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Wednesday, August 24, 2011 

A strange business.

News International is a strange business. Not only did it immediately offer a year's salary to an employee who had been imprisoned as a result of his work as a leaving the firm present, when the company would have clearly been entirely within its rights to fire him with no recompense whatsoever for gross misconduct, it was also generous enough to give the senior manager who resigned for failing to notice that employee had been breaking the law 2 years' pay, 3 years of health insurance cover, and his company car. We aren't talking relatively piffling sums here either, the sort that any medium to large business would pay, rather than potentially involve themselves in expensive, protracted legal battles: Clive Goodman walked away with £240,000, while at the very least Andy Coulson received £600,000, albeit in instalments.

Apart from raising the question of whether Coulson really did resign of his own volition, or whether he was told very politely and sweetly that it was best that he went and that in return for going he would be very well looked after, it also reopens the whole reasoning behind why Coulson was hired by David Cameron in the first place. After all, there was no indication that Coulson had any great interest in politics beyond the basics, let alone that he had the potential to be a good director of communications for the Conservatives: as with Piers Morgan and the now editor of the Sun, Dominic Mohan, his speciality had been showbiz, having edited the Sun's Bizarre pages. Alastair Campbell, who we must inevitably compare Coulson with, was the political editor of Today when Tony Blair asked him to become his press secretary. Why then was George Osborne so smitten with Andy's prowess, especially considering how he'd tried to link Osborne with a prostitute and past cocaine usage?

The answer to which ought to be obvious by now: Coulson's main role was to get the Murdoch press back on the side of the Tories, and the idea was that from there everything else would follow. If Dan Sabbagh's report is right, then Coulson even let some at Conservative Central Office know that he was still being paid and receiving perks from the Murdochs, although he obviously couldn't put that down in the Commons register for MP-sponsored passes, as it would blow the entire charade.

We are then back once again in the realm of plausible deniability: no one in the Conservatives possibly knew Coulson was continuing to receive severance pay, let alone David Cameron, except for those it seems who tipped off Robert Peston, who in this instance doesn't seem to have received the story from
his friend at NI, Will Lewis. They simply hired Coulson for his expertise, and the worst Cameron and his party can be accused of is that they believed Coulson when he told them he knew absolutely nothing about anything. And how lucky and pleasant for the Conservatives that what would otherwise been the main story of the week and yet another detail for the inquiry to look into has been rightly, it should be stressed, buried by the happy scenes in Libya. At some point Cameron's mixture of luck and chutzpah over Coulson is going to run out. But not yet.

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Cameron hired this criminal in spite of being warned by several unconnected informants that doing so was dangerous. Coulson was then allowed to break any rule that didn't suit him. Now, reading the Osbourne stuff (for the first time), I begin to wonder if he's got the goods on Cameron and blackmailed his way into no. 10.

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