Dave’s loyalty to Coulson is misplaced
The Mole: The police decision not to reopen its investigation was good news for the Tory leader – but it didn’t last long, says our Westminster insider
David Cameron has taken what his aides insist is a principled decision to stand by his media man, Andy Coulson, who is facing fresh allegations about his role in the News of the World phone hacking row.
Coulson has acted impeccably at all times since he became the party's communications chief and will not be punished for things that happened years ago and which he had no knowledge of, they say.
But it is a seriously high-risk decision which has tied Cameron so tightly to Coulson that, if he is forced to quit as many in Westminster believe is likely, the Tory leader will be accused of displaying a significant lack of judgment and misplaced loyalty.
Cameron breathed a sigh of relief yesterday when the police said there was insufficient evidence to re-open their investigations into the NoW's hacking of mobile phone messages of allegedly thousands of politicians and celebrities.
But the relief did not last long as it then emerged a number of lawyers had been approached by some of those celebrities and politicians considering legal action against the newspaper, and the powerful Commons media committee decided to re-open its inquiry into the affair, with Coulson certain to be called to give evidence.
So this story is set to run and run and can only pile further pressure on Cameron who has already had his judgment attacked over his decision to employ Coulson who was editor of the NoW at the height of the alleged hacking operations, but which he claimed to have known nothing about.
The Tory leader's initial reaction, that he was "relaxed" about the affair which he believed was being "ramped up" by the Guardian, is already seen as a mistake and he has since changed tack.
His robust and angry reaction has been sparked not only by a genuine fondness for Coulson, who has proved a huge asset to the Tories, but also because he believes this is all a politically inspired plot designed specifically to target Coulson in revenge for the Damian McBride affair, which saw Gordon Brown's spin doctor forced out over his plans to smear Tory figures.
Then, of course, there is the powerful figure of the Dirty Digger himself, Rupert Murdoch, looming over all this. Murdoch always finds himself being wooed by party leaders in the run-up to a general election as they battle to win the support of his newspapers - the Times, the Sunday Times, the Sun and the News of the World. Cameron's loyalty to one of Murdoch's former editors and friend will not go un-noticed; perhaps it will even be rewarded.
But the betting in Westminster is still that Coulson will have to go. Like Labour spin doctors Alastair Campbell, Charlie Whelan and Damian McBride, before him, Coulson has now become the story - and that invariably proves fatal. ·
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