Andy Coulson guilty in phone hacking trial: His future may well depend on a level of privacy denied the hacking victims

His insights into the machinations of power make him a potentially valuable consultant if he can operate below the radar

“I’ve got nothing to be ashamed of – and this goes for everyone on the News of the World – in what we do for a living,” said Andy Coulson, protesting his innocence even at the pinnacle of his career as an editor. “The readers are the judges, that’s the most important thing. And I think we should be proud of what we do.”

It was before phone hacking had even entered the popular parlance. The Sunday tabloid had just been named Newspaper of the Year and Coulson – who otherwise shunned media interviews – spoke to trade magazine Press Gazette in April 2005 to respond to carping by rivals about the methods the paper had used to obtain a remarkable succession of scoops.

We know now, of course, that Coulson had much to be ashamed of, back then in 2005 when he was already being touted as the next editor of The Sun. The method the paper used was through the interception of voicemails, a criminal activity which had won the paper much kudos by generating big stories such as the Home Secretary, David Blunkett, having an affair with a married woman.

The jury at the Old Bailey heard that Coulson was told by his chief reporter Neville Thurlbeck that the Blunkett story had been obtained by hacking the Home Secretary’s phone (the paper had 300 hacked messages in its safe) but the editor was happy to run the story in 2004, claiming it was in the public interest. “I regret the decision I made,” he told the court.

Video: The long legal saga

But when his royal editor Clive Goodman was arrested in August 2006, Coulson claimed to be “relaxed” about his own position. He is a determined character who started his career in his teens at the Evening Echo in Basildon and used the Bizarre column at The Sun as his springboard to a position of serious power.

We also know now that he was fully cognizant of the phone-hacking, not only by Goodman and the paper’s contracted private investigator Glenn Mulcaire, but by other members of his staff. But as he handed in his resignation, as Goodman and Mulcaire were jailed in January 2007, he claimed to have been wholly unaware of what they were doing.

The Goodman affair had closely followed a libel action in which Scottish politician Tommy Sheridan had been awarded £200,000 damages from the News of the World. Both episodes did the editor irreparable damage and his newspaper career quickly unravelled.

Read more:
Coulson found guilty as Brooks cleared of all charges
Hacking trial: David Cameron issues 'full and frank apology
The scandal that led to press' self-examination
How hacking scandal punctured the puffed-up House of Murdoch

It seems incredible now but six months later Coulson was hired as David Cameron’s Director of Communications, tasked with bringing a common touch and “sharper focus” to the Tories. The pair were introduced by NotW political journalist Ian Kirby and bonded over crab cakes at Christopher’s restaurant in Covent Garden. It was thought Coulson could deliver The Sun (edited by his friend Rebekah Wade) to a party vulnerable to being cast as out-of-touch with the working classes.

Alongside Rebekah and his fellow spin doctor Matthew Freud – husband of Rupert Murdoch’s daughter Elisabeth – Coulson sat in a social web of media figures and politicians that became known as The Chipping Norton set, even if he preferred to live in London.

Though the hacking scandal continued to ferment, he projected the demeanour that he had moved on to more important matters.

Video: Brooks' departure from court

His deft handling of the media after the tragic loss of Cameron’s son Ivan early in 2009 greatly impressed the politician and when, months later, the hacking scandal re-emerged with more damaging allegations, the former editor was retained by Tory party HQ in defiance of all calls to let him go. Soon afterwards, he followed Cameron into Downing Street and was soon earning his corn by advising the Prime Minister to cancel a Christmas holiday to Thailand during the recession and drop the use of a “vanity” portrait photographer.

His resignation from Number 10 finally came in January 2011 when the continuing firestorm around hacking was clearly damaging the Prime Minister.

“When the spokesman needs a spokesman it is time to move on,” said Coulson.For the past three years he has lived in limbo, a pariah figure who has been obliged to give up his home in London for a more modest lifestyle in Kent.

 

Some of his contacts have remained loyal and, while awaiting trial, he was commissioned by GQ magazine – edited by Dylan Jones, a friend of Mr Cameron’s – to author a ten-point master plan for the Conservatives.

It doesn’t mean he has any meaningful future with the party, even if he is set to join a Tory ex-jailbirds’ club that includes Lord Archer and Jonathan Aitken.

Some of his friends believe he is effectively finished and that his rehabilitation must be so long-term that he has no prospects of any meaningful capacity inside the Westminster village. He still awaits trial charged with perjury over evidence he gave in the appeal hearing on the Sheridan case in 2010.

But he is only 46. His insights into the machinations of power – especially at the key intersection of politics and media – make him a potentially valuable consultant if he can operate below the radar in a way that does not damage his clients.

If that’s the route he chooses he must follow the first rule of PR and never again become the story – the spokesman in need of a spokesman. Ironically, given his role in phone hacking, the success of his consultancy will be dependent on his ability to maintain his privacy, something he will have little of as he begins his sentence.

Read more:
How culture of News of the World's glory days led to its downfall
Rebekah Brooks: How she became famous woman in British media
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
musicBand's first new record for 20 years has some tough acts to follow
News
peopleAt least it's for a worthwhile cause
Voices
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
voicesMaybe the new app will make it more normal to reach out to strangers
News
Liam Payne has attacked the media for reporting his tweet of support to Willie Robertson and the subsequent backlash from fans
peopleBut One Direction star insists he is not homophobic
Life and Style
healthFor Pure-O OCD sufferers this is a reality they live in
Life and Style
Sexual health charities have campaigned for the kits to be regulated
healthAmerican woman who did tells parents there is 'nothing to be afraid of'
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments