As it happened: Andy Coulson at Leveson Inquiry

Key points

  • Andy Coulson - former editor of the News of the World - has given evidence to the Leveson Inquiry
  • He revealed he held stocks in News Corporation worth £40,000 while working as the prime minister's press chief
  • But he denied he was hired by David Cameron because of his links to News International
  1.  
    1155:

    Hello and welcome to our live coverage of Andy Coulson's long-awaited appearance before the Leveson Inquiry into media standards. We're expecting the former News of the World editor to begin his evidence after lunch - before that Lord Justice Leveson is introducing the next phase - or module - of the inquiry, which focuses on the relationship between press and politicians.

     
  2.  
    1158:

    Lord Justice Leveson says he will not be drawn into considering whether Rupert Murdoch is a fit person to run News Corp. As you'll probably remember, the House of Commons culture committee decided last week that he wasn't.

     
  3.  
    1201:

    The judge says he will not address "certain issues" with Andy Coulson and former Sun editor Rebekah Brooks when they give evidence because of a fear of putting the ongoing police investigation into phone hacking "in peril".

     
  4.  
    1203:

    He also says he will not make any judgement about whether Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt breached the ministerial code. Remember, Mr Hunt is under fire over whether he properly handled the bid by News Corp to take over BSkyB.

     
  5.  
    1204:

    Lead counsel for the inquiry, Robert Jay, has now taken over and is giving his introduction to the next phase of the inquiry.

     
  6.  
    1207:

    Just one thing from this morning's earlier evidence. Lord Justice Leveson said he was starting an investigation into how the Independent on Sunday newspaper got hold of parts of Andy Coulson's witness statement to the inquiry ahead of his appearance. We're expecting to hear more about that issue at some stage in the day.

     
  7.  
    1208:

    Mr Jay says there's a risk that relations between the press and politicians can become "incestuous and self-serving".

     
  8.  
    1209:

    Just in from our political correspondent Iain Watson, who's been at the daily Downing Street briefing. The PM's spokesman was asked if David Cameron would watch Andy Coulson's evidence, to which he replied: "I don't expect him to spend the afternoon in front of the TV."

     
  9.  
    1212:

    Mr Jay is going back through the history books, talking about discussions between Rupert Murdoch and Margaret Thatcher in 1981. He comments on Mr Murdoch's "selective amnesia" on the subject when he gave evidence to the inquiry himself. He also says politicians will "fly halfway around the world" to win the Sun's support.

     
  10.  
    1214:

    The real power of Associated Newspapers - owners of the Daily Mail and Mail on Sunday - is that they are a "litmus test" for the opinion of middle England, Mr Jay says.

     
  11.  
    1220:

    "It may be difficult to convert rumour, hearsay and surmise into fact" when it comes to judging the real influence of newspapers on politicians, Mr Jay says. But he adds, it's fair to say "a clear perception arises that electoral support will receive its reward".

     
  12.  
    1224:

    On Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt, Mr Jay says the issue is whether he failed to fulfil his role because he was "too close" to the Murdoch empire. He says Lord Justice Leveson should decide whether the BSkyB bid is "an example in microcosm" of everything that could be wrong with the press/politician relationship.

     
  13.  
    1225:

    "Politicians have a right to be friends with whomever they choose," lead counsel says - what matters is where the line is drawn.

     
  14.  
    Peter Hunt News correspondent, at Leveson

    tweets: Leveson: inquiry barrister Robert Jay reminds hearing not there to determine immediate political career of Jeremy Hunt.

     
  15.  
    1231:

    Mr Jay is now discussing the recommendations Lord Justice Leveson could make at the end of the inquiry. One could be a change to the ministerial code regarding politicians' dealings with the press - but overall, the answer must lie in "greater transparency", he says.

     
  16.  
    1233:

    Lord Justice Leveson says he now plans to address the matter of an article in the Independent on Sunday which contained details of Andy Coulson's witness statement.

     
  17.  
    1233:

    The judge has previously ordered that no witness statements or documents should be made public until they have been given in evidence at the inquiry.

     
  18.  
    1234:

    Independent on Sunday editor John Mullin now takes to the witness box.

