Andy Coulson at Leveson: 10 things we learned

Including, that he retained £40,000 of News Corporation shares.

1. He retained News Corporation shares worth £40,000 throughout his time at Downing Street but was "never asked about any share or stock holdings". Coulson claimed this was because he wasn't involved "in any commercial issues". In retrospect, he wishes he had "paid more attention" to the issue.

2. In a phone conversation confirming his appointment as the Conservatives' director of communications, Coulson told David Cameron that he "knew nothing" about the phone-hacking committed by News of the World royal editor Clive Goodman and private investigator Glenn Mulcaire.

3. Cameron sought no assurances after the Guardian reported in 2009 that phone-hacking was more widespread than News International claimed.

4. He "may" have had access to top-secret state material, despite only having low-level clearance.

5. The Guardian suggested to him that it was "possible" that the paper would endorse the Conservatives at the 2010 general election. Coulson's witness statement revealed: "At a drinks reception in David Cameron's office a Guardian executive told me not to 'write off' the idea of a Guardian endorsement."

6. Tony Blair and Gordon Brown offered their "commiserations" when he resigned as editor of the News of the World. Coulson could not recall whether David Cameron did.

7. He was a "little disappointed" by the manner of the Sun's endorsement of the Conservatives. "I felt it was more a rejection of Labour than a positive endorsement of us. If I'd had half the influence on The Sun that some claim, that front page would have looked very different." (The tabloid's headline was "Labour's lost it".)

8. Gordon Brown told him in 2006 that he had it "on very good authority" that Rupert Murdoch would appoint Coulson as editor of the Sun when Rebekah Brooks became chief executive of News International (Brooks's promotion was eventually announced in June 2009, more than two years after Coulson had resigned as editor of the News of the World.) Coulson interpreted this an attempt by Brown to "impress on me his closeness to Rupert Murdoch."

9. The other frontrunner to become Downing Street director of communications was Guto Harri, who went on to become Boris Johnson's Director of Communications. Harri has now left Johnson's administration and is rumoured to have accepted a senior press role at News International.

10. He was not involved in "any way, shape or form" in the handling of News Corp's bid for full control of BSkyB.

Bonus: He sat between Rupert Murdoch and Whoopi Goldberg at a post-election dinner in New York. "I spent most of my time at the table talking to her."

Former News of the World editor and Downing Street communications chief, Andy Coulson, leaves his home in London earlier today. Photograph: Getty Images.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

Photo: Getty
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PMQs review: Jeremy Corbyn prompts Tory outrage as he blames Grenfell Tower fire on austerity

To Conservative cries of "shame on you!", the Labour leader warned that "we all pay a price in public safety" for spending cuts.

A fortnight after the Grenfell Tower fire erupted, the tragedy continues to cast a shadow over British politics. Rather than probing Theresa May on the DUP deal, Jeremy Corbyn asked a series of forensic questions on the incident, in which at least 79 people are confirmed to have died.

In the first PMQs of the new parliament, May revealed that the number of buildings that had failed fire safety tests had risen to 120 (a 100 per cent failure rate) and that the cladding used on Grenfell Tower was "non-compliant" with building regulations (Corbyn had asked whether it was "legal").

After several factual questions, the Labour leader rose to his political argument. To cries of "shame on you!" from Tory MPs, he warned that local authority cuts of 40 per cent meant "we all pay a price in public safety". Corbyn added: “What the tragedy of Grenfell Tower has exposed is the disastrous effects of austerity. The disregard for working-class communities, the terrible consequences of deregulation and cutting corners." Corbyn noted that 11,000 firefighters had been cut and that the public sector pay cap (which Labour has tabled a Queen's Speech amendment against) was hindering recruitment. "This disaster must be a wake-up call," he concluded.

But May, who fared better than many expected, had a ready retort. "The cladding of tower blocks did not start under this government, it did not start under the previous coalition governments, the cladding of tower blocks began under the Blair government," she said. “In 2005 it was a Labour government that introduced the regulatory reform fire safety order which changed the requirements to inspect a building on fire safety from the local fire authority to a 'responsible person'." In this regard, however, Corbyn's lack of frontbench experience is a virtue – no action by the last Labour government can be pinned on him. 

Whether or not the Conservatives accept the link between Grenfell and austerity, their reluctance to defend continued cuts shows an awareness of how politically vulnerable they have become (No10 has announced that the public sector pay cap is under review).

Though Tory MP Philip Davies accused May of having an "aversion" to policies "that might be popular with the public" (he demanded the abolition of the 0.7 per cent foreign aid target), there was little dissent from the backbenches – reflecting the new consensus that the Prime Minister is safe (in the absence of an attractive alternative).

And May, whose jokes sometimes fall painfully flat, was able to accuse Corbyn of saying "one thing to the many and another thing to the few" in reference to his alleged Trident comments to Glastonbury festival founder Michael Eavis. But the Labour leader, no longer looking fearfully over his shoulder, displayed his increased authority today. Though the Conservatives may jeer him, the lingering fear in Tory minds is that they and the country are on divergent paths. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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