Andy Coulson arranged seven-star hotel stay for lover Rebekah Brooks and husband Ross Kemp, court told

Andy Coulson is "very ambitious but not ruthless", the jury has heard from one of his closest friends.

Former News of the World editor Andy Coulson is "very ambitious but not ruthless", the jury in his trial for alleged phone hacking has heard from one of his oldest friends.

Dean Keyworth told the Old Bailey that he had met Coulson while he was a 19-year-old journalism student - before he embarked on a successful career in the media and later politics.

Coulson, 45, denies conspiring with others to hack phones between October 3, 2000 and August 9, 2006 during the time he worked at the now-defunct tabloid.

Keyworth told the jury: "He is a very loyal friend and despite becoming extremely busy and very important he retained his friendships, he took care of them and the few people who were close to him."

"He is very ambitious but I don't think he is ruthless," the witness said, adding that Coulson "wanted to get the story but not at any cost".

The witness also said the two would have fun in nightclubs and at celebrity parties during Coulson's time as editor of showbiz column Bizarre.

He described his friend of 26 years as "self-deprecating" and someone who "played himself down".

The court heard that Keyworth met with then editor of the NoW Rebekah Brooks in April 2002 while she holidayed in Dubai with her former husband Ross Kemp.

Coulson, who was NoW deputy editor at the time and who the court has previously heard was in a secret relationship with his boss Brooks, put his friend and lover in contact so that he could arrange a stay for her and Kemp at the seven-star Burj Al-Arab hotel.

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Former News of the World editor and Downing Street communications chief Andy Coulson arrives for the phone-hacking trial at the Old Bailey. Photo: Getty
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Autumn Statement 2015: George Osborne abandons his target

How will George Osborne close the deficit after his U-Turns? Answer: he won't, of course. 

“Good governments U-Turn, and U-Turn frequently.” That’s Andrew Adonis’ maxim, and George Osborne borrowed heavily from him today, delivering two big U-Turns, on tax credits and on police funding. There will be no cuts to tax credits or to the police.

The Office for Budget Responsibility estimates that, in total, the government gave away £6.2 billion next year, more than half of which is the reverse to tax credits.

Osborne claims that he will still deliver his planned £12bn reduction in welfare. But, as I’ve written before, without cutting tax credits, it’s difficult to see how you can get £12bn out of the welfare bill. Here’s the OBR’s chart of welfare spending:

The government has already promised to protect child benefit and pension spending – in fact, it actually increased pensioner spending today. So all that’s left is tax credits. If the government is not going to cut them, where’s the £12bn come from?

A bit of clever accounting today got Osborne out of his hole. The Universal Credit, once it comes in in full, will replace tax credits anyway, allowing him to describe his U-Turn as a delay, not a full retreat. But the reality – as the Treasury has admitted privately for some time – is that the Universal Credit will never be wholly implemented. The pilot schemes – one of which, in Hammersmith, I have visited myself – are little more than Potemkin set-ups. Iain Duncan Smith’s Universal Credit will never be rolled out in full. The savings from switching from tax credits to Universal Credit will never materialise.

The £12bn is smaller, too, than it was this time last week. Instead of cutting £12bn from the welfare budget by 2017-8, the government will instead cut £12bn by the end of the parliament – a much smaller task.

That’s not to say that the cuts to departmental spending and welfare will be painless – far from it. Employment Support Allowance – what used to be called incapacity benefit and severe disablement benefit – will be cut down to the level of Jobseekers’ Allowance, while the government will erect further hurdles to claimants. Cuts to departmental spending will mean a further reduction in the numbers of public sector workers.  But it will be some way short of the reductions in welfare spending required to hit Osborne’s deficit reduction timetable.

So, where’s the money coming from? The answer is nowhere. What we'll instead get is five more years of the same: increasing household debt, austerity largely concentrated on the poorest, and yet more borrowing. As the last five years proved, the Conservatives don’t need to close the deficit to be re-elected. In fact, it may be that having the need to “finish the job” as a stick to beat Labour with actually helped the Tories in May. They have neither an economic imperative nor a political one to close the deficit. 

Stephen Bush is editor of the Staggers, the New Statesman’s political blog.