     
  19.  
    1236:

    Mr Mullin says he was aware of the order made by Lord Justice Leveson restricting advance publication of evidence.

     
  20.  
    1240:

    Mr Mullin's own witness statement says Mr Coulson's evidence did not come to his paper from a core participant in the inquiry. "I'm not prepared to go any further," he says, but adds there was "no form of subterfuge on our part" or on the part of the person who obtained it.

     
  21.  
    1243:

    John Mullin says it was "human nature" for him to read Mr Coulson's evidence when it was put in front of him. But he adds: "I think it would have been much better all round had I not read that statement." He says he had enough evidence to run the story he did without Mr Coulson's evidence.

     
  22.  
    1244:

    Despite being pressed by David Barr, counsel to the inquiry, and Lord Justice Leveson, Mr Mullin refuses to agree that Mr Coulson's witness statement was used as a source for the paper's story.

     
  23.  
    1245:

    Mr Mullin says he believes the legal order made in relation to witness evidence did not apply to this story - because he had three other sources for it.

     
  24.  
    1248:

    Lord Justice Leveson says he's "very anxious" that evidence is prevented to the inquiry "in an ordered fashion". "The risk is by doing what you've done, you've created a dialogue in the public, with questions being asked and allegations being made, before we've heard it," he tells Mr Mullin.

     
  25.  
    1249:

    In reply, the newspaper editor says he came across Mr Coulson's evidence through "good honest journalism". At this, the judge interjects - saying he would dispute those words given that it came via the breach of a legal order.

     
  26.  
    1250:

    "We have used nothing from his statement in our story," says John Mullin. "We may not entirely agree on that," replies Lord Justice Leveson.

     
  27.  
    1252:

    Mr Mullin says his story was in the public interest, but counsel David Barr tells him there was "no public interest" in revealing something that was going to be revealed by the inquiry four days later.

     
  28.  
    1254:

    "My job as a news editor is to put in the public domain the key questions that have to be answered in this affair," John Mullin says. On that basis, what we did was "perfectly defensible", he insists.

     
  29.  
    1258:

    "With hindsight, there certainly would have been scope for me to at least have sought some informal guidance from the inquiry, but I wouldn't want that to be taken as acceptance that the decision I made was incorrect," says Mr Mullin, summing up. He apologises for the disruption it has caused to be inquiry, but adds: "We are motivated only by trying to get to the bottom of this issue."

     
  30.  
    1301:

    Lord Justice Leveson wraps up this morning's evidence. He tells Mr Mullin: "I am going to think very, very carefully about what you have said."

     
  31.  
    1302:

    With that, we're going to take a break until shortly before 2pm. Join us then for Andy Coulson's evidence.

     
  32.  
    1356:

    We're back from our lunch and anticipating the imminent arrival in the witness box of former News of the World editor Andy Coulson. Of course, he's a fascinating witness not just because of his time at the now defunct Sunday tabloid. After leaving the paper, he became director of communications for the Conservative Party and later for Prime Minister David Cameron himself.

     
  33.  
    1402:

    Throughout Mr Coulson's time at Number 10, David Cameron faced criticism for hiring someone linked so closely to the phone-hacking scandal. The PM has said that "with 20:20 hindsight" he would not have given him the job, but wanted to give Mr Coulson "a second chance".

     
  34.  
    1403:

    Andy Coulson quit No 10 in January 2011, saying the continuing row over phone hacking was making it impossible to give "110%" to the job. He was later arrested by police investigating the affair and remains on bail.

     
  35.  
    1403:

    Andy Coulson is now in the witness box at the Leveson Inquiry.

     
  36.  
    1404:

    Lead counsel to the inquiry Robert Jay runs through Mr Coulson's career, from beginning at a local paper, rising up through the Sun, the Daily Mail and News of the World, before entering the world of political communications.

     
  37.  
    1406:

    "Have you kept a diary in the style of Alastair Campbell," Mr Jay asks. "No", says Andy Coulson, but he has kept notebooks of his time in politics.

