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17 January 2011

Cameron refuses to deny Coulson resignation offer

PM insists Coulson is doing a “good job” but refuses to comment on resignation rumours.

By George Eaton

David Cameron’s appearance on this morning’s Today programme was most notable for his refusal to deny that Andy Coulson has offered his resignation. “I don’t go into private conversations,” was all the Prime Minister would say when pressed by John Humphrys.

Elsewhere, Cameron offered his standard “everyone deserves a second chance” defence of Coulson. The former News of the World editor may have taken ultimate responsibility and resigned from the tabloid – how could he not? – but there are still unanswered questions over the phone-hacking scandal.

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Cameron’s communications chief maintains that he had no knowledge of the affair and that the former royal editor Clive Goodman, jailed in 2007 for hacking into the phones of royal staff, was the only reporter involved. But this “rotten apples” excuse has been repeatedly undermined by new evidence. Most significantly, in a recent Channel 4 Dispatches investigation (presented by that notable Labour stooge, Peter Oborne), a former senior NoW journalist revealed that Coulson had personally listened to intercepted voicemail messages.

He told the programme:

Sometimes, they would say: “We’ve got a recording,” and Andy would say: “OK, bring it into my office and play it to me” or “Bring me, email me a transcript of it”.

In any case, as I have repeatedly pointed out, if Coulson did know about the scandal then he’s too wicked to stay in his post, and if he didn’t know then he’s too stupid. Cameron is right; everyone does deserve a second chance – but not until they’ve fully atoned for their original sins.

As Steve Hilton is said to be arguing in private, Coulson’s continued presence in No 10 makes a mockery of Cameron’s claim to have turned his back on the sleaze of the New Labour era.