David Cameron reputation 'permanently damaged' as Andy Coulson is arrested

A former government comms man claims that David Cameron has been 'permanently damaged' by his association with Andy Coulson after news emerged of the ex-News of the World editor's arrest.

Andy Coulson: under arrest
Andy Coulson: under arrest

The Prime Minister’s former director of comms Coulson was arrested at 10.30am this morning as part of investigations relating to phone-hacking and illegal payments to police.

A Scotland Yard spokesman said: ‘The Metropolitan Police Service has this morning arrested a member of the public in connection with allegations of corruption and phone hacking.

‘At 10:30 officers from Operation Weeting together with officers from Operation Elveden arrested a man on suspicion of conspiring to intercept communications, contrary to Section1(1) Criminal Law Act 1977 and on suspicion of corruption allegations contrary to Section 1 of the Prevention of Corruption Act 1906.’
 
As Coulson was in police custody, Cameron gave a speech in Downing Street in which he announced a judicial inquiry into the scandal, and the closure of the Press Complaints Commission.

However, reporters focused their questioning on the Prime Minister’s decision to hire Coulson as his director of comms. Cameron declined to apologise for the appointment of Coulson, stating ‘the key thing is it's right to judge an individual by the work they did for me’.

When BBC News’s Nick Robinson said the PM's judgement is at issue for appointing Coulson, Cameron replied that no-one gave him ‘specific information about Coulson’.

Luther Pendragon partner Mike Granatt said of Cameron’s speech: ‘Cameron is desperately trying to get back on the front foot. But his retrospective hand-wringing and his increasingly tired tactic of saying "we all got it wrong, but I'm the man to deal with it" is losing traction with a disgusted public.

‘His political anguish may be mitigated a little if Miliband and others swing behind the new inquiries, but he has been permanently damaged by this affair through both his associations and inaction. And the killer is his inability to say that Rebekah Brooks should go or even that she should not lead News International's internal inquiry. A Prime Minister cannot be selective in his morality. Cameron has made that fatal mistake.’

Edelman director of strategy Stefan Stern added: ‘I thought he looked like a rather anxious press officer, not a Prime Minister. He could have said "if the charges turn out to be true and if he’s guilty, then I will have to admit I have made a mistake in hiring him". That would not have been a hugely embarrassing line to take.’

However, others praised Cameron’s performance, including former government speechwriter Simon Lancaster, who said: ‘Cameron looked, spoke and sounded like a man of honour in his press conference: accepting responsibility for his own decisions, but leaving it to others to decide whether they were wrong or not.’

During his speech, Cameron said that he would have accepted News International chief executive Rebekah Brooks’ offer of her resignation.

The Corporation chairman Garry Farrow, added: ‘I’m a huge fan of his, but I thought he was authoritative and I trust him when he speaks. He’s a steady pair of hands. I though he did what was necessary this morning. It was very hard for him to make that speech, with his involvement with Coulson.’

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