Andy Coulson at Leveson: 10 things we learned

Including, that he retained £40,000 of News Corporation shares.

1. He retained News Corporation shares worth £40,000 throughout his time at Downing Street but was "never asked about any share or stock holdings". Coulson claimed this was because he wasn't involved "in any commercial issues". In retrospect, he wishes he had "paid more attention" to the issue.

2. In a phone conversation confirming his appointment as the Conservatives' director of communications, Coulson told David Cameron that he "knew nothing" about the phone-hacking committed by News of the World royal editor Clive Goodman and private investigator Glenn Mulcaire.

3. Cameron sought no assurances after the Guardian reported in 2009 that phone-hacking was more widespread than News International claimed.

4. He "may" have had access to top-secret state material, despite only having low-level clearance.

5. The Guardian suggested to him that it was "possible" that the paper would endorse the Conservatives at the 2010 general election. Coulson's witness statement revealed: "At a drinks reception in David Cameron's office a Guardian executive told me not to 'write off' the idea of a Guardian endorsement."

6. Tony Blair and Gordon Brown offered their "commiserations" when he resigned as editor of the News of the World. Coulson could not recall whether David Cameron did.

7. He was a "little disappointed" by the manner of the Sun's endorsement of the Conservatives. "I felt it was more a rejection of Labour than a positive endorsement of us. If I'd had half the influence on The Sun that some claim, that front page would have looked very different." (The tabloid's headline was "Labour's lost it".)

8. Gordon Brown told him in 2006 that he had it "on very good authority" that Rupert Murdoch would appoint Coulson as editor of the Sun when Rebekah Brooks became chief executive of News International (Brooks's promotion was eventually announced in June 2009, more than two years after Coulson had resigned as editor of the News of the World.) Coulson interpreted this an attempt by Brown to "impress on me his closeness to Rupert Murdoch."

9. The other frontrunner to become Downing Street director of communications was Guto Harri, who went on to become Boris Johnson's Director of Communications. Harri has now left Johnson's administration and is rumoured to have accepted a senior press role at News International.

10. He was not involved in "any way, shape or form" in the handling of News Corp's bid for full control of BSkyB.

Bonus: He sat between Rupert Murdoch and Whoopi Goldberg at a post-election dinner in New York. "I spent most of my time at the table talking to her."

Former News of the World editor and Downing Street communications chief, Andy Coulson, leaves his home in London earlier today. Photograph: Getty Images.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

Photo: Getty
Show Hide image

Ann Summers can’t claim to empower women when it is teaming up with Pornhub

This is not about mutual sexual fulfilment, it is about eroticising women’s pain. 

I can’t understand why erotic retailers like Ann Summers have persisted into the twenty-first century. The store claims to be “sexy, daring, provocative and naughty”, and somewhat predictably positions itself as empowering for women. As a feminist of the unfashionable type, I can’t help but be suspicious of any form of sexual liberation that can be bought or sold.

And yet, I’d never really thought of Ann Summers as being particularly threatening to the rights of women, more just a faintly depressing reflection of heteronormativity. This changed when I saw they’d teamed-up with Pornhub. The website is reputedly the largest purveyor of online pornography in the world. Pornhub guidelines state that content flagged as  “illegal, unlawful, harassing, harmful, offensive” will be removed. Nonetheless, the site still contains simulated incest and rape with some of the more easily published film titles including “Exploited Teen Asia” (236 million views) and “How to sexually harass your secretary properly” (10.5 million views.)  With campaigns such as #metoo and #timesup are sweeping social media, it seems bizarre that a high street brand would not consider Pornhub merchandise as toxic.

Society is still bound by taboos: our hyper-sexual society glossy magazines like Teen Vogue offer girls tips on receiving anal sex, while advice on pleasuring women is notably rare. As an unabashed wanker, I find it baffling that in the year that largely female audiences queued to watch Fifty Shades Darker, a survey revealed that 20 per cent of U.S. women have never masturbated. It is an odd truth that in our apparently open society, any criticism of pornography or sexual practices is shut down as illiberal. 

Guardian-reading men who wring their hands about Fair Trade coffee will passionately defend the right to view women being abused on film. Conservative men who make claims about morals and marriage are aroused by images that in any other setting would be considered abuse. Pornography is not only misogynistic, but the tropes and language are often also racist. In what other context would racist slurs and scenarios be acceptable?

I have no doubt that some reading this will be burning to point out that feminist pornography exists. In name of course it does, but then again, Theresa May calls herself a feminist when it suits. Whether you believe feminist pornography is either possible or desirable, it is worth remembering that what is marketed as such comprises a tiny portion of the market. This won’t make me popular, but it is worth remembering feminism is not about celebrating every choice a woman makes – it is about analysing the social context in which choices are made. Furthermore, that some women also watch porn is evidence of how patriarchy shapes our desire, not that pornography is woman-friendly.  

Ann Summers parts the net curtains of nation’s suburban bedrooms and offers a glimpse into our peccadillos and preferences. That a mainstream high street retailer blithely offers guidance on hair-pulling, whipping and clamps, as well as a full range of Pornhub branded products is disturbing. This is not about women’s empowerment or mutual sexual fulfilment, it is about eroticising women’s pain. 

We are living in a world saturated with images of women and girls suffering; to pretend that there is no connection between pornography and the four-in-ten teenage girls who say they have been coerced into sex acts is naive in the extreme. For too long the state claimed that violence in the home was a domestic matter. Women and girls are now facing an epidemic of sexual violence behind bedroom doors and it is not a private matter. We need to ask ourselves which matters more: the sexual rights of men or the human rights of women?