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Profile: Andy Coulson

By Channel 4 News

Updated on 09 July 2009

New phone-tapping revelations have thrust the Conservative communications chief into the spotlight. We look at the former News of The World boss's career.

Andy Coulson (picture: Getty Images)

Former News of the World editor Andy Coulson was one of Rupert Murdoch's key red-top bosses when the phone-tapping scandal broke in 2006.

Coulson, a former reporter on the Basildon Evening Echo, had worked through the ranks at The Sun, starting as a showbiz reporter in 1988. He moved to edit the Bizarre column and was the paper's associate editor when he moved to The News of the World as deputy editor in 2000. He took over from Rebekah Wade as editor of the tabloid in January 2003.

Under his editorship, The News of the World exposed David Beckham's alleged affair with Rebeccas Loos, which won it the scoop of the year award at the British Press Awards in 2005, the same year it was crowned newspaper of the year.

In a rare interview with industry paper Press Gazette, Coulson talked of the level of discussion and analysis that went on before a story was published.

"The business that we're in, our mistakes are so public - and we have made a couple of them, you put 'em right when you've got it wrong - that you have to do everything you possibly can," he said. "That's a responsibility that runs right the way down from reporters. You've got to think your stories through before you press the button."

He said he had "nothing to be ashamed of, and this goes for everyone on the NotW, in what we do for a living. The readers are the judges, that's the most important thing. And I think we should be proud of what we do."

In August 2006, the paper's royal editor, Clive Goodman, was arrested for allegedly intercepting phone calls at Clarence House. In January 2007, Goodman was jailed for four months. Hours later, Coulson resigned, saying he took "ultimate responsibility" for the events around the case.

"As I've said before, his actions were entirely wrong and I deeply regret that they happened on my watch," he said.

"I also feel strongly that when the News of the World calls those in public life to account on behalf of its readers, it must have its own house in order."

His resignation meant Coulson was not called to appear before a cross-party Commons media committee inquiry. News International chairman Les Hinton said in his evidence to MPs that Coulson "did not have knowledge of what went on".

Four months after his resignation, Coulson re-remerged as the Conservatives' director of communications. Tory leader David Cameron said Coulson would "make a formidable contribution as a senior member of my team in building the most effective strategy and operation to win the next general election".

The Conservatives said Coulson's job would involve day-to-day contact with editors and senior commentators, and dealing with long-term strategy. The party denied they were looking for an Alastair Campbell figure, but said Coulson would provide more "horsepower".

When asked about the appointment by a reader in The Independent, Cameron answered: "I am satisfied that Andy Coulson was not aware that a journalist at the News of the World was engaged in this practice. But he did the right thing, took responsibility and resigned."

Editor of Conservativehome.com Tim Montgomerie, who identifies Coulson as one of six key staffers in Cameron's "West Wing", wrote yesterday that Coulson "has been central to the revitalisation of the Conservative project since the summer of 2007". 

Yesterday's revelations in The Guardian that the News of the World's parent company has paid out more than £1m to settle legal cases that threatened to reveal evidence of journalists' repeated involvement in phone tapping have thrust Coulson back into the spotlight.

Former cabinet minister Geoff Hoon, former deputy prime minister John Prescott and Lib Dem home affairs spokesperson Chris Huhne have all called for him to go.

But Cameron this morning supported his communications chief. "Of course I knew about that resignation before offering him the job," he said. "But I believe in giving people a second chance. As director of communications for the Conservatives he does an excellent job in a proper, upright way at all times."

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