     
  38.  
    1406:

    Mr Jay says he won't be asking questions relating to Mr Coulson's arrest in connection with phone hacking. He moves on to ask about Rebekah Brooks, former Sun editor. Mr Coulson says they haven't spoken in some time "for obvious reasons".

     
  39.  
    1408:

    Mr Coulson says he has "no idea" about Rebekah Brooks' personal political beliefs or how she has voted in elections.

     
  40.  
    1409:

    "I don't remember wanting to change any of the cultural aspects of the News of the World when I became editor," says Mr Coulson. He adds that his only changes were "cosmetic".

     
  41.  
    1410:

    Mr Coulson says Rupert Murdoch, owner of the News of the World, would call on a Saturday night - the final hours before the paper went to press - but not every week. "We did talk about sports pages. We discussed politics generally. He would give me his views on whatever was in the news at the time."

     
  42.  
    1413:

    Did he ask you questions about circulation figures, Mr Jay asks. Yes, sometimes, replies Mr Coulson, but he says often Mr Murdoch wouldn't mention that at all in phonecalls.

     
  43.  
    1415:

    Mr Coulson says it's "fair to say" his own political views are Conservative - despite the News of the World supporting Labour under his editorship. He says the paper's job was to "reflect" - "more follow than lead" - the prevailing political mood of its readership.

     
  44.  
    1416: Journalist Ravi Somaiya

    tweets: #Coulson described by several former colleagues as sharp, ruthless, unflinching... He appears more demure at #Leveson today.

     
  45.  
    1418:

    I "thoroughly enjoyed" my time working for Rupert Murdoch, says Mr Coulson. He says he had conversations about possibly becoming editor of the Daily Mirror - the Sun's staunch rival - but he chose not to move.

     
  46.  
    1419:

    Andy Coulson giving his evidence.

    Andy Coulson
     
  47.  
    Sarah Modlock

    tweets: I don't think it's acceptable to try to find out about how someone voted at an election. #Leveson

     
  48.  
    1419:

    About his decision to back Tony Blair in 2005, Mr Coulson says he felt readers' best interests would be served by him being elected prime minister again.

     
  49.  
    1421:

    "I didn't have a conversation with Rupert Murdoch about the 2005 election," he says. "I don't feel I was pushed, encouraged or told to go in a certain way."

     
  50.  
    ITV News UK editor, Keir Simmons

    tweets: So far Andy Coulson is giving cautious, perhaps even guarded evidence at Leveson... No sign so far of dramatic revelations.

     
  51.  
    1422:

    Robert Jay asks Mr Coulson about meeting David Cameron in October 2005 when he was bidding to become leader of the Conservative Party. He says he doesn't recall the paper backing Mr Cameron for that job in any way - and he says he personally didn't form an opinion either way about the leadership race.

     
  52.  
    1424:

    Asked whether the paper gradually began to back the Conservatives once Mr Cameron became leader, Mr Coulson replies: "It was the News of the World under my leadership that came up with the headline 'Hug a hoodie' and I don't think that was particularly helpful to Mr Cameron."

     
  53.  
    1425:

    Mr Coulson says the "explicit issue of 'Will you support us?'" was never raised by any politicians in conversation with him. He says they just hoped to get their message across "in a positive light".

     
  54.  
    1426:

    Mr Jay is pressing Mr Coulson about whether "the clear subtext" of any conversations between him and politicians was that question of support. The former editor refuses to agree that was the case.

     
  55.  
    1429:

    Mr Coulson says "quite frankly" he didn't believe Gordon Brown when the former prime minister told him he had knowledge of Rupert Murdoch's plans for the future of editorship of the Sun.

     
  56.  
    fleetstreetfox

    tweets: Coulson looks likes he's come to offer his condolences. #Leveson #RIPNOTW

     
  57.  
    w.m o'mara

    tweets: Seems that a lot of people questioned at the Leveson inquiry have problems with recall!! #Leveson

     
  58.  
    Labour MP, Diane Abbott

    tweets: Endless "I don't know" "I can't remember" from #Coulson. How did a man with such poor powers of recall ever become a succesful journalist?

     
  59.  
    1432:

    Now onto relations between Mr Coulson and then shadow chancellor George Osborne from 2005 onwards. They're discussing a story about Mr Osborne, drugs and a former prostitute.

