June 30, 2014 by Paul Goldsmith
It was back in 2007 when David Cameron decided to hire as his Director of Communications a man who had needed to resign as Editor of the News of the World after a journalist and a private investigator had been imprisoned for hacking into mobile phones to get stories. So it wasn’t like Cameron didn’t know that there may be some mud that might stick to Andy Coulson. Yet if he hadn’t chosen Coulson, there is a genuine argument that we would still have a Labour governmen today t, which is why questions of Cameron’s ‘judgement’ over hiring Andy Coulson are more nuanced than people are making it.
To understand this, we need to go back to the time of Coulson’s appointment. David Cameron was in desperate need of someone to help him. This was a completely different political era. Gordon Brown had just succeeded Tony Blair as Prime Minister, was still boasting that his policies as Chancellor had abolished boom and bust and seemed to be offering a different kind of politics. There were policies on supercasinos, cannabis and bringing troops home from Iraq that meant that even the Daily Mail were hailing Brown. He was a very popular Prime Minister in the Autumn of 2007. Seriously.
At the time, Brown was considering calling a general election. He was doing so because it would give him a new mandate for his policies and also because whilst the political wind was so much in his favour it might have been sensible to do so. The Tories were in turmoil – split over grammar schools, considering taxing supermarket car parks for environmental reasons and Cameron was still talking about ‘hugging a hoodie’. Most senior Tories acknowledge that had Brown actually called that election when he was thinking of doing it, Labour would have probably won, the Tories would have probably sunk into chaos and we would on this day be in our 17th year of Labour government.
But Brown didn’t call an election. The reason? Andy Coulson had taken control of the wheel and performed a U-turn to lead the Conservatives back to its heartland voters. They started promising a crackdown on crime, a ‘cast-iron’ guarantee of a referendum on the Lisbon treaty, and – most significantly, an abolition of inheritance tax for all but millionaires. Now, you may notice that none of those eventually happened, but it was enough for Brown to perform his famous u-turn on that Autumn 2007 election as the Tories suddenly surged in the most important polls, which were in the tabloid-reading Essex, Kent and Midlands marginal seats that Cameron didn’t (still doesn’t) understand but Coulson knew extremely well. So it didn’t happened, and that is a major reason why David Cameron sits in Downing Street today?
So Cameron might argue that it was worth it. He ended up winning over 300 seats in the 2010 election, which included more state-educated Tories than any parliamentary intake in history. Those people understand modern Britain more than Cameron ever will. They understand what it’s like to run out of money at the start of each month and that loving your country involves loving the flag, crown and history – but also all of it’s people. Coulson started that climb, but sadly, it was after he had been involved in hacking modern Britain’s phones.