Sunday, January 23, 2011

Spin doctor kept diary shocker

Well would you believe it? The Mail on the Sunday has the scoop - and has dedicated almost 30 paragraphs to it - that Andy Coulson kept a diary while he was David Cameron's press secretary.

This story fits into the same "no shit" category as the "Football manager says his team can win on Saturday" stories that somehow get page-leads every day of the week.

Surely it would be a better story if Coulson, who stood down last week because of an investigation into "phone hacking" while he was a tabloid editor, had not kept one and had suddenly realised that his memory was a bit ropey.

Suppose Coulson had started in the job with all sorts of good intentions, like the rest of us on January 1, and just found that he never got round to it? This would be a far better story...

"Former journalist with access to lots of gossip forgets to write any of it down"

By Philippa Page

Andy Coulson was frantically ringing round all his contacts in the Conservative Party last night asking if anyone could remember what Nick said to Dave when they were trying to form a coalition.

The former Downing Street spin doctor is trawling through emails and blogs desperate to find some snippets of gossip that he can use to pad out his forthcoming memoirs after suddenly realising on resigning his post that he had forgotten to keep a diary.

"Bugger, bugger, bugger," Coulson told this paper when contacted. "I kept meaning to find a quiet evening to go back and update the blank pages but just never found the time. Before I knew it, I was three years behind and frankly I struggle to remember what happened last week.

"If I just make it all up, will anyone notice? Surely that's what Alastair Campbell did and he got a million quid for his diary."

He was also hoping that Eric Pickles had forgotten to delete the past three years of voicemails on his mobile phone. "Eric's always got good stories, he won't mind if I nick some of them," Coulson said.

Among the events of the past three years that Coulson wishes he had jotted down some thoughts on at the time is the entire general election campaign in 2010. "We won, didn't we?" he asked. "Oh no, hang on..."

When pressed on whether he could name any turning points in the campaign, he referred to the three party leaders appearing on "that TV programme where they stood behind lecterns and said they agreed with Nick ... was it called The Weakest Link?" and said that he was sure that someone called Mrs Duffy played an important role in making Gordon Brown look stupid.

"Was she the woman who put the cat in the bin?" he asked. "I'm sure Guido blogged something about her. I'll just rewrite what he said."

Asked to discuss the private conversations he had with David Cameron about policy, Coulson said: "Huskies. And Hoodies. I think we like both of them. And, er, there was something about inheritance tax. Oh I wish I'd bothered to write it down."

A substantial part of the book will detail the tempestuous relationship Coulson had with Steve Hilton, Cameron's strategist. At the moment the chapter reads: "Why Hilton is a cock: No 1...."

"I'll ask some of the research department boys how to pad that out," Coulson said.

Publishing sources said that if he could scrape together enough legally-defensible titbits to form a book, it would cause the same kind of controversy as diaries published by Dale Winton or Bungle from Rainbow.

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