Coulson trial threatens years of bad headlines for Cameron

Next general election campaign likely to be overshadowed as Tories admit embarrassment

The decision to prosecute Andy Coulson on five counts of phone-hacking raised fresh questions last night over David Cameron's judgement.

The Prime Minister hired the former News of the World editor as the Tories' chief spin doctor in 2007 and took him to Downing Street after the general election in 2010.

Until Coulson's resignation in January 2011, he was at the heart of the Government's operation and was one of Mr Cameron's most trusted confidants.

Now the episode threatens to haunt the Conservative leadership for several years, potentially affecting the party's preparations for the general election due in 2015.

Mr Cameron's discomfort will be further heightened by the charges against Rebekah Brooks, who preceded Coulson as the News of the World's editor and was also close to the Prime Minister and his family.

The Tory MP John Whittingdale acknowledged yesterday the Crown Prosecution Service's announcement was embarrassing for Mr Cameron. He pointed out that it followed evidence at Lord Justice Leveson's inquiry into media standards which has underlined the close relationship between politicians and senior journalists.

Mr Whittingdale, the chairman of the culture select committee, said: "Today is not a great day for the press and it's not a great day for politics. We have seen from the Leveson inquiry, the closeness of the links between this government and indeed the last Labour government with senior [press] figures and we await Leveson's recommendations.

"But obviously it is embarrassing the fact that the director of communications has been charged."

A senior Conservative MP said: "This will remind the public that there are issues about David Cameron's judgement in appointing Andy Coulson twice."

Coulson – who yesterday told reporters outside his home in Dulwich, south east London, that he would fight the allegations – was hired by Mr Cameron on the advice of George Osborne, who was then shadow Chancellor, less than six months after resigning from the News of the World after its royal editor, Clive Goodman, was jailed for phone-hacking.

The Tory leader explained at the time that he believed in giving people a "second chance". What he also valued was Coulson's experience of tabloid journalism and his judgement over issues important to working-class voters.

Mr Cameron said later he had been assured by Coulson that he had no knowledge of phone-hacking, or involvement in it, and he believed him. The Camerons developed a friendship with Brooks, who lives close to his constituency home in Oxfordshire and was also part of the so-called "Chipping Norton set".

The Prime Minister was ridiculed after his text message exchanges with Brooks were read out at the Leveson inquiry. She said he signed texts "LOL", believing it meant "lots of love" rather than "laugh out loud".

Mr Cameron also was forced to admit that he rode a horse lent to Brooks by the Metropolitan Police.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Life and Style
love + sex A new study has revealed the average size - but does that leave men outside the 'normal' range being thought of as 'abnormal'?
Arts and Entertainment
TV
Voices
The Palace of Westminster is falling down, according to John Bercow
voices..says Matthew Norman
Sport
Steve Bruce and Gus Poyet clash
football
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Arts and Entertainment
Jake and Dinos Chapman were motivated by revenge to make 'Bring me the Head of Franco Toselli! '
arts + ents Shapero Modern Gallery to show explicit Chapman Brothers film
Arts and Entertainment
Kurt Cobain performing for 'MTV Unplugged' in New York, shortly before his death
music Brett Morgen's 'Cobain: Montage of Heck' debunks many of the myths surrounding the enigmatic singer
Life and Style
life
Sport
Brendan Rodgers
football The Liverpool manager will be the first option after Pep Guardiola
Arts and Entertainment
Myanna Buring, Julian Rhind-Tutt and Russell Tovey in 'Banished'
TV Jimmy McGovern tackles 18th-century crime and punishment
Arts and Entertainment
Paul Whitehouse as Herbert
arts + ents
Sport
Christian Benteke of Aston Villa celebrates scoring the winner for Aston Villa
football
News
Bill O'Reilly attends The Hollywood Reporter 35 Most Powerful People In Media Celebration at The Four Seasons Restaurant on April 16, 2014 in New York City
media It is the second time he and the channel have clarified statements
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn