Cameron refuses to deny Coulson resignation offer

PM insists Coulson is doing a “good job” but refuses to comment on resignation rumours.

David Cameron's appearance on this morning's Today programme was most notable for his refusal to deny that Andy Coulson has offered his resignation. "I don't go into private conversations," was all the Prime Minister would say when pressed by John Humphrys.

Elsewhere, Cameron offered his standard "everyone deserves a second chance" defence of Coulson. The former News of the World editor may have taken ultimate responsibility and resigned from the tabloid – how could he not? – but there are still unanswered questions over the phone-hacking scandal.

Cameron's communications chief 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 has been repeatedly undermined by new evidence. Most significantly, in a recent Channel 4 Dispatches investigation (presented by that notable Labour stooge, Peter Oborne), a former senior NoW journalist revealed that Coulson had personally listened to intercepted voicemail messages.

He told 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".

In any case, as I have repeatedly pointed out, if Coulson did know about the scandal then he's too wicked to stay in his post, and if he didn't know then he's too stupid. Cameron is right; everyone does deserve a second chance – but not until they've fully atoned for their original sins.

As Steve Hilton is said to be arguing in private, Coulson's continued presence in No 10 makes a mockery of Cameron's claim to have turned his back on the sleaze of the New Labour era.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

Ukip's Nigel Farage and Paul Nuttall. Photo: Getty
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Is the general election 2017 the end of Ukip?

Ukip led the way to Brexit, but now the party is on less than 10 per cent in the polls. 

Ukip could be finished. Ukip has only ever had two MPs, but it held an outside influence on politics: without it, we’d probably never have had the EU referendum. But Brexit has turned Ukip into a single-issue party without an issue. Ukip’s sole remaining MP, Douglas Carswell, left the party in March 2017, and told Sky News’ Adam Boulton that there was “no point” to the party anymore. 

Not everyone in Ukip has given up, though: Nigel Farage told Peston on Sunday that Ukip “will survive”, and current leader Paul Nuttall will be contesting a seat this year. But Ukip is standing in fewer constituencies than last time thanks to a shortage of both money and people. Who benefits if Ukip is finished? It’s likely to be the Tories. 

Is Ukip finished? 

What are Ukip's poll ratings?

Ukip’s poll ratings peaked in June 2016 at 16 per cent. Since the leave campaign’s success, that has steadily declined so that Ukip is going into the 2017 general election on 4 per cent, according to the latest polls. If the polls can be trusted, that’s a serious collapse.

Can Ukip get anymore MPs?

In the 2015 general election Ukip contested nearly every seat and got 13 per cent of the vote, making it the third biggest party (although is only returned one MP). Now Ukip is reportedly struggling to find candidates and could stand in as few as 100 seats. Ukip leader Paul Nuttall will stand in Boston and Skegness, but both ex-leader Nigel Farage and donor Arron Banks have ruled themselves out of running this time.

How many members does Ukip have?

Ukip’s membership declined from 45,994 at the 2015 general election to 39,000 in 2016. That’s a worrying sign for any political party, which relies on grassroots memberships to put in the campaigning legwork.

What does Ukip's decline mean for Labour and the Conservatives? 

The rise of Ukip took votes from both the Conservatives and Labour, with a nationalist message that appealed to disaffected voters from both right and left. But the decline of Ukip only seems to be helping the Conservatives. Stephen Bush has written about how in Wales voting Ukip seems to have been a gateway drug for traditional Labour voters who are now backing the mainstream right; so the voters Ukip took from the Conservatives are reverting to the Conservatives, and the ones they took from Labour are transferring to the Conservatives too.

Ukip might be finished as an electoral force, but its influence on the rest of British politics will be felt for many years yet. 

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