10 May 2012

LIVE BLOG: Andy Coulson at the Leveson inquiry

Follow tweets and analysis from Channel 4 News as Andy Coulson, David Cameron’s former head of communications, gives evidence to the Leveson inquiry into media standards.

Andy Coulson gives evidence to Leveson

Political Editor Gary Gibbon writes: A few nuggets in the second tranche of questions to Andy Coulson, but nothing startlingly new. He’s confirmed the Independent on Sunday story that he owned News Corp shares while working at No. 10 – he says this was a mistake. He also points out that no-one asked him whether he held such shares when he took up the job in No. 10. That lapse comes on top of the weird matter of Mr Coulson’s light touch vetting. He confirms the longstanding reports that he had a lower than usual vetting clearance which meant he wouldn’t have been asked a whole load of questions about life at the News of the World. Andy Coulson says that though David Cameron asked him when he came to work for the Tories in 2007 whether he knew anything about phone hacking (or the Clive Goodman affair as the QC calls it to avoid treading on police toes) he didn’t ask the question again when The Guardian printed more allegations in 2009.

16.35 – Session ends until 10am tomorrow.

Read Andy Coulson’s written evidence to Leveson

16.33 – Mr Coulson thanked and told the court understands it’s not been an easy process for him. His appearance at the session ends.

Bloodless, deadpan Coulson testimony – Read Gary Gibbon’s blog on Andy Coulson’s appearance at Leveson

Video – Andy Coulson says Sun front page endorsing the Conservatives isn’t one he would have chosen:

16.10 – Asked if he discussed his departure from Downing Street with Rebekah Brooks – he says he’s as certain as he can be that the Prime Minister was the first person to know.

16.03 – Inquiry moves to which people are allowed in the front or back door of Downing Street, which generates a little amusement.

15.51 Approaching the two hour mark of Coulson’s appearance – so far, all calm and collected.

Political Editor Gary Gibbon writes: Have been watching the first hour or so of Andy Coulson’s testimony at the Leveson inquiry and I have to tell you it is not a News of the World sizzler. It’s all a bit bloodless, deadpan and clipped. Those in No. 10 watching will be mightily relieved though not completely surprised given Mr Coulson’s conduct since he left No. 10. People often think that we lobby correspondents used to see Andy Coulson every day when he ran David Cameron’s media operation. That couldn’t be further from the truth. He deputed a civil servant to meet the lobby and he tightly rationed his interaction with most political editors – certainly this one, but even some in Tory-supporting papers I’ve known. He didn’t mind picking up the phone to newspaper editors (always a good way to put the frighteners on a political reporter).

15.24 Evidence resumes. Andy Coulson is asked about shares in News International. Coulson says he “does not believe” he held any other News Corp/News International holdings other than restricted stock units (RSU) as of May 2007. He is asked about the value of the RSUs. He says he has since calculated they were worth at £40,000.

15.12 Andy Coulson is asked about “unhealthy” closeness between the Murdochs and the government. He says that “we were the first government to introduce transparency with the media, including meetings with spads (special advisers)… in 2010”.

15.10 Mr Coulson tells the inquiry that newspapers were not the only focus of his efforts as head of communications, that TV was fundamentally important.

15.04 Coulson: I don’t buy the theory that a newspaper will directly influence its readers, politically.

15.00 A disagreement over the labelling of Rebekah Brooks as “powerful”. Coulson prefers the tag “strong” personality.

14.55 Coulson asked “what skills did you bring to [Cameron’s] party?”. He says he is sure he would have represented himself in the best possible light. “I think it was down to my broad experience… from 1998 working across the paper, and then on the internet. I may well have mentioned that.” He says he did not want to seem like an “appalling bighead” but adds that his personal connections “wouldn’t hurt”.

14.52 Andy Coulson appears keen to stress that his warm relations with proprietor Rupert Murdoch were “as an editor and employer”.

14.50 Andy Coulson on his transition from NoW editor to the Conservative Party leader’s communications chief: “The route from journalism to politics… I was hardly the pioneer!”

14.48 “I wasn’t going into it as an interview. I went into it with a degree of reluctance,” says Andy Coulson of his conversation with George Osborne. “I gave an outline… of what I felt the party needed to do to have the best chance of being elected.”

14.46 Robert Jay presses Andy Coulson on discussions he had with George Osborne ahead of his appointment as David Cameron’s communications chief: “What qualities did he say you might bring to the table?”

14.43 Andy Coulson admits that he received commiserations from Tony Blair and Gordon Brown after his resignation from the News of the World editorship, but none from David Cameron.

14.40 Discussing the terms of his departure from News of the World, Andy Coulson explains that he had shares in News International, which he sold before he resigned. He was not in possession of NI shares by May 2007, he states.

14.38 Andy Coulson says he had no discussions with Rupert Murdoch before his resignation as News of the World editor in 2007. “It was my decision. There wasn’t a negotiation or a discussion about whether I would or I wouldn’t.”

14.34 Robert Jay suggests a News of the World editorial in 2005 put a “favourable gloss” on David Cameron’s candidature for the Conservative Party leadership by endorsing George Osborne, despite sex and drugs allegations against the man who went on to become chancellor.

Read our Who Knows Who profile of Andy Coulson, dating from before his resignation as David Cameron’s communications chief.

14.23 The former News of the World editor says that while he was in charge, his newspaper never explicitly supported David Cameron’s bid to lead the Conservative Party.

14.16 Andy Coulson: “My job as editor was… to establish where the NoW readership was in terms of politics and certain issues.” His says his aim was to “more follow than lead” in terms of determining public opinion.

14.12 On his relations with Rupert Murdoch, Mr Coulson admits that his proprietor asked him about circulation figures – but they were not the main purpose of their phone conversations.

14.11 Discussing what distinguished the Sun from the News of the World, Andy Coulson says there is a different pace to the daily newspaper.

14.10 The former Downing Street head of communications admits Rebekah Brooks is a good friend – although he has not spoken with her for some time. He says he has no insight into her personal political beliefs.

14.08 Andy Coulson tells the inquiry he did not keep a diary in the course of his career. He says he used notebooks – which he used to help prepare his witness statement.

14.00 Counsel to the inquiry Robert Jay QC opens the afternoon’s proceedings by offering a brief summary of Andy Coulson’s career.

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