for Yates's sake and Number 10's, it would be better if nobody knew they had been in contact about phone hacking, which he referred to cryptically as "other matters".
Number 10 yesterday published the email exchange between Yates and Llewellyn, apparently in the belief that the messages wouldn’t look as bad as they sounded.
The emails in question were exchanged in September 2010. Yates, who was forced to resign as assistant Metropolitan police commissioner on Monday, wrote to Llewellyn regarding the agenda of a meeting he was scheduled to have with the PM on national security matters. In it he said:
"I am very happy to have a conversation in the margins around the other matters that have caught my attention this week if you thought it would be useful."
"Other matters" was code for the phone hacking scandal and observers have suggested that Llewellyn did not want Cameron to be briefed on the investigation for reasons of deniability.
He wrote back to Yates: "On the other matters that have caught your attention this week, assuming we are thinking of the same thing, I am sure you will understand that we will want to be able to be entirely clear, for your sake and ours, that we have not been in contact with you about this subject.
"So I don't think it would really be appropriate for the PM, or anyone else at No 10, to discuss this issue with you, and would be grateful if it were not raised please."
Llewellyn and Cameron have known each other since they were at Eton and Oxford together. Until 2005, when David Cameron was elected party leader and made Llewellyn one of his first recruits, he lived and worked mainly abroad. He was an aide to Chris Patten in Hong Kong before working for Paddy Ashdown in Bosnia.
Having known Llewellyn for nigh on 30 years, Cameron would be loath to lose him. But it gets worse.
Last week, it emerged that Llewellyn had failed to pass on warnings to Cameron from the Guardian's deputy editor Ian Katz about Andy Coulson, the former News of the World editor. Cameron went on to appoint Coulson his communications chief - a decision that inextricably linked Cameron to the News International phone hacking scandal.
Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said: "Twice the prime minister's chief-of-staff was offered important information that affects this crisis. Twice he refused to pass it to the prime minister.
"Was Ed Llewellyn trying to protect David Cameron and Andy Coulson, or was he rejecting information because he knew the Prime Minister's relationship with Andy Coulson compromised his position?"