The Old Bailey have been hearing from Dom Loehnis, a former Telegraph journo turned head-hunter and close old friend of the Prime Minister. Called by the prosecution, Loehnis has told the court that he sat next to Rebekah Brooks at David Cameron’s fortieth Birthday party hosted at the PM’s grace and favour country pad Chequers in 2010. The conversation was rather fruity:
Loehnis on Brooks "She said there was one default code, and nobody changed it… and some people put that code in and discovered voicemails—
Peter Jukes (@peterjukes) November 26, 2013
Loehnis: "Brooks said she didn't think the story would go away…" She talked about PIN numbers "wasn't a story that could be closed down"—
Peter Jukes (@peterjukes) November 26, 2013
As early as 2010, Brooks did not believe Coulson could survive in N0.10:
Yet he didn’t jump until 2011?
Loehnis came onto the police radar when a latter he wrote to Brooks after she resigned from News International was discovered. Sharp intakes of breath in Downing Street this afternoon….
Just what Dave needs. His old pal Andy Coulson is back again, making the second of a series of interventions in GQ magazine. This time he is offering his wisdom on the Tories’ UKIP problem:
“UKIP has become a club for disgruntled, invariably older Tories fed up with the leadership’s attitude mostly, although not entirely, towards Europe. More dangerously it allowed the party to present itself as the natural home for anyone fed up with mainstream politics.”
Coulson advises that the ‘loony’ rhetoric is “self-defeating” because “increasingly significant numbers of Conservative supporters” are voting UKIP. The current policy, which Whitehall wags wearily describe as “there is nothing we can do”, clearly isn’t working either. So what is Coulson’s masterplan? Kill em. An attack video demolishing UKIP’s dark side, focusing on Farage’s “less pleasant and stranger utterances”, with William Hague dispatched to take him on.
“The Conservatives should meet the UKIP debating challenge sooner and have Farage boxed off long before the first TV debate. It should be led by a senior Cabinet member, not the PM. Hague, as Foreign Secretary, is perfectly placed for some net practice on Farage’s preferred playing surface of Europe.”
Which could certainly go both ways. Then again if the Tories fancy winning something has to change…
A co-conspirator emailed on Friday:
Yesterday, I found myself walking up the Gray’s Inn Road alongside Andy Coulson. He was talking on his mobile phone to someone about the fact that his trial date had been moved. It was raining and he was mumbling a lot. But I did catch this brilliant quote:
“Whatever you do, don’t share that with anyone. Be very careful.”
I couldn’t resist papping him as he ambled along the road.
A funny thing to hear from the man who stands accused of conspiracy to intercept mobile phone voicemails, among other things. Be more careful Andy…
Andy, along with Rebekah, says he is not guilty of all charges…
One gem from Andy Coulson’s GQ masterplan, the back story from the above photo.
“One of the more surreal conversations I had during the last election campaign came in a post-lunch call from Ken Clarke. “A man from the Mirror has chased me to the restaurant,” he said. “He’s dressed as a chicken. I’m not in the least bit bothered. I’m rather partial to chicken, but I would like to know exactly why he is here.” I had no idea but rang the editor of the Daily Mirror to politely seek an explanation of the stunt. “Er, basically he’s there because it’s bloody funny,” he told me. Which was more than fair enough.”
Ken Clarke was asked if he minded the Mirror chicken sitting on his lap for a photo. "Yes, I bloody well do," he replied. Then ate his lunch—
Tom McTague (@MirrorMcTague) May 30, 2013
Nothing wrong with a chicken suit at election time…
Andy Coulson offers more words of wisdom for Dave in GQ this morning. Stage eight of his masterplan calls for Liam Fox to be brought back in from the cold:
“Unlike the rarely effective but always politically flawed Nigel Farage, when it comes to immigration he should deal in fact and not the stoking of irrational fears. William Hague is the man to take on and beat Farage and persuade those unloved Tories feeling the pull of UKIP to stand firm. He should be tasked with devising and leading the strategy against the party and enlist the currently under-employed Liam Fox to help.”
There are some choice words for “Sir Jeremy Who-wood” too:
“It’s time for the prime minister to wean himself off the company of the big brains in the civil service and leave himself more room to operate politically. The reforms are well underway. Progress should be carefully monitored but the hard yards in the company of Cabinet Secretary Sir Jeremy Heywood et al for David are already nearing their end – at least until after the election. The prime minister should spend more time with the people who might actually help win in 2015 rather than senior civil servants who have revelled in the power and professional satisfaction the coalition has brought them. I suspect Sir Jeremy and co would rather enjoy five more years of the same.”
