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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Why relations between Theresa May and Philip Hammond became tense so quickly

The political imperative of controlling immigration is clashing with the economic imperative of maintaining growth. 

There is no relationship in government more important than that between the prime minister and the chancellor. When Theresa May entered No.10, she chose Philip Hammond, a dependable technocrat and long-standing ally who she had known since Oxford University. 

But relations between the pair have proved far tenser than anticipated. On Wednesday, Hammond suggested that students could be excluded from the net migration target. "We are having conversations within government about the most appropriate way to record and address net migration," he told the Treasury select committee. The Chancellor, in common with many others, has long regarded the inclusion of students as an obstacle to growth. 

The following day Hammond was publicly rebuked by No.10. "Our position on who is included in the figures has not changed, and we are categorically not reviewing whether or not students are included," a spokesman said (as I reported in advance, May believes that the public would see this move as "a fix"). 

This is not the only clash in May's first 100 days. Hammond was aggrieved by the Prime Minister's criticisms of loose monetary policy (which forced No.10 to state that it "respects the independence of the Bank of England") and is resisting tougher controls on foreign takeovers. The Chancellor has also struck a more sceptical tone on the UK's economic prospects. "It is clear to me that the British people did not vote on June 23 to become poorer," he declared in his conference speech, a signal that national prosperity must come before control of immigration. 

May and Hammond's relationship was never going to match the remarkable bond between David Cameron and George Osborne. But should relations worsen it risks becoming closer to that beween Gordon Brown and Alistair Darling. Like Hammond, Darling entered the Treasury as a calm technocrat and an ally of the PM. But the extraordinary circumstances of the financial crisis transformed him into a far more assertive figure.

In times of turmoil, there is an inevitable clash between political and economic priorities. As prime minister, Brown resisted talk of cuts for fear of the electoral consequences. But as chancellor, Darling was more concerned with the bottom line (backing a rise in VAT). By analogy, May is focused on the political imperative of controlling immigration, while Hammond is focused on the economic imperative of maintaining growth. If their relationship is to endure far tougher times they will soon need to find a middle way. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.