     
  60.  
    1433:

    Mr Jay says the News of the World's take was "sympathetic" compared with the Sunday Mirror's, but Mr Coulson insists: "The idea that we somehow went easy on him is ridiculous".

     
  61.  
    1435:

    Mr Coulson denies he would have "buried the story" about George Osborne if the Sunday Mirror hadn't made it their front page lead.

     
  62.  
    1436:

    Onto Mr Coulson's resignation as editor in January 2007 - on the same day that former News of the World royal editor Clive Goodman was convicted of phone hacking.

     
  63.  
    1439:

    Mr Coulson says he didn't have a conversation with Rupert Murdoch about his resignation - instead he talked to former NoW executive Les Hinton. "It was my decision, there wasn't a negotiation about whether I would or I wouldn't," he insists.

     
  64.  
    Jack Blackburn

    tweets: This is a rather intriguing edition of #leveson. A distinct aura of tension between #coulson and the very impressive Robert Jay.

     
  65.  
    1440:

    Robert Jay is now asking about shares Mr Coulson held in News Corp and News International. Mr Coulson says he believes he had sold all of them by May 2007.

     
  66.  
    1441:

    Mr Coulson says he received some commiserations from Tony Blair and Gordon Brown after leaving the News of the World. He says he doesn't remember ever receiving similar sentiments from David Cameron.

     
  67.  
    1442:

    The conversation turns to a meeting between George Osborne and Mr Coulson at which the former asked the latter about "joining the team".

     
  68.  
    1443:

    Mr Coulson says Mr Osborne asked for his views on how the Conservatives should organise their communications in the run-up to a general election.

     
  69.  
    1443:

    Mr Coulson says he told him the party needed "good relationships" with as many media organisations as possible - and that television would be crucial to the campaign.

     
  70.  
    Channel 4 News presenter, Krishnan Guru-Murthy

    tweets: Coulson's reticence already quite amusing. Asked about difference between Sun and Notw helpfully says one was daily the other weekly

     
  71.  
    1445:

    Mr Jay wants to know what qualities Mr Osborne believed the former NoW editor would bring to the job. Mr Coulson says he's "not being obstructive" but it wasn't like that - the focus was on how the Tories could win the election.

     
  72.  
    Ross Hawkins Political correspondent, BBC News, at the Leveson Inquiry

    : #Coulson at #Leveson: got commiserations from Blair & Brown on resigning

     
  73.  
    1447:

    Did you not see this conversation as selling yourself, asks Lord Justice Leveson. Mr Coulson says no, he didn't see it as a job interview in that way and went into the meeting "with some reluctance".

     
  74.  
    Nick Robinson Political editor

    tweets: Coulson quote of day so far - NofW story in '06 "Top Tory, coke and the hooker" cannot be described as "career enhancing" for Mr Osborne

     
  75.  
    1450:

    Robert Jay presses his point again - "Did it not occur to you to wonder, why are they asking me to do this job?" he asks.

     
  76.  
    1450:

    Yes, I suppose it did, replies Mr Coulson, but he says as editor he was "dealing in issues, ran campaigns" and those things were probably "attractive".

     
  77.  
    Michael Curran

    tweets: Coulson looks like he's watched a lot of #Leveson over past few months. Done his own research & preparation & it shows. Jay &LJ frustrated

     
  78.  
    1452:

    Mr Coulson says he doesn't really remember much discussion with George Osborne about the implications of his links to News International for the Tories. He denies Mr Jay's suggestion it would have been "the elephant in the room".

     
  79.  
    1453:

    Mr Coulson says the subject of jailed royal editor Clive Goodman did come up during further talks he had with senior Tories about taking the job.

     
  80.  
    1454:

    Mr Coulson says the subject of Goodman also came up in a conversation with David Cameron. He says he repeated the same thing to him that he'd said publicly - he knew nothing about phone hacking under his editorship.

     
  81.  
    1457:

    Lord Justice Leveson asks Mr Coulson whether he "sold himself" to David Cameron in order to get the job. He replies that he tried to show himself in "the most favourable light possible", but his main appeal was probably his "broad experience".