He goes on to call Clegg “a bit of a minger”. As Boris said, “impeccable” advice…
Andy Coulson has surfaced for the first time since his Downing Street walk out in 2011 to dispense some pearls of wisdom for those he left behind. Writing for July’s GQ, he gives “his ten-point masterplan for saving David Cameron and stopping Labour in 2015″. And he sticks it to Boris too. Guido is sure the advice will be welcomed with open arms…
Despite awaiting his September trial, Coulson has clearly been keeping one eye on the ball:
“The prime minister must push [Miliband] to take positions: expose his strategy (to keep his head down, silently hope that the economy continues to go wonky and, well, just be the other guy), challenge him to take a view on the tricky issues opposition politicians love to duck….I’m struck by how detached the opposition front bench appears to be from their leader…I just don’t think they rate him very much. And if they don’t there’s a good chance the public will feel the same way once they get to know him properly.”
He’s even got even stronger words for Balls:
“The prime minister should pray Ed Balls remains shadow chancellor until the election…Appointing him as George’s opposite number was the Miliband gift that will keep on giving… The Tories must look for the divisions and make the most of them a) because they are most certainly real – always a plus – and b) because it’s history repeating itself. We are in this hole at least in part because of the shamefully dysfunctional Blair/Brown relationship. Labour’s Two Eds dislike each other and each thinks he is smarter than the other. The Conservatives should imagine in some detail how it would work if they actually won…and share that vision with the British public.”
Other than what might come out at the Brooks and Coulson trial, the Tories other favourite topic of parlour conversation is Boris, and Coulson does not disappoint there either. The Mayor’s card is marked, it seems. Coulson reckons Boris wants the job but won’t tarnish the brand by moving against the PM.
“Number Ten’s Boris strategy should be simple. Support his good ideas, advise privately on the bad ones, but only engage publicly if absolutely necessary – and celebrate Boris’ considerable successes. Boris Johnson desperately wants to be prime minister and David has known that fact longer than most. When Boris asked me to pass on the message that he was keen to stand as mayor of London, David responded, “Well, if he wins, he’ll want my job next.” If proof were needed that our PM is a man untroubled by self doubt, it came in his next sentence, “So I think he’ll be a bloody brilliant candidate for us”… Stabbing David, or anyone else for that matter, in the back would be distinctly off brand – just not very Boris. He would much prefer to see David fail miserably in the election and ride in on his bike to save party and country.”
A little revenge, perhaps, for Boris saying at the height of the phone-hacking scandal that he had warned Dave and George off hiring the former Screws editor. You have to wonder what might be in that diary…
MEDIA ADVISORY NOTE
STRICTLY NOT FOR PUBLICATION
Rebekah Brooks and Andrew Coulson, along with others, currently await trial in relation to allegations of misconduct and corruption at the News of the World and various other publications.
Editors and publishers are reminded of their responsibilities under the Contempt of Court Act 1981 (the Act).
In particular, the Attorney General wishes to draw attention to the risk of publishing material which could be seen to impede or prejudice the administration of justice in these proceedings – such as by publishing details of material which has not yet been called in evidence, and which may be subject to an application to exclude.
Editors and publishers should take legal advice to ensure they are in a position to fully comply with the obligations they are subject to under the Act.
For media enquiries please contact: The Attorney General’s Press Office
After encouraging guests to be “as outrageous as possible” at a black-tie student dinner in Nottingham last Thursday, the PM’s Senior Parliamentary Adviser John Hayes called Andy Coulson a “w***er” during a conversation after his speech. As one attendee later blogged: “his honesty is most refreshing for politics, especially considering how he is in No.10.”
Hayes did not deny the remark when Guido spoke to him earlier, though claimed he did not recall uttering the words. Multiple sources in the room say otherwise. With their trial scheduled for September, w***ing was Andy Coulson and Rebekah Brooks’ least worry…
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Knifed former civil service chief Bob Kerslake on his recent troubles:
“Many thks for kind wishes following back opn. Incision measured 16cm. A pretty big knife in the back! Photos on request.”