Christina Patterson: Here's one saving right in Downing St

Andy Coulson's salary on recruitment was widely reported to be 'in the region of' £475,000. When I asked No 10 for a firm figure, they refused to give it

Share
Related Topics

As the sunshine boy at Downing Street wrenches his smooth features into an expression of Churchillian gravitas and tells us that it's all so awful we might as well commit mass hara-kiri, there's one man who looks remarkably cheerful. He's a self-confessed depressive. His party's out of power. And he's clearly having the time of his life.

Alastair Campbell is everywhere. In the weeks leading up to the election, he was a talking torso on telly all the time, glowering and taunting and pronouncing and predicting, poised and ready to pounce on passing newscasters to tell them who'd won the leaders' debates, and why the polls were wrong. He was, in other words, in fine attack-dogform. You feel that if he could have wrestled each voter into the polling booth and used a little Chinese burn, or a tiny jab at the kidneys, to persuade them to put their cross in the right place, he would have. But he couldn't, and they didn't, and the result (you can imagine him saying) is that the Tory nancy boys are back.

Even this doesn't seem to have wiped the smile that's more like a snarl off that more-famous-for-sneering face. For if the people have proved more stupid than feared, at least they're good for something. They're good for flogging books. A government falls, a dream collapses, a "project" lies if not in ruins then in a state where it looks pretty far from electable, but life goes on. There are the novels, of course, (about madness and celebrity, from one who knows whereof he speaks) but it's the new, improved, and now with added acrimony, diaries that the public is, apparently, crying out for. Now that they've lost it, we're allowed to know the truth about how New Labour muscled its way to power. And it sure ain't pretty.

It wasn't that pretty before, actually – all those cameos of Tony Blair in his underpants, all those fights, all those rows, all that Anglo-Saxon. "Is it true" a Times journalist once asked Campbell, "that you used to headbutt cigarette machines until they broke?" "I'm afraid so," Campbell replied proudly. Where Harold Macmillan sought solace in Sense and Sensibility, the New Labour boys chilled out to Arsenal and the Arctic Monkeys, or Burnley and Blur. Except that they didn't chill out at all. Like hyperactive toddlers fed entirely on E numbers, they raced around, screaming and waving and shouting and moaning that Peter had been horrid and Gordon had been a bully. And now we know quite how horrid and quite how much of a bully. Paranoid and puerile about sums it up. As, indeed, does Blair's verdict on Harman: "What a silly arse!"

But the bullies and the underpants have (but not, one hopes, literally) gone. The grown ups are in charge. They don't have policy meetings with nude cabinet ministers in the bath. They eschew the expletive and the glottal stop. And if they can't employ the naughty step for their foul-mouthed feral predecessors (or give them 100 lines) they can adopt an air of preternatural patience that would, in a lesser mortal, long ago have cracked.

It's the same tone you find in the new Prime Minister's Questions, the "no, no, after you"s, the "what a good point"s, the scrupulous praise of profligate imbeciles who took the country and wrecked it, but manners are manners and you were brought up never to kick a chap while he was down. It's the tone you find in the programme for government too. "This is an historic document" we're told in the foreword, one, it's clear, in which proper attention will be paid to propriety, and indefinite articles. "Tackling the deficit is essential," we're told, "but it is not what we came into politics to achieve. We stood for Parliament... with visions of a Britain better in every way." A politer Britain, presumably. A calmer Britain. A Britain which doesn't expose the elastic of its Calvin Kleins.

The calm, it has to be said, wavers a little as the happy couple go on to add to their myriad vows one of "era-changing, convention-challenging, radical [and never knowingly understated] reform". And, indeed, in their desire to "build a new economy from the rubble of the old". I'd quite like to win a Nobel Prize, cure cancer, and marry Barack Obama, but my mother always taught me to cut my suit according to my cloth. But the over-all theme is clear. "We both want" we're told "a Britain where our political system is looked at with admiration, not anger. We have a shared ambition to clean up Westminster and a determination to oversee a radical redistribution of power".

Well, isn't that lovely? And it's not just the half-educated half-wits on the opposition benches who benefit from this sudden outpouring of patrician largesse. We do too! Like persistent truants at a progressive prep school, we've been calmly informed of the letter to our parents, and the more-in-sorrow-than-anger thrashing that will follow. But, if it helps, we can oversee the thrashings of our fellow pupils. We can even help organise them! We can form committees on thrashings, we can chuck them out to the private sector and sub-contract them. There will be pain, for everyone, but at least we can cause some, too.

And there will be transparency. Lots of transparency. "We will" we're told "extend transparency to every area of public life". We will, in other words, make sure that public sector workers who aren't sacked are pilloried for their salaries. If everyone knows how embarrassingly little we, the prime ministerial partnership, earn, we'll make damn sure that those who earn more are publicly punished. Obviously, our friends earn much more, but we're not talking about our friends. We're talking about the new, improved, "era-changing, convention-challenging" British Government.

There is, however, one employee of the British Government, and therefore the British tax payer, whose salary has not yet been revealed. His name is Andy Coulson. His job title is Director of Communications at Downing Street. His previous job title was editor of the News of the World.