     
  82.  
    Ross Hawkins Political correspondent, BBC News, at the Leveson Inquiry

    tweets: #Coulson at #Leveson: possible Francis Maude & Ed Llewellyn asked about Goodman but can't remember

     
  83.  
    1459:

    Mr Coulson says he raised the point with Mr Osborne and Mr Cameron. during these job discussions that his links to News International would not be a guarantee of support for the Tories.

     
  84.  
    Robert Taylor in North Wales

    emails: Robert Jay is probing in all the areas I, as a member of the public, want to be probed. Very clear that Coulson was known by Osborne and Cameron as someone who had previously shown himself to be more than sympathetic to the Conservative Party. Coulson getting extremely defensive - doing nothing for his 'likability'.

     
  85.  
    1502:

    Mr Jay asks about Rebekah Brooks and her influence as editor of the Sun - Mr Coulson agrees she's someone politicians would want to have on their side.

     
  86.  
    1502:

    Mr Coulson says he made it clear to David Cameron that the News of the World would not be easy to win over because his successor as editor, Colin Myler, was a more natural Labour supporter.

     
  87.  
    Sky News Home Affairs correspondent, Mark White

    tweets: Coulson says he didn't express the view to anyone that his appointment to Downing St would in anyway guarantee support from his former paper

     
  88.  
    1505:

    In circulation terms, the Sun would be the most important ally for a political party, says Mr Coulson, but there were other papers he also told Mr Cameron it was important to win over. He cites the Daily Mail and the Daily Telegraph.

     
  89.  
    Allen Hazlett in Darlington

    emails: Why would you make assurances that the links to News International would not guarantee influence unless it was discussed or you thought it an issue?

     
  90.  
    1507:

    Mr Coulson says he doesn't "necessarily buy the theory" that papers determine how their readers vote. He says politicians feel that way more and more too. He stresses that TV was "as crucial" in his mind as the written press - "if not more so".

     
  91.  
    1508:

    Mr Coulson refuses to agree with counsel that the best way to win over the Sun was to win over Rebekah Brooks. "It was actually [about] a range of relationships," he insists.

     
  92.  
    Media commentator, Roy Greenslade

    tweets: Coulson #Leveson: we wanted support of The Sun and as many newspapers as possible. Work had to be put into that.

     
  93.  
    1509:

    "The party had an electoral mountain to climb... so we wanted to touch as many readerships as possible," Mr Coulson says.

     
  94.  
    Ross Hawkins Political correspondent, BBC News, at the Leveson Inquiry

    tweets: #Coulson at #Leveson: attempt to build relationships so when you had good things to say you had best poss chance of best poss coverage

     
  95.  
    1510:

    Mr Coulson says he didn't tell David Cameron to get as close to Ms Brooks as possible. But he says there was already "a family connection" between the two - Ms Brooks' husband being a constituent of the PM.

     
  96.  
    1511:

    Robert Jay quotes David Cameron in July 2011, saying all politicians "got too close to News International". Mr Coulson says that was never a view the PM expresed to him personally before that.

     
  97.  
    1512:

    Mr Coulson says David Cameron "frequently" complained about the amount of time he had to spend cosying up to journalists and he'd rather be spending time with his family.

     
  98.  
    Guardian newspapers' Editor-in-chief, Alan Rusbridger

    tweets: #coulson "The Conservative Party had very good relationship with the Guardian." #Leveson

     
  99.  
    1513:

    "Do you feel politicians got too close to News International?," asks Mr Jay. In reply, Mr Coulson says he never saw or was a party to any conversation that was "inappropriate".

     
  100.  
    Nick Robinson Political editor

    tweets: Coulson's hands no longer clasped. I sense he feels in control. Now wielding straight bat with confidence #leveson

     
  101.  
    1515:

    Another go at that question from Mr Jay. Don't be too literal, he tells the witness - was the relationship unhealthy? Mr Coulson says "the word unhealthy implies impropriety" and he doesn't agree with that.

     
  102.  
    1521:

    Andy Coulson is now taking a short break from giving evidence.

