Andy Coulson’s red-top ride into Downing Street • Stories • Who Knows Who
Coulson joined The Sun in 1988, two years after starting his first job on the Basildon Echo. Having risen to editorship of the red-top’s Bizarre column, he moved across in 2000 to become deputy editor under Rebekah Wade at News of the World, The Sun’s News International stable-mate.
By all accounts Wade and Coulson, who were already friends, cemented their relationship at NOTW during a period when Rupert Murdoch’s British newspapers were still in love with Tony Blair’s new Labour. Coulson was Wade’s natural successor when, in 2003, she left to became editor of The Sun.
(Last year, incidentally, as The Sun prepared to shift allegiance away from Labour and back to the Tories, Rebekah Wade married Old Etonian Charlie Brooks. As such, the couple are part of rich Old Etonian seam that runs through the coalition government.)
Fast forward to July 2007. Six months after Coulson’s resignation as News of the World editor, David Cameron appoints him Conservative party director of communications on a rumoured salary of £485,000 a year (when Cameron became PM, Coulson’s salary plummeted to a paltry £140,000).
Until January of that year Coulson had presided over a newspaper where, according to one News of the World reporter quoted in the New York Times, phone hacking was so pervasive that “Everyone knew. The office cat knew.”
So what prompted the Conservative leader to ignore the whiff of scandal that might have attached to Coulson after the imprisonment of his royal editor, Clive Goodman, and Glenn Mulcaire, a private investigator with a NOTW contract, for illegally intercepting private communications involving members of the royal family?
The fact that Andy Coulson offered an invaluable link to Rupert Murdoch, and thus to a sizeable cross-section of the UK’s media, is central. The then shadow chancellor, George Osborne, and the influential publicist Matthew Freud (Rupert Murdoch’s son-in-law) are said to have urged Coulson’s appointment. The perceived benefits of endorsement by the country’s most powerful media owner clearly outweighed any concerns over skeletons in the former NOTW editor’s closet.
Those skeletons were dragged into the open last week by Sean Hoare, described as “a former reporter and onetime friend of Coulson’s”, who has confessed to the New York Times to breaking into the phone messages of celebrities including David Beckham.