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Coulson hacking charge a fresh embarrassment for David Cameron

By Ben Glaze

David Cameron faces fresh embarrassment as his former spin doctor Andy Coulson and friend Rebekah Brooks prepare to defend themselves against phone hacking charges.

Former News of the World editor Coulson was at the heart of Mr Cameron's communications operation, both in opposition and once the Tory leader entered No 10 as Prime Minister in May 2010.

Coulson, who has also been charged with committing perjury during a trial in Scotland, was infamously given a "second chance" by Mr Cameron after Coulson's resignation from the newspaper, with Mr Cameron valuing Coulson's guidance and advice in dealing with journalists.

Now the Prime Minister faces the prospect of seeing his former communications chief appear in the dock as the Government continues to endure a turbulent relationship with the Press.

Mr Cameron has been criticised for his loyalty to Mr Coulson, who eventually quit as Downing Street director of communications in January last year amid intense scrutiny of his previous role as editor of the now-defunct Sunday tabloid.

Mr Cameron was also ridiculed after his intimate text message exchanges with former News International chief executive Brooks were disclosed to Lord Justice Leveson's inquiry into media standards earlier this year.

Brooks, a former editor of the Sun and News of the World who has also been charged with conspiracy to pervert the course of justice over the hacking investigation, said the Conservative leader signed texts "LOL", believing it meant "lots of love" rather than "laugh out loud".

She and Coulson could also face prosecution over allegations journalists bribed public officials for information, potentially leading to a series of court cases dragging on for years - including the run-up to the next general election in 2015.

The legal process could cast a pall over the next three years of the Government, and as Brooks and Coulson prepare for their latest judicial grillings, Mr Cameron will be hoping there are no more disclosures to throw doubt on his judgment, loyalty and choice of friends.

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