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Coulson 'not hired' by UK government for Murdoch links

posted 10 May 2012, 09:34 by Sam Mbale   [ updated 10 May 2012, 09:35 ]

Leveson Inquiry tells former News of the World editor Andy Coulson that his connections to News International were "the elephant in the room" during his interview for the post of media advisor to British Prime Minister David Cameron.

LONDON, UK (MAY 10, 2012) (UK POOL) - Former News of the World editor Andy Coulson on Thursday (May 10) denied he was hired as British Prime Minister David Cameron's media chief because of his ties to News International.

Appearing before the Leveson Inquiry Coulson disputed that as editor of the Sunday paper he had treated the Conservative Party favourably.

Inquiry Counsel Robert Jay QC said a News of the World editorial had downplayed reports of Finance Minister George Osborne allegedly consuming illegal drugs.

"You also say, bit later on, 'last week we said that the Tory leadership is [David] Cameron's for the taking, nothing published since then has made us change our minds.' Now of course Mr Osborne was going to be Mr Cameron's number two effectively... So this was putting a favourable gloss on quite a murky world, wasn't it?" said Jay.

In terms of his qualification for the role of Cameron's media advisor, Coulson admitted to the Inquiry that he had had no formal interview.

"In truth it didn't feel like an interview at all. I think it was clear from the off that they were interested in hiring me," said Coulson.

When pressed on his experience with News International and how this might benefit the government during his tenure as media advisor, Coulson said his memory was hazy, but that it was probably discussed at some point.

"I don't remember that being a specific conversation at that point, no. There may well have been a conversation about the fact that I worked on the News of the World and maybe we discussed some individuals in that regard, I don't really remember, but I'm sure that the conversation would've touch on my previous employers in some way," said Coulson.

"It was the elephant in the room, wasn't it?" said Jay.

Politicians from both of Britain's main parties, Cameron's Conservatives and the opposition Labour Party, have long believed Rupert Murdoch's 40 percent share of national newspaper readership meant that they needed his backing to get elected.

The Leveson inquiry is a high-profile investigation into press standards ordered by Cameron in the wake of the phone hacking scandal. Evidence given in live televised hearings by dozens of witnesses has caused acute embarrassment to both Murdoch and Cameron over the past few months.