, LONDON, Jul 4 – Andy Coulson, jailed for 18 months Friday over a phone-hacking plot while he was editor of Britain’s News of the World tabloid, is an ex-spin doctor for Prime Minister David Cameron who epitomised the ties between politics and the Murdoch press.
His conviction ends a brilliant career which spanned one of the top jobs in British journalism and becoming part of Cameron’s inner circle, where he was reportedly seen as a genius for his ability to communicate with working class voters.
It also piles fresh embarrassment on Cameron, particularly as Coulson could be released from prison on probation before next year’s general election.
Born in Essex, east of London, in 1968 to a working class family, Coulson started his career at his local newspaper before joining Rupert Murdoch’s tabloid daily The Sun in 1988 where he had his own showbiz column called “Bizarre”.
He went on to become deputy editor of The Sun’s Sunday sister title, the News of the World, in 2000 before becoming editor in 2003, aged 34, replacing Brooks.
Coulson and Brooks conducted an on-off extra-marital affair for years during this period, it emerged during the trial.
Under Coulson’s leadership, the Sunday tabloid delivered several high-profile exclusives, winning scoop of the year at the 2005 British Press Awards for its revelations on football icon David Beckham’s private life.
“The News of the World doesn’t pretend to do anything other than reveal big stories and titillate and entertain the public, while exposing crime and hypocrisy,” Coulson said as he collected the prize.
– ‘Great deal’ of phone hacking –
But the phone-hacking scandal brought Coulson’s tabloid career to an abrupt halt.
He resigned in 2007 after royal correspondent Clive Goodman and private investigator Glenn Mulcaire were jailed for hacking the phones of royal aides, using a low-tech system that relied on the fact most people fail to change the code for their voicemail boxes.
Coulson said he had to take “ultimate responsibility” but denied having known about the hacking.
These assurances were enough for Cameron, who just six months later installed him as communications chief of the Conservative Party, then in opposition.
Coulson’s populist sense helped Cameron’s team, many of whom shared their leader’s privileged Eton and Oxford background, to connect with voters and cement valuable links with the powerful Murdoch press.