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
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

Join the tequila gold rush

The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
12 best statement wallpapers

12 best statement wallpapers

Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

Paul Scholes column

Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?