After Andy Coulson, who edited the late and not at all lamented Murdoch Screws at the time when it was being effectively run as a borderline criminal enterprise, was found guilty at the Hacking Trial and sent to prison, the sob stories began: his legal fees, totalling hundreds of thousands of pounds, would not be paid by the Murdoch mafiosi, his property might be seized, and his children would have to be taken out of their private schools.
Andy Coulson - looked after by his press establishment pals
Some quite magnificently large onions were taken out to accompany the playing of nanoviolins: “Will £750k legal bill cost Andy Coulson's wife her £1.7m family home?” asked the Mail. And while the Guardian reported that Coulson had successfully got the Murdoch empire to pay his legal fees, there was the problem of future employment.
Indeed, the perpetually thirsty Paul Staines and his rabble at the Guido Fawkes blog were bereft at his lack of prospects: “As you contemplate tucking into your Christmas dinner and unwrapping the presents under the tree, reflect on the fragility of our lives. At the beginning of the year Andy Coulson was one of the most powerful men in the country, at the right-hand of the Prime Minister in Downing Street.”. Yes? Yes yes? Yes yes yes?
“Now he is a virtually unemployable pariah, abandoned by the Murdochs he long served and disowned by David Cameron whom he propelled into office. He is said to be selling his home and taking his children out of their private schools as he faces criminal charges which could lead to a lengthy imprisonment in the New Year … The greasy pole is a dangerous thing”. Except, as so often, The Great Guido was talking crap.
We know this as Coulson is back, and, truth be told, had been back for some time. As Zelo Street noted last year, the Screws’ former head of PR Hayley Barlow, now at Channel 4 News, was telling her Twitter followers about Coulson’s appearance as a Brexit analyst. The sensitive nature of the rehabilitation is thought to have contributed to Piers Morgan’s hair trigger response to Evan Harris of Hacked Off mentioning Coulson - and Rebekah Brooks - during a heated exchange on ITV’s Good Morning Britain.
But it was yesterday’s news that Coulson is being employed by the increasingly downmarket and desperate Telegraph that caused many to sit up and take notice: as Roy Greenslade told Guardian readers, “Andy Coulson hired as Telegraph PR adviser … Journalists said to be shocked as ex-News of the World editor jailed over phone hacking gets job to promote truthfulness of papers”. And there was more.
Paul Vickers - another with a chequered past
“His public relations firm, Coulson Chappell, has been awarded a contract to improve the standing of the company’s publications, the Daily and Sunday Telegraph. His main brief is thought to be to promote the papers as truthful and authoritative … The appointment was overseen by TMG’s chief executive, Murdoch MacLennan, who is regarded as one of Coulson’s most loyal friends. He gave evidence on Coulson’s behalf at his trial”.
What Greenslade did not tell is that not only had Coulson been doing consultancy for the Telegraph for two years already - a part time engagement, revealed by Private Eye magazine and for which Coulson was paid around £60,000 a year - but also that his current deal is worth a lot more than that. How much?
Well, after it was also revealed that the Tel is sending many of its sub-editors down the road and farming out much of the work that they do, exactly what Coulson is making from his old pal’s selective largesse is understandably of a sensitive nature. But an industry source has given Zelo Street a ballpark figure on Andy’s pay range.
It has been put to me that Andy Coulson is being paid “well north” of £200,000 by the Telegraph. And he isn’t the only one with a chequered past to be hired under the less than totally prestigious leadership of Murdoch MacLennan.
Last year, the Tel hired former Trinity Mirror legal man Paul Vickers, who told the Culture, Media and Sport select committee when asked about phone hacking at those titles “We have done huge investigations and, to date, we have not found any proof that phone hacking took place”. He and his pals can’t have looked very far.
Murdoch MacLennan - leading light of the press establishment
Greenslade was not convinced: “What ‘huge investigations’ were those, I wonder? What we can be certain about is that they lacked the necessary rigour. Just consider the number of claims, the number of stories involved and the number of journalists responsible. Hacking happened, the high court was told yesterday on an ‘industrial-scale’ between 1999 to 2006”. And after all of that, he was still appointed to a senior role in the Regulatory Funding Council, the funding body for sham press regulator IPSO.
Now he’s at the Tel, having been appointed just a year after leaving Trinity Mirror with a £400,000 plus payoff. And he left IPSO’s funding body, but only after a ruckus over his potential conflict of interest over hacking claims at his former papers.
MacLennan, meanwhile, after having headed the Newspaper Publishers’ Association, is now on the board of the International News Media Association. He is a leading light in the press establishment. And he has personally appointed an ex-crim who oversaw the Screws during the most infamous period in its infamous recent history, as well as bringing on board a lawyer whose track record is, at best, chequered.
And that’s scant consolation for all those subs sent down the road. The Telegraph - just another part of the rotten press establishment, looking after its own, and stuff the little people - even if they work in the industry. No change there, then.