Yesterday was a good day to slip out the news that David Cameron's chief of staff, Ed Llewellyn, is one of three special advisers working in Downing Street on a salary of £140,000 a year.
Had there not been so much else going on, the announcement might have prompted an outcry against this generous sum of taxpayers' money going to Mr Cameron's old school chum, who is now doubly in the line of fire after John Yates, the recently departed Assistant Commissioner of the Met police, revealed that Mr Llewellyn was the Downing Street official who asked him not to talk to Mr Cameron about phone hacking.
This is the second time in less than two weeks that Mr Llewellyn's name has entered the phone-hacking saga. It has also emerged that The Guardian's deputy editor, Ian Katz, passed a warning about the News of the World ex-editor Andy Coulson to Mr Cameron's adviser Steve Hilton, who passed it on to Mr Llewellyn. Under Mr Coulson's editorship, he was told, the NOTW had hired a private detective with a criminal record. Mr Llewellyn apparently did not pass the message on – and Mr Coulson was hired to be Mr Cameron's top spin doctor, a decision that now haunts the Prime Minister and his team at No 10.
Yesterday, Downing Street was circling the wagons around the chief of staff. This is not surprising, given that Mr Cameron and Mr Llewellyn go back almost 30 years.
Mr Llewellyn is one year older than Mr Cameron, so they were near contemporaries at Eton and were at Oxford University at the same time. He and Mr Cameron were colleagues at Conservative Central Office after graduation, liaising with one another during the 1992 general election.
Mr Llewellyn was an active student politician at Oxford. But Mr Llewellyn later decided that his place was in the back room. From Central Office, he went to work in Hong Kong with the last British governor, Chris Patten. As soon as Mr Cameron became Tory leader, in 2005, Mr Llewellyn was one of the first recruits to work in his private office.
He is not someone whose services Mr Cameron would want to lose.
'We have not been in contact': The Llewellyn emails
10 September 2010: John Yates to Ed Llewellyn
Hope all well.
I am coming over to see the PM at 12.30 today regarding [redacted: national security] matters. I am very happy to have a conversation in the margins around the other matters that have caught my attention this week if you thought it would be useful.
10 September 2010: Ed Llewellyn to John Yates
John - Thanks – all well.
On the other matters that have caught your attention this week, assuming we are thinking of the same thing, I am sure you will understand that we will want to be able to be entirely clear, for your sake and ours, that we have not been in contact with you about this subject.
So I don't think it would really be appropriate for the PM, or anyone else at No 10, to discuss this issue with you, and would be grateful if it were not raised please.
But the PM looks forward to seeing you, with Peter Ricketts and Jonathan Evans, purely on [redacted: national security] matters at 1230.
With best wishes,