New phone-hacking questions for Coulson

Tory spin chief said to have "personally listened" to hacked phone messages.

Just in time for the Conservative conference, come yet more revelations about the News of the World phone-hacking scandal and Tory spin chief Andy Coulson's alleged role in it.

Coulson maintains that he had no knowledge of the affair and that the former royal editor Clive Goodman, jailed in 2007 for hacking into the phones of royal staff, was the only reporter involved. But this "rotten apples" excuse is rather undermined by a new finding from tonight's Channel Four Dispatches investigation.

A former senior NoW journalist reveals that Coulson personally listened to intercepted voicemail messages. He tells the programme:

Sometimes, they would say: 'We've got a recording' and Andy would say: 'OK, bring it into my office and play it to me' or 'Bring me, email me a transcript of it.'

It's never good news for a spin doctor when they become the story and the idea that Coulson, then NoW editor, was one of the few people at the paper who didn't know about the scandal is risible. In any case, as I've argued before, if Coulson did know then he's too wicked to stay in his post, and if he didn't know then he's too stupid.

Tonight's programme is presented by Peter Oborne, formerly of the Daily Mail and now chief political commentator of the Daily Telegraph, which should give it some real bite. Oborne, one of David Cameron's strongest supporters on Fleet Street, can't be dismissed as a partisan hack or a Labour lackey.

For now, the media's focus is rightly on Osborne's cuts but you do sense that Coulson is living on borrowed time.

UPDATE: Courtesy of Tweetminister, you can hear a preview of tonight's programme from Peter Oborne by clicking below.

Listen!

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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