Downing Street Aide Resigns Over News of the World Phone Hacks

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Photo: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

Just days after Prime Minister David Cameron defended his controversial director of communications, Andy Coulson resigned in the face of mounting allegations over his former role as editor of the Rupert Murdoch tabloid News of the World. Cameron has stuck by Coulson, even as a parade of celebrities claimed that News of the World reporters had hacked into their cell-phone voice mails. Former Labour minister Chris Bryant, who ran the investigation, told the Independent, "His appointment shows a fundamental lack of judgment by the Prime Minister. Cameron has clung on to him for dear life, long past the point when it became clear that Coulson's position was untenable." Coulson has denied any role in the illegal surveillance, which spanned from athletes to Princes Harry and William. According to former employees, however, it was Coulson, the top editor at the time, who instigated a hyper-competitive, "do whatever it takes" culture and personally listened to recordings, you know, just to make sure that everything they printed was on the up and up.

Before stepping down as editor four years ago, he quickly rose up the ranks of Murdoch's empire. He was often characterized "as the 'Essex boy made good' thanks to hard-nosed ambition, drive and more than an ounce of sheer ruthlessness," says the Guardian. Piers Morgan, who gave Coulson his first job, once described him as "one of the best journalists I have ever worked with." Coulson's early resignation from News of the World came after a reporter and private detective were jailed for hacking the voice mails. Coulson claimed he was unaware of their actions, but said he would take full responsibility as the leader in charge. Subsequent lawsuits from celebrities have undermined his claim that it was an isolated incident.

Rumors swirled this weekend that Downing Street would ask him to resign, as opposition leaders ordered an assessment of all the evidence gathered by police in the original prosecution, and investigation into the paper's surveillance tactics moved up the chain of command. In a statement today, Coulson said, "I stand by what I've said about those events but when the spokesman needs a spokesman, it's time to move on."

Andy Coulson: from Essex council house to David Cameron's inner circle [Guardian UK]
Coulson quits as Cameron adviser [Financial Times UK]
Andy Coulson resignation 'long overdue' [Independent UK]