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Political sketch: Coulson's tell-none at Leveson

At today's inquiry, an accountant with a bad memory and Harmsworth, the hands-off mogul.

New Statesman

Aficionados of daytime drama had been tipped to stand by for fireworks when the Leveson inquiry revealed that Andy Coulson, ex-image maker to David Cameron and equally ex-editor of the News of the World, had been summoned to tell all.

Indeed, after award-winning appearances by previous performers ranging from Hugh Grant to the Murdoch family, all seats were taken for the event - and then an accountant with a bad memory turned up.

Certainly he said he was Andy Coulson, promised to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but, and even admitted he had once been editor of the now-defunct tabloid; but that was just about it on the fireworks front.

Obviously the activities that could result in Mr Coulson appearing in other courts could not be talked about - but despite valiant efforts by chief Inquiry investigator Robert Jay, the smoking guns, hats full of rabbits and elephants in various rooms failed to be found.

Instead Mr Coulson, who seemed to have come dressed for somebody's funeral, ranged from not remembering to not recalling for most of the afternoon.

We did confirm that Chancellor George had been the man to recruit him to the Tory cause, that he had "forgotten" £40,000 worth of shares in News International, and not many people in Downing Street seemed bothered to ask him about phone hacking.

Having made his mark recently dicing and slicing Murdoch Jr, Mr Jay must have had high hopes for today's face-to-face but even he seemed bowed down with boredom as he tried to elucidate fascinating facts from his witness.

As a fully paid up member of the "why-use-one-word-when-two-last-longer" profession he fell over his own feet as he spoke of "the propinquity" of politicians and the media - a statement deservedly met by blank stares all round.

And talking of blank stares the inquiry had been treated earlier in the day to the thoughts of another media mogul, the owner of the Daily Mail Viscount Harmsworth, on the central questions being tackled by Leveson.

Jonathon Harold Esmond Vere Harmsworth is the fourth of his family to chair the business and to describe is as hands-off would be insulting to hands.

Owning the Daily Mail means leaving everything to Paul Dacre, and as for pushing company business at dinner with people like the PM and George, well, that would be bad manners, he said.

Many column inches will have to be written about Andy Coulson's appearance to match the many column inches trailing it in advance but in reality - much to Downing Street's relief - old Esmond Vere was a better turn.

Tomorrow is the turn of Rebekah Brooks. She'd better deliver or the crown will start asking for their money back.