x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

British PM defends decision to hire scandal-linked editor as spokesman

Mr Cameron said he chose Mr Coulson because he was looking for a tough man for a tough job, even though the editor had already been tarnished in the UK's phone hacking scandal.

LONDON // David Cameron, the British prime minister, yesterday defended his decision to make disgraced tabloid editor Andy Coulson his Downing Street communications director. That was even though Mr Coulson had already been tarnished in the UK's phone hacking scandal.

In sworn testimony before a UK media ethics inquiry, Mr Cameron said he chose Mr Coulson because he was looking for a tough man for a tough job. He said prime ministers are under constant media barrage and need strong help to get their message across.

"I had met him when he was editor of News of the World and I felt he was a very effective individual," Mr Cameron said of Coulson.

"That was my decision; I take full responsibility for it."

Mr Cameron said he had received assurances that Coulson was not involved in phone hacking - but those proved hollow when Coulson was forced to resign from his post last year after new revelations about widespread wrongdoing at his newspaper. Coulson has since been charged with perjury.

Coulson had resigned as News of the World editor in 2007 after his paper was found to have hacked into the voicemail messages of top aides to the royal family.

In written statements to the committee, Mr Cameron said he would not have hired Coulson if he had known about the editor's involvement. Cameron said: "He denied any knowledge of the hacking but said he took responsibility for what had happened on his watch. I asked him specifically about his involvement."

Mr Cameron's decision to bring Coulson into his inner circle has left the prime minister open to questions about his judgment in choosing a man already linked to the scandal.

The prime minister admitted yesterday that the press and politicians had become too close and needed to change their cosy relationship.