Cameron criticised for poor judgment over Coulson
British prime minister apologises after former adviser's conviction for phone hacking
“I am extremely sorry that I employed him. It was the wrong decision and I’m very clear about that.”
But Mr Cameron perhaps commented too soon because, after the lunch break, his remarks led trial judge Mr Justice Saunders to urge restraint by the public and politicians, saying verdicts were still outstanding.
The speed of Mr Cameron’s apology was not, however, accidental but rather deliberately prepared in the hope that if quickly delivered it could help prevent a head of steam building up about his judgment in the affair.
For many, Mr Cameron’s apology is not good enough. The argument is that there was plenty of information circulating around Westminster which, though it would never have stood up in court, should have made Mr Cameron wary.
Labour’s Ed Miliband, who has taken a battering from the right-wing press in recent weeks, was unusually savage in his response, accusing Mr Cameron of having “brought a criminal into the heart of Downing Street. David Cameron was warned about Andy Coulson. The evidence mounted up against Andy Coulson. David Cameron must have had his suspicions about Andy Coulson and yet he refused to act,” he said.
For Mr Miliband and for others, Mr Cameron’s slowness to act was not because of any desire to give Coulson a second chance, but because he was a vital bridge to publisher Rupert Murdoch.
“I believe this isn’t just a serious error of judgment. This taints David Cameron’s government because we now know that he put his relationship with Rupert Murdoch ahead of doing the right thing,” he said.
Last night, the jury, which has spent over a week deliberately on their verdicts, left the Old Bailey having yet to decide on charges that Coulson and Clive Goodman bought an internal Buckingham Palace phone directory from a police officer.
Meanwhile, Ms Brooks – who was nicknamed “Her Majesty” by some of her legal team – and her husband left the Old Bailey at lunchtime, free to return to their home in Chipping Norton in Oxfordshire, which is also Mr Cameron’s home base.
Mayor of London Boris Johnson declared his support, illustrating the strength of her connections, saying he was pleased, while Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson was first to the couple’s home to offer congratulations.
From Mr Cameron’s viewpoint, however, Ms Brooks is the political equivalent of Banquo’s ghost, an unwelcome reminder of his connections with Mr Murdoch.
From a brutal political viewpoint, she is even more of a problem for him out of jail.