Grovel, grovel… Cameron sorry for hiring 'criminal' Coulson
Down and out in Brussels and London: not a good week for David Cameron, and it's due to get worse
David Cameron was forced to make a groveling apology today for hiring Andy Coulson as his director of communications after the guilty verdict came through from the News of the World hacking trial.
It is adding up to a horrible week for the Prime Minister, who is heading for defeat on Friday at the EU Council of Ministers over his opposition to Jean-Claude Juncker's appointment as President of the European Commission.
Cameron admitted today: "I'm extremely sorry that I employed him [Coulson], it was the wrong decision and I'm very clear about that."
In front of TV cameras in Downing Street, he added: "I take full responsibility for employing Andy Coulson. I did so on the basis of undertakings I was given by him about phone hacking and those turn out not to be the case.
"I always said that if they turned out to be wrong, I would make a full and frank apology and I do that today."
Cameron promised MPs back in 2011, when the hacking charges were first made against the former editor of the News of the World, that he would give a “fulsome” apology if it was found that Coulson had misled him over assurances that he was not involved in telephone hacking by his staff.
The Prime Minister said then that he could not govern with the benefit of hindsight. Yet his critics have argued - and will doubtless continue to do so over the coming hours and days - that a lack of hindsight had nothing to do with it: he knew Coulson had been forced to resign from the News of the World in 2007 after the paper’s royal editor, Clive Goodman, and private investigator, Glenn Mulcaire, had gone to prison on hacking charges. And it was common gossip that Coulson knew more about hacking than he was owning up to.
Still Cameron said it was “right” to give him a “second chance” - as a result of which Coulson was granted access to secrets as a public servant at a time when reporters on both side of the Atlantic were investigating the claims that hacking in the Murdoch empire was widespread, and not limited to one rogue reporter.
It allowed Ed Miliband to say starkly today: "David Cameron brought a criminal into the heart of Downing Street." The Labour leader said he proposed to pursue the question of why Coulson was not properly vetted.
Cameron isn't the only one to blame: Chancellor George Osborne was also under pressure in Westminster today to bear his share of responsibility because it was he who urged Cameron to hire Coulson in 2007. Osborne was running the Tory election strategy for the 2010 general election at the time.
Today's guilty verdict broke during Treasury Questions in the Commons, and Labour's Ed Balls immediately jumped on the excuse to call for an apology from Osborne.
As Nick Robinson, the BBC's political editor, said: "The reason Ed Balls raised it is because everybody knows it was George Osborne’s recommendation that Andy Coulson be hired. It was he who persuaded David Cameron that what they needed was a guy who connected the Conservative Party to parts of the electorate it was struggling to reach."
Osborne told Balls that he was not going to take lessons from a party that hired Damian McBride as one of its chief spin-doctors. But that did not stop Labour gloating.
There'll be more gloating before the week is out. If the Coulson guilty verdict blows a hole in Cameron’s claims of competence and undermines his authority, Juncker’s appointment - against his express wishes - will only raise more questions.