To say that I watch Andy Coulson would of course be misleading. The whole point about Andy Coulson is that he is someone we do not see, doing things that we do not know.
I may not watch him, but since his appearance in front of the press standard’s committee, I have been aware of him, and I am now taking an interest in the way that this new Government, under his watchful eye, goes about the job of managing news. It is always impossible to know what he actually does, or what he has a hand in, but we know how things work. We have seen how the relationship between tabloid stories, PMQs, BBC and quality press is used to blow stories up in to the big story of the moment. We can I am sure expect much more of the same.
Andy Coulson’s job has changed of course. Over the last few years, his success will have been judged by the way in which the mood of the nation was being influenced by the media, and the extent to which people accepted that it was all Gordon’s fault. Now his job is different. It is now going to be about finding ways to distract the attention of the nation on days when bad news will predominate.
Today was the first scheduled bad news day, the announcement of £6bn cuts in spending, so out of idle curiosity I scanned the newspaper shelves. Yesterday the News of the World headlines on the sting operation on the Duchess of York had dominated, as a story which is about Royalty, Greed and Subterfuge could be expected to do, so I expected to see quite a lot of that. Here are the front-pages.
Army Chief says “I quit”
Small item on Tories party on the eve of £6bn cuts
Now will Andrew throw her out?
Osborne war on speed cameras
BA strike will hit Holidays
The Daily Express
£500,000 sting shames Duchess of York
Babies DNA in secret vaults
Business aid biggest loser as Osborne Wields axe
Kabul Criticises Fox
BA flights threatened
Article by Libby Purves on how Sarah Ferguson would be better off cooking lasagne.
How Israel offered to sell South Africa the bomb.
Civil service faces £163m squeeze on jobs and travel
First swing of the Axe
Large picture of Sarah Ferguson with an article by Lib Dem Minister Lynn Featherstone condemning her. (This made it on to the BBC news as well)
Civil service braces itself as axe looms.
I thought it was quite bright to have the condemnation of the Duchess given by a Lib Dem Minister, also thought it was quite bright to have all the announcements about cuts actually given by Lib Dem David Laws. There are obviously a lot of advantages to being in a coalition.
Now it would of course be entirely fanciful on my part to suppose that Andy Coulson could possibly have any influence on perpetuating undercover investigation of the Royal family by the News of the World, or on the timing of the release of the news, but it is certainly the case that he understands what gets the British public going, and that he is happy to use that in any way he can.
So all in all the first bad news day has probably gone off quite well for Andy Coulson, but it took a Duchess story to do it. If they are having to throw the Duchess at the first cuts announcement I can only begin to imagine the kind of stories we will be seeing by the time the really bad news starts coming!