New Times,
New Thinking.

6 September 2010

Andy Coulson: David Cameron’s challenge

Prime Minister should "cut him loose", some MPs believe

By James Macintyre

The Conservative leadership is hoping that the news that David Cameron’s Director of Communications Andy Coulson has told police he is willing to speak to them about phone tapping allegations at the News of the World, the paper Coulson edited, will lance the boil of this damaging story.

They may be wrong. The view in Westminster is that Coulson may be gone within weeks. Doubtless, there was a time when he seemed a good choice, recommended by William Hague, as a kind of tough Alastair Campbell figure. He is certainly supported by the Tory right, having urged Cameron at several key moments in the past couple of years to shore up the “core vote”. But some Liberal Democrat MPs and peers — among whom there is a constant, agonised debate about how much they should be flexing their muscles in this coalition — are privately hoping he falls.

Today, the Prime Minister’s spokesman is saying Cameron has “full confidence” in Coulson. But he stopped short of making it clear that Cameron “believes” Coulson’s claim that he knew nothing of the phone tapping.

One senior Lib Dem said: “Whether Cameron cuts Coulson loose is now his biggest test.” That may or may not be true. But with the New York Times, the police and belatedly the non-Murdoch British press now on the case, this story is not going away.

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