The Prime Minister said today:
“I am very sorry that Andy Coulson has decided to resign as my Director of Communications, although I understand that the continuing pressures on him and his family mean that he feels compelled to do so. Andy has told me that the focus on him was impeding his ability to do his job and was starting to prove a distraction for the Government.
“During his time working for me, Andy has carried out his role with complete professionalism. He has been a brilliant member of my team and has thrown himself at the job with skill and dedication. He can be extremely proud of the role he has played, including for the last eight months in Government.
I wish Andy all the very best for his future, which I am certain will be a successful one.”
Six immediate thoughts:
1] A great day to bury bad news, what with the Chilcot Inquiry, the resignation of Alan Johnson and it being a Friday. Except that this will still make the headlines of all Saturday newspapers I would imagine – short of an astonishing mea culpa by Tony Blair.
2] Coulson had become the story; that is usually fatal for press advisers, as Alastair Campbell discovered.
3] Tom Watson, Labour MP, predicted recently that Coulson would be gone by January 24. Clearly his contacts in the enemy camp are rather good.
4] Who will replace Coulson as head of press at Downing Street? Names in the frame could include George Pascoe-Watson, sartorially-focused former political editor at The Sun, or Ben Brogan, the smooth deputy editor of the Telegraph.
Also high on the list are Ian Birrell, former deputy editor of the Independent – and currently a speechwriter at Downing Street – who is a friend of David Cameron. Or else Guto Harri, currently spokesman for Boris Johnson.
5] What else will David Cameron say? He will make a statement in public at noon. As Alastair Campbell points out, the focus may now move from Coulson’s judgment to the prime minister’s judgment.
6] What does Coulson do now? In theory he could work in corporate PR or similar. But this seems unlikely until the wider furore over phone hacking at the News of the World* dies down or is resolved.
* Coulson resigned after one of his reporters and a detective were jailed, although he has always insisted that he had not known about these practices.