He may be implicated, but Coulson is too important to lose

Denis MacShane, the sharp-eyed Labour MP, was one of the few people outside the Conservative Party to spot the embattled spin doctor Andy Coulson yesterday – in an inner courtyard of the House of Commons beneath Big Ben.

"At seven o'clock this morning I saw a hunched figure with a suit bag and a mobile phone walking across Speaker's Yard," Mr MacShane told the Commons. "I thought he was on the way out, having been fired."

He was wrong. Rather than fire him, David Cameron and his supporters closed ranks around the former tabloid newspaper editor, determined not to lose his highly valued services. The Conservative leader claimed to be "relaxed" about allegations of phone tapping by the News of the World, which Mr Coulson edited until his resignation two years ago when his royal correspondent, Clive Goodman, was jailed for phone hacking.

"I believe in giving people a second chance," Mr Cameron said. "As director of communications for the Conservatives, he does an excellent job in a proper, upright way at all times."

In contrast, when another of Mr Cameron's inner circle, the MP Andrew Mackay, was caught in the expenses row two months ago, he was instantly thrown to the wolves; his parliamentary career will be over at the next election. Mr Coulson's job is safe for as long as Mr Cameron is able to protect him, and there will be an office for him in 10 Downing Street if Mr Cameron becomes Prime Minister.

Yesterday, Mr Coulson was in his office, and was said to be trying to work normally, despite the political storm raging outside. This reaction appears to break a well-known rule – perhaps cliché – of politics, ruefully stated by Gordon Brown's former spin doctor Charlie Whelan when he was forced to resign: "The job of press secretary becomes extremely difficult if the press secretary, and not the department he serves, becomes the story and the subject of excessive attention."

But Mr Coulson is more than a "press secretary". He is the man in the office next to David Cameron's, and one of the brains behind the whole Cameron operation, who has guarded his boss's reputation as fiercely as he is now being guarded.

Mr Coulson is the one who reminds Mr Cameron not to forget the staples of Tory politics – crime and tax, and good relations with the mass-circulation Conservative newspapers.

Mr Coulson is credited with a coup at the start of the expenses row. On day one of the revelations published in The Daily Telegraph, the newspaper generously praised the Tory leader for his "straightforward" expenses claims. They did not mention that Mr Cameron had taken a £350,000 mortgage on his second home, on which he could reclaim the interest, at the same time that he had paid off a £75,000 loan owing on his London home, which he could not claim. If that information had been public from the start, it would have made Mr Cameron's handling of the row very difficult. Andy Coulson is credited with persuading the Telegraph to go easy on his boss.

But that same expenses scandal means that there are people in the Conservative Party who would not mind seeing Mr Coulson humiliated. They resent the way it was used to rid the party of some of the old guard, with their duck islands, moats, and tree-lined estates, while party modernisers with questionable expenses claims were protected.

The Tory chairman of the Commons Culture and Media Select Committee, John Whittingdale, made it plain yesterday that he is not going to defend Mr Coulson if evidence emerges that he was personally implicated. Mr Whittingdale was Margaret Thatcher's political adviser 20 years ago, and his devotion to her legacy makes him less than enthusiastic about the Cameron operation.

The danger for Mr Coulson now is that revelations of phone-tapping could become so embarrassing that they outweigh his usefulness to his boss. But that has not happened yet. For the time being, it is business as usual in the office next door to Dave's.

Susan Sarandon described David Bowie as
peopleSusan Sarandon reveals more on her David Bowie romance
sportDidier Drogba returns to Chelsea on one-year deal
Arts and Entertainment
The Secret Cinema performance of Back to the Future has been cancelled again
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film
filmFifty Shades of Grey trailer provokes moral outrage in US
Louis van Gaal would have been impressed with Darren Fletcher’s performance against LA Galaxy during Manchester United’s 7-0 victory
The new dawn heralded by George Osborne has yet to rise
voicesJames Moore: As the Tories rub their hands together, the average voter will be asking why they're not getting a piece of the action
Dejan Lovren celebrates scoring for Southampton although the goal was later credited to Adam Lallana
newsComedy club forced to apologise as maggots eating a dead pigeon fall out of air-conditioning
Arts and Entertainment
Jo Brand says she's mellowed a lot
tvJo Brand says shows encourage people to laugh at the vulnerable
Life and Style
People may feel that they're procrastinating by watching TV in the evening
Rhys Williams
commonwealth games
Isis fighters travel in a vehicle as they take part in a military parade along the streets of Syria's northern Raqqa province
Arts and Entertainment
Southern charm: Nicolas Cage and Tye Sheridan in ‘Joe’
filmReview: Actor delivers astonishing performance in low budget drama
Life and Style
fashionLatex dresses hit the catwalk to raise awareness for HIV and Aids
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Senior Risk Manager - Banking - London - £650

£600 - £650 per day: Orgtel: Conduct Risk Liaison Manager - Banking - London -...

Commercial Litigation Associate

Highly Attractive Package: Austen Lloyd: CITY - COMMERCIAL LITIGATION - GLOBAL...

Systems Manager - Dynamics AX

£65000 - £75000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: The client is a...

Service Delivery Manager (Software Development, Testing)

£40000 - £45000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A well-established software house ba...

Day In a Page

Finding the names for America’s shame: What happens to the immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert?

Finding the names for America’s shame

The immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert
Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little
Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears