The Coulson question continues to dog Cameron

David Cameron's team was described by one commentator as looking like the kitchen staff, but they seem likely to stick with him in Downing Street. They are highly trusted, and will remain low profile. They have been through a lot, but all are devoted followers of their leader, and relations in his office are nothing if not cheery.

Ed Llewellyn, Cameron's chief of staff, is cited as Exhibit One when Cameron is accused of recruiting only from his own circle. Llewellyn was in the year above Cameron at Eton, dabbled in university politics at Oxford and, like Cameron, worked at the Conservative Research Department. But he has experience in foreign affairs and a brain that has won plaudits from Chris Patten and Paddy Ashdown.

George Bridges is another Cameroon Etonian, who returned from consulting to work for the party in the latter stages of the election. He too had cut his political teeth in the Major era, and his presence might well be welcomed by the leader in Downing Street. He is known to be less-than-enthusiastic about Lord Ashcroft's influence in the party and about the party's sometimes-tangled chains of command, but his brain will prove invaluable.

Kate Fall is Cameron's gatekeeper and is totally trusted by him. The daughter of a former ambassador to Russia, she fits the Cameroon mould perfectly. Gabby Bertin, who handles many of Cameron's personal press inquiries, has also been with him since signing up during his leadership campaign and is a devotedly loyal advocate.

William Hague, George Osborne and Michael Gove can all claim their leader's ear at any time, but as MPs they have profiles of their own. But the two most powerful and controversial figures without whom Cameron will not take an important decision are rarely seen by the public, and certainly not intentionally.

One is Steve Hilton, another alumnus of the Tory research department, to whom Cameron has been extremely close for 20 years. Hilton has done his time in the advertising industry, and is credited – or blamed – for most of the innovations, or gimmickry, associated with Cameron's "detoxification" of the Tory brand. Hilton is said to have 500 brilliant ideas a day, of which only a handful are practical. Friends say he and Cameron make a good team, in that Cameron acts as a practicality filter. He wrote a book called Good Business, about the social role private companies can play, and if the Big Society has a father it is Steve Hilton. The problem, as many canvassers found, is that on the nation's doorsteps it has little salience. There has been talk of him coming "under pressure", but Cameron barely blows his nose without checking it fits in with the Hilton game plan.

Most controversial of all is Andy Coulson, Cameron's communications chief, appointed three years ago after he had to leave the News of the World editorship when one of his reporters was sent to prison for the illegal hacking of royal telephones. Coulson knows the tabloid market intimately and provides more media savvy than anyone else in that office. He is also a more-than-handy conduit to his former employers News International, owners of The Sun and The Times.

The problem is that that case has still not gone away. Last summer, Coulson denied for the first time that he knew anything about the unlawful activity that had gone on on his watch. But a Commons committee found it "inconceivable" that none of the senior News of the World executives knew what was going on, and other evidence has emerged that the phone hacking was a great deal more widespread than has been admitted. Currently around a dozen MPs, some of them Liberal Democrats, intriguingly, are taking legal action against the paper and demanding full disclosure of who knew what.

David Cameron has said everyone deserves a second chance, but some of those close to Cameron feel this could be another Ashcroft: a festering problem that needs to be addressed. Others in the party believe Coulson was at fault for not opposing Nick Clegg's presence in the TV debates, resulting in the Tories having to go into a coalition. On the other hand, Coulson has sharpened up his boss's media performances significantly and has a surer touch than some in Cameron's office. A less-seasoned aide might have fallen victim to the Cameron steel a while ago.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Mortgage Advisor - OTE £95,000

£40000 - £95000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Vehicle Inspectors / Purchasers

£20000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Trainee Vehicle Inspectors / Pu...

Recruitment Genius: Vehicle Broker / Purchaser

£18000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £45,000

£18000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Executive is required t...

Day In a Page

Greece debt crisis: EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

An outbreak of malaria in Greece four years ago helps us understand the crisis, says Robert Fisk
Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge: The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas

Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge

The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas
How to survive electrical storms: What are the chances of being hit by lightning?

Heavy weather

What are the chances of being hit by lightning?
World Bodypainting Festival 2015: Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'

World Bodypainting Festival 2015

Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'
alt-j: A private jet, a Mercury Prize and Latitude headliners

Don't call us nerds

Craig Mclean meets alt-j - the math-folk act who are flying high
How to find gold: The Californian badlands, digging out crevasses and sifting sludge

How to find gold

Steve Boggan finds himself in the Californian badlands, digging out crevasses and sifting sludge
Singing accents: From Herman's Hermits and David Bowie to Alesha Dixon

Not born in the USA

Lay off Alesha Dixon: songs sound better in US accents, even our national anthem
10 best balsamic vinegars

10 best balsamic vinegars

Drizzle it over salad, enjoy it with ciabatta, marinate vegetables, or use it to add depth to a sauce - this versatile staple is a cook's best friend
Wimbledon 2015: Brief glimpses of the old Venus but Williams sisters' epic wars belong to history

Brief glimpses of the old Venus but Williams sisters' epic wars belong to history

Serena dispatched her elder sister 6-4, 6-3 in eight minutes more than an hour
Greece says 'No': A night of huge celebrations in Athens as voters decisively back Tsipras and his anti-austerity stance in historic referendum

Greece referendum

Greeks say 'No' to austerity and plunge Europe into crisis
Ten years after the 7/7 terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?

7/7 bombings anniversary

Ten years after the terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?
Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has created

Versace haute couture review

Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has ever created
No hope and no jobs, so Gaza's young risk their lives, climb the fence and run for it

No hope and no jobs in Gaza

So the young risk their lives and run for it
Fashion apps: Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers

Fashion apps

Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers
The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy