GPW Hotly Tipped for Post-Coulson Downing Street

Alastair Campbell once said you have eleven days to kill a story or you’re toast. The sustained effort to keep the Coulson story going might just be enough to push it over that mythical cut off point. The Indy’s Ian Birrell is a name floating around as a replacement. He was in the running to be Dave’s official spokesman and is known to be close to the PM. However, word reaches Guido, from usually reliable sources, that George Pascoe Watson – the former Sun man, now spinning at Portland PR, is sought after by some in Downing Street, potentially replacing one former Murdoch man with another. The problem is he is currently on over twice what the PM earns, so CCHQ might have to supplement the difference…

It was often said that Coulson was merely on loan from News International. What would he do if he did return to the fold? There would be a certain irony if he were dispatched across the Atlantic to oversee the Murdoch assault on the New York Times…

Piggies Catch Prezza Porkies

In giving evidence to the Home Affairs Select Committee, Yates of the Yard has thrown a spanner into the Labour spin machine as it tries to keep the Coulson story going.  John Prescott has made a  song and dance of the fact his phone was “hacked” – a fact flatly denied by the police. He is not on the list of suspected victims. Prezza has been caught telling porkies…

If Prezza isn’t on it, claims by Chris Bryant are looking shaky, as are the rumours that Mandy and even Blair were on the list.  If this was true Guido would rather a newspaper was quick to spot the security flaws and not Iranian intelligence. The Labour Party are obviously so keen to make capital out of this issue that they aren’t going to let a pesky bit of truth get in the way. Though it’s funny the sudden change of heart that Alan Johnson has had. While he was Home Secretary he was adamant that there was no grounds for an inquiry and there was nothing he could do, yet he has taken a very different tone in opposition. Many wondered why Johnson didn’t run for leader and perhaps now, without such a great need to keep News International’s tabloids away, we might read why exactly Alan Johnson was so keen to avoid confrontation with Coulson’s former employers while in office.

No Vacancy on Downing Street

Officially there is no vacancy. Officially Andy Coulson has the full support of the PM and the government machine. Officially he isn’t going anywhere. Unofficially last night was quite the flurry of activity.

He may not be going anywhere just yet, but the longer the BBC, Guardian and the Labour Party keep screaming, the more they wound Coulson as he becomes the story. The damage  is not just jeopardising his current job, but any future high earners he could move on to. So the feelers are going out and seem to centre on three key names…

There may not be an official vacancy, but that isn’t stopping Boris’s spinner and former BBC man Guto Harri putting his ear to the ground. he had been rumoured to be in talks with Welsh language channel S4C about their vacant CEO position, Guido hears that Welsh speaking Harri told them that if Coulson’s job became available he wouldn’t be in the running for the channel no one watches. Though some are worried where that would leave Boris with a re-election battle looming.

Another BBC man, James Lansdale, is also said to have given a nod of the head. This Old Etonian would slip easily into the Cameron circle and is greatly respected by his colleagues. Not that there is a vacancy of course.

Another name in the fray is, as ever, Ben Brogan. His Cameroon contacts are exemplary and second to none. Interestingly Mandrake, in Brogan’s own paper, was keen to keep him out of the runners and riders suggesting instead that Buckingham Palace’s Simon Walker is in the offing rather than their Deputy Editor. They also suggest George Pascoe-Watson, who is by all accounts happy with his new well-rewarded gig at Portland. Guido’s money is still on Coulson.

Coulson’s Guilt

The BBC just spent twenty-two minutes of a half hour news program talking about Coulson. Tom Watson has been granted emergency questions in the House and the lefty press are determined to keep this going. There is nothing new to the the reheated and rehashed allegations in the New York Times. Everyone knows journalists break the law to get stories. If newspaper investigations kept to the letter of the law more scandal would go uncovered.

