Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 17 April 2014

Cameron backs communications chief

David Cameron has defended his Director of Communications Andy Coulson

Prime Minister David Cameron has defended his director of communications Andy Coulson, insisting there had been no complaints about his handling of 10 Downing Street's media operations.

Mr Cameron said that no-one in his team was "unsackable", but added that Number 10's press office had not attracted as much controversy under Mr Coulson's tenure as it did when Labour figures like Alastair Campbell and Damian McBride were in place.

The Metropolitan Police is currently looking at allegations that as editor of the News of the World Mr Coulson knew about phone-hacking which led to a reporter being jailed in 2007 - something he has always denied.

Mr Cameron was facing demands to give a statement to Parliament after Channel 4's Dispatches programme quoted an unnamed former News International executive as saying that Mr Coulson had listened to illegally obtained messages himself.

The PM told Channel 4 News: "He's someone who serves the Government, and actually runs a very good press office and communications department."

Asked by presenter Jon Snow whether Mr Coulson was unsackable, Mr Cameron answered: "No-one is unsackable, but the point I'm making is that we haven't had one single complaint about how he has done his job, or indeed about how the Downing Street press office has done its job and that is quite a contrast from the years of Alastair Campbell and Damian McBride and all the rest of them.

"So I say you should judge people on the jobs that they do and I think actually my Downing Street operation - most of which was inherited from Gordon Brown - the extremely talented civil servants that work there, I think they do a good job."

Mr Cameron denied that News International boss Rupert Murdoch was "the 24th person at the Cabinet table".

"I've had my fights with News International newspapers," said the PM. "I have robust interviews every time I go on Sky News.

"I don't particularly notice the presence of a 24th person round the cabinet table."

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