Poor Andy has had some rotten luck. While he was at the News of the World, trying, no doubt, to persuade his colleagues to ditch the sex scandals and the stings in favour of essays on fiscal stimulus and the future of the euro, they, it turned out, were employing private investigators to "blag" bank accounts, bribe police officers and hack into the voicemail messages of the royal household. And poor Andy had no idea! If their expense claims were authorised, and he was the boss, and the office was open plan, well, he still had no idea. The former showbiz correspondent was so shocked he resigned the moment he heard that his royal reporter, Clive Goodman, had been jailed. Thus ensuring that the PPC didn't have to embarrass anyone by taking it any further.

Luckily, the hoodie-hugging Tory leader believes in "giving people a second chance", particularly when they happen to be best mates with the editor of The Sun. So Dave brushed off Andy, and scooped him up, and put him in charge of "communications and planning". And if poor Andy was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, or at least memory loss – he told a select committee of MPs last summer that he had "no recollection" of the events at the News of the World – at least his contacts book was still intact. By the third day of the Labour Party Conference, The Sun had come out (for the Tories) again.

Andy Coulson's salary on recruitment was widely reported to be "in the region of" £475,000. When I asked Downing Street for a firm figure, they refused to give it. The salaries of "special advisers" would, they told me slightly untransparently, be announced "soon". When Coulson's salary is publicly announced, it will, no doubt, be lower. But since the Government wants our recommendations for cuts, here's one to kick off with. Sack Andy Coulson.

c.patterson@independent.co.uk

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Cancer Research UK: Corporate Partnerships Volunteer Events Coordinator – London

Voluntary: Cancer Research UK: We’re looking for someone to support our award ...

Ashdown Group: Head of IT - Hertfordshire - £90,000

£70000 - £90000 per annum + bonus + car allowance + benefits: Ashdown Group: H...

Ashdown Group: Application Support Analyst - SQL Server, T-SQL

£28000 - £32000 per annum + Excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Application Sup...

Ashdown Group: Systems Analyst / Data Analyst (SQL Server, T-SQL, data)

£28000 - £32000 per annum + Excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Systems Analyst...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Errors & Omissions: Outgunned by a lack of military knowledge

Guy Keleny
Ukip leader Nigel Farage in Tiny Tim’s tea shop while canvassing in Rochester this week  

General Election 2015: What on earth happened to Ukip?

Matthew Norman
Major medical journal Lancet under attack for 'extremist hate propaganda' over its coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict

Lancet accused of 'anti-Israel hate propaganda' over coverage of Gaza conflict

Threat to free speech as publishers of renowned medical journal are accused of inciting hatred and violence
General Election 2015: Tories and Lib Dems throw their star names west to grab votes

All noisy on the Lib Dems' western front

The party has deployed its big guns in Cornwall to save its seats there. Simon Usborne heads to the heart of the battle
How Etsy became a crafty little earner: The online market has been floated for £1.2bn, but can craft and capitalism coexist?

How Etsy became a crafty little earner

The online market has been floated for £1.2bn, but can craft and capitalism coexist?
Guy Ritchie is the latest filmmaker to tackle King Arthur - one of our most versatile heroes

King Arthur is inspiring Guy Ritchie

Raluca Radulescu explains why his many permutations - from folk hero to chick-lit hunk - never cease to fascinate
Apple Watch: Will it live up to expectations for the man or woman on the street?

Apple Watch: Will it live up to expectations?

The Apple Watch has apparently sold millions even before its launch tomorrow
Don't fear the artichoke: it's a good cook's staple, with more choice than you'd think

Don't fear the artichoke

Artichokes are scary - they've got spikes and hairy bits, and British cooks tend to give them a wide berth. But they're an essential and delicious part of Italian cuisine
11 best men's socks

11 best men's socks

Make a statement with your accessories, starting from the bottom up
Paul Scholes column: Eden Hazard would be my Player of the Year – but I wonder if he has that appetite for goals of Messi or Ronaldo

Paul Scholes column

Hazard would be my Player of the Year – but I wonder if he has that appetite for goals of Messi or Ronaldo
Frank Warren: Tyson Fury will be closely watching Wladimir Klitschko... when he wins it'll be time to do a deal

Frank Warren's Ringside

Tyson Fury will be closely watching Wladimir Klitschko... when he wins it'll be time to do a deal
London Marathon 2015: Kenya's brothers in arms Wilson Kipsang and Dennis Kimetto ready to take on world

Kenya's brothers in arms take on world

Last year Wilson Kipsang had his marathon record taken off him by training partner and friend Dennis Kimetto. They talk about facing off in the London Marathon
Natalie Bennett interview: I've lost track of the last time I saw my Dad but it's not because I refuse to fly

Natalie Bennett interview: I've lost track of the last time I saw my Dad

Green leader prefers to stay clear of her 'painful' family memories but is more open about 'utterly unreasonable' personal attacks
Syria conflict: Khorasan return with a fresh influx of fighters awaiting the order to start 'shooting the birds'

Khorasan is back in Syria

America said these al-Qaeda militants were bombed out of the country last year - but Kim Sengupta hears a different story
General Election 2015: Is William Cash the man to woo Warwickshire North for Ukip?

On the campaign trail with Ukip

Is William Cash the man to woo Warwickshire North?
Four rival Robin Hood movies get Hollywood go-head - and Friar Tuck will become a superhero

Expect a rush on men's tights

Studios line up four Robin Hoods productions
Peter Kay's Car Share: BBC show is the comedian's first TV sitcom in a decade

In the driving seat: Peter Kay

Car Share is the comedian's first TV sitcom in a decade. The programme's co-creator Paul Coleman reveals the challenges of getting the show on the road