Andy Coulson arriving at the Old Bailey for sentencing. Photo: Getty
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Andy Coulson jailed for 18 months for conspiracy to hack phones

Former No 10 communications director and News of the World editor is sentenced.

Andy Coulson has been sentenced to 18 months in jail for conspiracy to hack phones.

The 46-year-old former Downing Street communications director was found guilty at the Old Bailey last week.

The maximum sentence for his offence is two years, but Coulson received a reduction of several months “for previous good character”.

He will be taken to HM Belmarsh Prison at lunchtime, before being sent to an open prison in the next few days.

Coulson, a former News of the World editor, is one of the four ex-journalists from the now retired tabloid to be sentenced.

The former news editor Greg Miskiw and ex-chief reporter Neville Thurlbeck were jailed for six months. Former private investigator Glenn Mulcaire, who was tasked with phonehacking, was given a six-month suspended sentence, and former reporter James Weatherup was given a four-month suspended sentence.

The Prime Minister commented that Coulson's sentencing shows, "no one is above the law".

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Tom Watson rouses Labour's conference as he comes out fighting

The party's deputy leader exhilarated delegates with his paean to the Blair and Brown years. 

Tom Watson is down but not out. After Jeremy Corbyn's second landslide victory, and weeks of threats against his position, Labour's deputy leader could have played it safe. Instead, he came out fighting. 

With Corbyn seated directly behind him, he declared: "I don't know why we've been focusing on what was wrong with the Blair and Brown governments for the last six years. But trashing our record is not the way to enhance our brand. We won't win elections like that! And we need to win elections!" As Watson won a standing ovation from the hall and the platform, the Labour leader remained motionless. When a heckler interjected, Watson riposted: "Jeremy, I don't think she got the unity memo." Labour delegates, many of whom hail from the pre-Corbyn era, lapped it up.

Though he warned against another challenge to the leader ("we can't afford to keep doing this"), he offered a starkly different account of the party's past and its future. He reaffirmed Labour's commitment to Nato ("a socialist construct"), with Corbyn left isolated as the platform applauded. The only reference to the leader came when Watson recalled his recent PMQs victory over grammar schools. There were dissenting voices (Watson was heckled as he praised Sadiq Khan for winning an election: "Just like Jeremy Corbyn!"). But one would never have guessed that this was the party which had just re-elected Corbyn. 

There was much more to Watson's speech than this: a fine comic riff on "Saturday's result" (Ed Balls on Strictly), a spirited attack on Theresa May's "ducking and diving; humming and hahing" and a cerebral account of the automation revolution. But it was his paean to Labour history that roused the conference as no other speaker has. 

The party's deputy channelled the spirit of both Hugh Gaitskell ("fight, and fight, and fight again to save the party we love") and his mentor Gordon Brown (emulating his trademark rollcall of New Labour achivements). With his voice cracking, Watson recalled when "from the sunny uplands of increasing prosperity social democratic government started to feel normal to the people of Britain". For Labour, a party that has never been further from power in recent decades, that truly was another age. But for a brief moment, Watson's tubthumper allowed Corbyn's vanquished opponents to relive it. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.