The problem for Labour is how little they cared when they were in power. Why only in opposition has Alan Johnson finally decided to make some noise? He had far more power when he was Home Secretary. Unless there is firm evidence that Coulson ordered the hacks, which Guido suspects there won’t be, it’ll be hearsay from a disgruntled employee, and he will get away with it. Coulson is as guilty as sin of condoning that culture, but he’s already lost his job once over this. Remember that other newspapers – including the Guardian’s sister paper the Observer – also hacked phones. The hysterics are fake and will tire as real parliamentary business gets  underway. Guido’s sympathy is with whoever had to transcribe Prescott’s phone calls…

UPDATE : Bookies give Coulson a 75% chance of going before Conservative Party conference and only a 25% chance of him stayingGuido’s money is on him staying.

The Hand of GOD

David Cameron allegedly went home on the evening of May 10th and told his wife that he wouldn’t be Prime Minister. 24 hours later he was in Downing Street. Publicly the line was that it looked like things were going the other way, but behind the scenes things were rather different. Guido has come across a document drafted in the Cabinet Office on the Sunday afternoon that showed just how far the coalition negotiations had reached and crucially what the civil service were expecting.

By Sunday it was clear to Scott McPherson of the Economic and Domestic Affairs Secretariat who the two parties in government were going to be. Labour is not mentioned once in the entire document. He pinged this document around to the key players, including the Cabinet Secretary Gus O’Donnell’s office. The whole document shows the great hand that the civil servants had in guiding the structure of the coalition agreement, with a big tip of the cap to New Zealand. Funny that three days before the deal was done the mandarins already knew the result…

Goodbye GOD

So Cathy Newman got the scoop tonight that Cabinet Secretary Gus O’Donnell isn’t quitting. Yet.

Well more intriguingly the king of the mandarins wanted to go straight after the election, but given the circumstances, it is easy to see how he would have been persuaded to stay on in these unchartered waters for a little longer.

Now the battle starts for who Dave and Nick want to put in GOD’s shoes…

Bending the Laws

Not only did David Laws have the shortest, though admittedly bright, of cabinet careers, it now looks like he is going to serve the shortest of penances on the backbenchers. James Forsyth who is rather plugged in to the Downing Street media operation has suggested toes are being dipped in the water and media soundings taken about the prospect of a post-spending review return. The idea would be more popular with the Tories than the left of the LibDems so it is no surprise to see ConservativeHome tacitly welcoming such a move this morning.

The punters are pretty split. 48% believe Laws will return before the end of the year, lots of  money on 2011 too. That could all change if Downing Street are looking to make it happen. One thing that hasn’t been mentioned though is the fact John Lyon, still the Parliamentary Standards Commissioner, is yet to report on Laws’s little £40,000 problem. No.10 must be fairly confident he won’t be getting hauled over the coals but that’s not to say a spanner won’t be put in their plans with anything more than a rap on the knuckles.

Freedom is Too Messy

It seems that your freedom really does have a limit with this government. For all the talk, the majority have once again been silenced by the minority. Along with the “crowd-slicing” spending cuts consultancy project, the government web-watchers have shut down the debate on Your Freedom because of a few nutters. As Guido said the other day and will say again now – freedom is messy - It doesn’t matter so long as we find some diamonds in the mud.

Lobby’s Cosy Downing Street Drinks with Dave

With an unusually early start at a gentlemanly 5.30, Dave is getting ready to meet and greet the darlings of the Lobby for a summer drinks party tonight for the first time as Prime Minister. On the charm offensive with […]

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Labour General Secretary Wannabe Advising Cameron

Eyebrows were raised when Brown-era hire Mark Flanagan was not “thank-you-and-goodbyed” out of the Downing Street media team after the election. Instead he was forced upstairs to a strategy role when the Coalition arrived. As a civil servant Flanagan is […]

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Palin Coming to the Party

A flurry of articles this morning have picked up on Sarah Palin’s very excitable Facebook declaration that she was coming to London meet “one of my political heroines, the “Iron Lady,” Margaret Thatcher.” The Guardian is predictably sneering. The Mail […]

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We’re All In It Together

Guido has been chewing over the numbers. Given that a lowly CCHQ researcher or press officer would have been lucky to be on around £35,000, the jump to government for the lower rungs of the SpAd list has come with […]

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David Cameron tells MPs after voting:

“Wouldn’t miss this for the world. Secret ballots very important. Remember the Chartists.”

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