     
  103.  
    Ross Hawkins Political correspondent, BBC News, at the Leveson Inquiry

    It started pretty tense and terse, Andy Coulson appeared determined not to say a word more than he had to. Every time Robert Jay tried to build an argument, Mr Coulson knocked it down - the main one being that he was hired by David Cameron not for his own personal talents, but purely for his links with News International. Mr Coulson denied that flat out.

     
  104.  
    1526:

    Andy Coulson now resumes his evidence. The first topic after the break is Mr Coulson's former shareholdings in News International - something very briefly touched on before. He says their gross value was about \u00a340,000.

     
  105.  
    1528:

    The focus is on why Mr Coulson continued to hold some shares after leaving News of the World and joining the Conservatives. He says that "by way of explanation not excuse", his job was a busy one and he overlooked it.

     
  106.  
    1528:

    Now onto Mr Coulson's level of security clearance. The Guardian has reported that he had a much lower standard of vetting than his predecessors and successors.

     
  107.  
    1529:

    Mr Coulson said he did attend meetings of the National Security Council at which sensitive issues like Afghanistan and counter-terrorism are discussed.

     
  108.  
    1531:

    Do you recall having discussions with anyone at the News of the World about who they would support at the 2010 general election, Mr Jay asks. Mr Coulson says he doesn't remember any specific conversations, but the party wanted to win over support wherever it could.

     
  109.  
    1533:

    On the allegiance of the Sun, Mr Coulson says: "I don't remember a moment at which I thought, 'Great, that's the endorsement secured'. I took the view I wouldn't believe it until I saw it in the paper."

     
  110.  
    1534:

    For background, you probably remember that it was during the Labour Party conference in 2009 that the Sun officially announced it would be backing the Conservatives at the following year's general election.

     
  111.  
    1535:

    Mr Coulson says he wasn't involved in the timing of the Sun's switch and he would have preferred it to come as "a positive endorsement" for the Conservatives during their conference the following week.

     
  112.  
    1537:

    "In terms of shocks, when you look at the political history of the Sun, a far bigger shock was them backing Tony Blair," Mr Coulson says.

     
  113.  
    Peter Hunt News correspondent, at Leveson

    tweets: Leveson : Coulson lower grade of security vetting but "may have" had access to top secret docs and did attend Nat Sec Council. #Leveson

     
  114.  
    Nick Robinson Political editor

    tweets: Coulson on Cameron in witness statement "He is a hard-working and inspirational boss, leader and a thoroughly decent, moral man" #Leveson

     
  115.  
    1540:

    Robert Jay returns to what seems to be his key thrust: "Surely you knew that the way in, ultimately, to Mr Murdoch, was through his son and Rebekah Brooks," he asks. Mr Coulson replies: "It was certainly an important line of communication for me."

     
  116.  
    1543:

    Mr Coulson says Mr Jay seems to have "a disparaging view of ex-showbiz editors" after counsel suggests Ms Brooks' successor as Sun editor, Dominic Mohan, would not have been an important person to win over. Mr Coulson is, of course, himself an ex-showbiz editor of the Sun.

     
  117.  
    1544:

    Mr Coulson says he doesn't know who was involved in the Sun's decision to back the Tories, but it would have been "a bold move" for Dominic Mohan to have refused if Rupert Murdoch had been in favour of doing so.

     
  118.  
    1545:

    Did you have no idea at all when the news would break, asks Mr Jay. Mr Coulson replies that it may have been "in the ether" but he didn't believe it until he saw the front page of the Sun on television.

     
  119.  
    1548:

    "Pretty good timing wasn't it?", asks Mr Jay. Mr Coulson says he would have "preferred them to have done it in a different way and a different time", but he doesn't deny it was good for the Conservatives.

     
  120.  
    1548:

    "I certainly wouldn't describe it as jubilation, but it wasn't a bad day in the office," Mr Coulson says.

     
  121.  
    Norman Smith Chief political correspondent, BBC News Channel

    tweets: Coulson written evidence: "I am not a bully.Tabloid journalists work in highly competitive environment.There is pressure to deliver stories"

     
  122.  
    1548:

    Mr Coulson denies that winning over the Sun meant that his main task as Conservative communications chief was fulfilled.

