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.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
News
Jamie and Emily Pharro discovering their friend's prank
video
News
i100
News
Tim Vine has won the funniest joke award at the Edinburgh Festival 2014
peopleTim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award, has nigh-on 200 in his act. So how are they conceived?
News
people
Life and Style
techApp to start sending headlines, TV clips and ads to your phone
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift crawls through the legs of twerking dancers in her 'Shake It Off' music video
musicEarl Sweatshirt thinks so
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Daniel Radcliffe and Zoe Kazan in What If
filmReview: Actor swaps Harry Potter for Cary Grant in What If
News
Our resilience to stress is to a large extent determined by our genes
science
Travel
travel
Sport
sportBesiktas 0 Arsenal 0: Champions League qualifying first-leg match ends in stalemate in Istanbul
News
Pornography is more accessible - and harder to avoid - than ever
news... but they still admit watching it
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
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
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

Project Manager (App development, SAP, interfacing)

£50000 - £60000 Per Annum + excellent company benefits: Clearwater People Solu...

Systems Developer Technical Lead

£65000 - £70000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based i...

Energy Engineer

£25000 - £30000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: Energy En...

Techincal Accountant-Insurance-Bank-£550/day

£475 - £550 per day + competitive: Orgtel: Senior Technical Accountant-Insuran...

Day In a Page

Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home
Lauded therapist Harley Mille still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

Lauded therapist still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

Australian Harley Miller is as frustrated by court delays as she is with the idiosyncrasies of immigration law
Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world. But could his predictions of war do the same?

Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world...

But could his predictions of war do the same?
Kate Bush asks fans not to take photos at her London gigs: 'I want to have contact with the audience, not iPhones'

'I want to have contact with the audience, not iPhones'

Kate Bush asks fans not to take photos at her London gigs
Under-35s have rated gardening in their top five favourite leisure activities, but why?

Young at hort

Under-35s have rated gardening in their top five favourite leisure activities. But why are so many people are swapping sweaty clubs for leafy shrubs?
Tim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award: 'making a quip as funny as possible is an art'

Beyond a joke

Tim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award, has nigh-on 200 in his act. So how are they conceived?
The late Peter O'Toole shines in 'Katherine of Alexandria' despite illness

The late Peter O'Toole shines in 'Katherine of Alexandria' despite illness

Sadly though, the Lawrence of Arabia star is not around to lend his own critique
Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire: The joy of camping in a wetland nature reserve and sleeping under the stars

A wild night out

Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire offers a rare chance to camp in a wetland nature reserve
Comic Sans for Cancer exhibition: It’s the font that’s openly ridiculed for its jaunty style, but figures of fun have their fans

Comic Sans for Cancer exhibition

It’s the font that’s openly ridiculed for its jaunty style, but figures of fun have their fans
Besiktas vs Arsenal: Five things we learnt from the Champions League first-leg tie

Besiktas vs Arsenal

Five things we learnt from the Champions League first-leg tie
Rory McIlroy a smash hit on the US talk show circuit

Rory McIlroy a smash hit on the US talk show circuit

As the Northern Irishman prepares for the Barclays, he finds time to appear on TV in the States, where he’s now such a global superstar that he needs no introduction
Boy racer Max Verstappen stays relaxed over step up to Formula One

Boy racer Max Verstappen stays relaxed over step up to F1

The 16-year-old will become the sport’s youngest-ever driver when he makes his debut for Toro Rosso next season
Fear brings the enemies of Isis together at last

Fear brings the enemies of Isis together at last

But belated attempts to unite will be to no avail if the Sunni caliphate remains strong in Syria, says Patrick Cockburn
Charlie Gilmour: 'I wondered if I would end up killing myself in jail'

Charlie Gilmour: 'I wondered if I'd end up killing myself in jail'

Following last week's report on prison suicides, the former inmate asks how much progress we have made in the 50 years since the abolition of capital punishment