Andy Coulson arrives at the Old Bailey. Photo: Getty
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Andy Coulson found guilty of phone hacking; Rebekah Brooks cleared of all charges

The outcome of the phone hacking trial at the Old Bailey.

Former News of the World editor and No 10 communications director Andy Coulson has been found guilty of conspiracy to hack phones.

Co-defendant Rebekah Brooks was cleared of all charges, including conspiracy to pervert the course of justice and conspiracy to commit misconduct in public office. Her husband Charlie Brooks was also cleared of all charges. Other verdicts are pending, as court reporter Peter Jukes explains:


This is what David Cameron said about his former spin doctor Coulson in the House of Commons on 20 July 2011:

I have an old-fashioned view about innocent until proven guilty. But if it turns out I have been lied to, that would be the moment for a profound apology. In that event, I can tell you I will not fall short.

The case is sure to be brought up during tomorrow's PMQs.

Following an eight-month trial, the verdicts so far are:

  • Brooks found not guilty on all charges.
  • Brooks' husband Charlie, the former head of News International security Mark Hanna, and Brooks' secretary Cheryl Carter all cleared of conspiring to pervert the course of justice.
  • Stuart Kuttner, managing editor of the News of the World, cleared of conspiring to hack phones.
  • Coulson has been found guilty of conspiring to hack phones. 

The jury, which has been considering verdicts since Wednesday 11 June, is still deliberating on further charges faced by Coulson and former News of the World royal editor Clive Goodman of conspiring to commit misconduct in a public office by paying police officers for two royal directories. Here's the Guardian's Lisa O'Carroll on this:

The Prime Minister will stand by his decision to apologise if Coulson were to be found guilty of hacking phones. Here's what a spokesman said:

During Treasury Questions in the Commons, Labour's Ed Balls asked George Osborne, who advised Cameron to hire Coulson, if he accepts that he damaged his own and the Treasury's reputation. 

Update, 14.50: David Cameron and Ed Miliband have now given statements on the verdicts. Cameron said: "I am extremely sorry that I employed him. It was the wrong decision and I’m very clear about that." Read his full remarks here

Ed Miliband said: “I think David Cameron must do much more than an apology – he owes the country an explanation for why he did not act.” Read his full statement.

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Why Theresa May can't end speculation of an early general election

Both Conservative and Labour MPs regard a contest next year as the solution to their problems. 

One of Theresa May’s first acts as a Conservative leadership candidate was to rule out an early general election. After a tumultuous 2015 contest and the EU referendum, her view was that the country required a period of stability (a view shared by voters). Many newly-elected Tory MPs, fearful of a Brexit-inspired Ukip or Liberal Democrat surge, supported her on this condition.

After entering Downing Street, May reaffirmed her stance. “The Prime Minister could not have been clearer,” a senior source told me. “There won’t be an early election.” Maintaining this pledge is an important part of May’s straight-talking image.

But though No.10 has wisely avoided publicly contemplating an election (unlike Gordon Brown), the question refuses to die. The Conservatives have a majority of just 12 - the smallest of any single-party government since 1974 - and, as David Cameron found, legislative defeats almost inevitably follow. May’s vow to lift the ban on new grammar schools looks to many like an unachievable task. Former education secretary Nicky Morgan and former business minister Anna Soubry are among the Tories leading the charge against the measure (which did not feature in the 2015 Conservative manifesto).  

To this problem, an early election appears to be the solution. The Tories retain a substantial opinion poll lead over Labour, the most divided opposition in recent history. An election victory would give May the mandate for new policies that she presently lacks.

“I don’t believe Theresa May wishes to hold an early election which there is evidence that the country doesn’t want and which, given the current state of the Labour Party, might be seen as opportunistic,” Nigel Lawson told today’s Times“If, however, the government were to find that it couldn’t get its legislation through the House of Commons, then a wholly new situation would arise.”

It is not only Conservatives who are keeping the possibility of an early election alive. Many Labour MPs are pleading for one in the belief that it would end Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership. An early contest would also pre-empt the boundary changes planned in 2018, which are forecast to cost the party 23 seats.

For Corbyn, the possibility of an election is a vital means of disciplining MPs. Allies also hope that the failed revolt against his leadership, which Labour members blame for the party’s unpopularity, would allow him to remain leader even if defeated.

Unlike her predecessors, May faces the obstacle of the Fixed-Term Parliaments Act (under which the next election will be on 7 May 2020). Yet it is not an insurmountable one. The legislation can be suspended with the backing of two-thirds of MPs, or through a vote of no confidence in the government. Alternatively, the act could simply be repealed or amended. Labour and the Liberal Democrats, who have demanded an early election, would struggle to resist May if she called their bluff.

To many, it simply looks like an offer too good to refuse. Which is why, however hard May swats this fly, it will keep coming back. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.