     
  123.  
    Ross Hawkins Political correspondent, BBC News, at the Leveson Inquiry

    tweets: #Coulson at #Leveson: ws: spent weekend with family at Dorneywood in 2010 as guest of Osborne & wife. Rebekah Brooks & husband also guests

     
  124.  
    1550:

    Just published - Andy Coulson's witness statement to inquiry - on the Leveson website.

     
  125.  
    BBC's Week in Westminster presenter, Steve Richards

    tweets: Andy Coulson's calm, low-key style puts all this in perspective. There is nothing shocking in parties seeking the support of newspapers.

     
  126.  
    1552:

    This was the BBC's story from the day when the Sun switched allegiance - including the "Labour's lost it" front page itself.

     
  127.  
    1554:

    Robert Jay moves on to talking about Frederic Michel - a man who's name has been in the news recently in relation to Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt. He was the senior public affairs executive at News Corporation who led the firm's lobbying to take over BSkyB.

     
  128.  
    1555:

    Mr Coulson says in his witness statement he met Mr Michel several times, including possibly once at Number 10. The document also states that Mr Michel helped organise a lunch between David Cameron and the former Spanish PM Jose Maria Aznar when the Tories were in opposition.

     
  129.  
    1556:

    But Mr Coulson says he doesn't recall knowing about News Corp's intention to bid for BSkyB before it was publicly announced.

     
  130.  
    1559:

    Mr Coulson says "the affairs of News Corp" were not discussed by Mr Cameron and ex-Spanish PM Mr Aznar at their lunch. The talk was of politics, he adds. Mr Aznar, by the way, has been a director of News Corp since 2006.

     
  131.  
    1601:

    Mr Jay asks Mr Coulson whether he knew Vince Cable's attitude towards the BSkyB bid before it became public in December 2010.

     
  132.  
    1601:

    Mr Coulson says he doesn't believe so. Remember, the business secretary told undercover reporters he'd "declared war" on the Murdoch empire.

     
  133.  
    1603:

    Mr Coulson tells Lord Justice Leveson directly he doesn't believe he had any conversations with ministers about the BSkyB bid.

     
  134.  
    1604:

    Mr Coulson says he thinks Rupert Murdoch did come in through the back door of Downing Street when coming to meet David Cameron.

     
  135.  
    1606:

    "Is there a list of back door people and front door people?" Lord Justice Leveson asks. There's laughter in the inquiry room when the judges adds: "I've got to keep myself entertained somehow."

     
  136.  
    1607:

    "Was it ever your job to brief against certain individuals?", asks Mr Jay. In reply, Mr Coulson says his role was to brief about politics, "not people's private lives".

     
  137.  
    Ben Parker in Dorset

    texts: I'm glued to this at work, I'm following with bated breath in my office - Coulson is getting so defensive it seems like he is worried about letting something slip. Brilliant approach by Mr Jay.

     
  138.  
    Norman Smith Chief political correspondent, BBC News Channel

    tweets: Coulson - I wanted to show PM in "relaxed informal mode" and dispel myth he was "lounging around in top hat and tails sipping champagne."

     
  139.  
    1609:

    Mr Jay asks whether the issue of personal briefing - attacks, in common parlance - within politics is something that needs to be addressed. Mr Coulson says that came to ahead with the Damian McBride affair.

     
  140.  
    1610:

    Mr McBride was Gordon Brown's special adviser and resigned in 2009 after it emerged he had discussed disseminating rumours about the private lives of some Conservative politicians.

     
  141.  
    1611:

    "We sought to ensure that an authentic view of David Cameron was being expressed by the media", says Mr Coulson. "That would require a lot of work," he adds.

     
  142.  
    1612:

    On his resignation from Number 10 in January 2011, Mr Coulson says he didn't discuss it with Rebekah Brooks until after it was announced publicly.

     
  143.  
    1617:

    Mr Coulson is being asked about an employment tribunal involving ex-News of the World sports reporter Matt Driscoll. He received a pay-out of almost \u00a3800,000 in 2008 after accusing Mr Coulson of presiding over a culture of bullying while editor.

