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
Latest stories from i100
SPONSORED FEATURES
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

BBC heads to the Californian coast

The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

Car hacking scandal

Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
10 best placemats

Take your seat: 10 best placemats

Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory
Ashes 2015: Alastair Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Aussie skipper Michael Clarke was lured into believing that what we witnessed at Edgbaston and Trent Bridge would continue in London, says Kevin Garside
Can Rafael Benitez get the best out of Gareth Bale at Real Madrid?

Can Benitez get the best out of Bale?

Back at the club he watched as a boy, the pressure is on Benitez to find a winning blend from Real's multiple talents. As La Liga begins, Pete Jenson asks if it will be enough to stop Barcelona
Athletics World Championships 2015: Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jessica Ennis-Hill and Katarina Johnson-Thompson heptathlon rivalry

Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jess and Kat rivalry

The last time the two British heptathletes competed, Ennis-Hill was on the way to Olympic gold and Johnson-Thompson was just a promising teenager. But a lot has happened in the following three years
Jeremy Corbyn: Joining a shrewd operator desperate for power as he visits the North East

Jeremy Corbyn interview: A shrewd operator desperate for power

His radical anti-austerity agenda has caught the imagination of the left and politically disaffected and set a staid Labour leadership election alight
Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief: Defender of ancient city's past was killed for protecting its future

Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief

Robert Fisk on the defender of the ancient city's past who was killed for protecting its future