     
  144.  
    1623:

    The tribunal judgment accused Mr Coulson of making "bullying" remarks in communications with Mr Driscoll. But Mr Coulson says that while his remarks may have been "intemperate", they did not amount to bullying.

     
  145.  
    1625:

    Mr Jay says he's come to the end of the questions and asks Mr Coulson if he has anything he'd like to add.

     
  146.  
    1626:

    Mr Coulson says he wants to make a point about suggestions of a possible deal between Tories and News Corp to push through the BSkyB takeover. "If there was a deal and there was a conspiracy, why was Mr Cable given the job?" he says.

     
  147.  
    1627:

    Mr Coulson says it was "in the prime minister's gift" to give that responsibility to whomever he chose, so why would he pick "a combative Lib Dem" if he wanted to do News Corp a favour.

     
  148.  
    1628:

    Lord Justice Leveson asks Mr Coulson for his view on whether the relationship between the press and politicians has become too close - and if so, how it should be addressed.

     
  149.  
    1628:

    Mr Coulson says David Cameron himself has said it got "too cosy" and he's "not minded to disagree with him".

     
  150.  
    1629:

    But Mr Coulson adds: "I would hate to think that more barriers would be erected between politics and the press. You only have to look at the turnout in last week's election, people are disengaging in politics."

     
  151.  
    Caroline

    tweets: Cable as evidence of lack of conspiracy is a red herring. It could, just as equally be that his appointment was a smokescreen. #leveson

     
  152.  
    1631:

    Lord Justice Leveson says he's very keen on ensuring politicians are able to engage the public in their policies and that journalists can hold them to account. But he says the question is how to ensure that happens in "an open, transparent and appropriate way".

     
  153.  
    1632:

    Mr Coulson says striking that balance is "incredibly difficult". He says one thing that troubles him about the inquiry is the implication that "friendship is always based on some ulterior motive".

     
  154.  
    1633:

    Lord Justice Leveson says he wants transparency in relations between the press and politicians, and in reply, Mr Coulson says he believes that "what's happened over the course of the last year is going to solve that problem for you".

     
  155.  
    1634:

    With that, Andy Coulson's evidence is complete. Lord Justice Leveson says he understands it's been "difficult" for him, but it was "important" to hear it.

     
  156.  
    1637: Ross Hawkins Political correspondent, BBC News, at the Leveson Inquiry

    We learned something new and rather intriguing. While Andy Coulson was working for David Cameron - and when the government was having to consider the BSkyB takeover bid - he held \u00a340,000 worth of "share units" in News Corporation.

     
  157.  
    Nick Robinson Political editor

    tweets: Bizarre. No questions asked of Coulson re civil service checks on knowledge of hacking pre entering No 10 #Leveson

     
  158.  
    Norman Smith Chief political correspondent, BBC News Channel

    tweets: Im thinking Coulson emerged pretty much in one piece. Bits and bob,some colour..but smoking gun ??? #leveson

     
  159.  
    1648:

    The Guardian has obtained a statement from the Cabinet Office about Mr Coulson's security clearance: "We have always made it expressly clear that Andy Coulson saw the information he was cleared to see. Security vetting is about access to information.\u200b SC level allows access to secret papers and occasional access to top secret. DV is required for those who need frequent access to the highest classification of material. Andy Coulson was cleared to SC level.\u200b"

     
  160.  
    1649:

    The Cabinet Office adds: "Clearances are kept under review and can be upgraded at any time. Following a well-publicised counter-terrorism incident at East Midlands airport it was decided that Mr Coulson should undergo DV given the importance of communications in handling a terrorist incident. This was all cleared by the cabinet secretary at the time."

     
  161.  
    Jane Trevithick

    tweets: Tomorrow will be interesting. Rebekah is not as confident in presentation skills as Coulson #Leveson

     
  162.  
    1654:

    We're going to end our live coverage of Leveson there. Rebekah Brooks - former editor of the Sun and chief executive of News International - will give evidence on Friday. We'll be bringing you her statement live here on the BBC News website and elsewhere on BBC television and radio.

     

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