Neil Wallis 'Advised Andy Coulson Before General Election'
Neil Wallis is believed to have informally advised Andy Coulson while he was employed by Prime Minister David Cameron. This allegedly took place last year, just before the general election.
The reports were first raised by the BBC and are now being hurriedly checked by the Conservative Party. If they're true they will be extremely damaging to the Prime Minister, who's already been under immense pressure to justify his decision to hire Andy Coulson as his head of communications, firstly in opposition and later at Number 10.
Coulson is a former editor of the News of the World, and was arrested last week as part of the growing police investigation into allegations of phone hacking at the paper.
Wallis worked as Coulson's deputy at the News of the World, after which he began to work part-time for the Metropolitan Police as a PR consultant. His employment with the Met has been the subject of hours of investigation by MPs this afternoon, after he was arrested earlier this month in connection with the phone hacking inquiry.
This afternoon John Yates, outgoing assistant commissioner at Scotland Yard, told MPs he'd offered to advise Downing Street about Neil Wallis' appointment to the Met, but this offer had been blocked by Ed Llewellyn, who is Chief of Staff to David Cameron.
A Conservative source told Huffpost UK, "CCHQ and Downing Street will be scrambling to answer some very difficult questions this evening regarding Ed Llewellyn's involvement in this, and I wouldn't be surprised to see the PM himself asked some pointed questions at the 1922 committee, tomorrow."
Asked if this escalating scandal could force David Cameron from office, the source said, "Depending on the scale and how far up the chain of command it goes, I'd say yes, it could. All eyes are on Ed Llewellyn as the next to fall in what is becoming an insurmountable crisis at the very heart of the Cameron administration."
A statement from the Conservative Party this evening reads:
There have been some questions about whether the Conservative Party employed Neil Wallis. We have double checked our records and are able to confirm that neither Neil Wallis nor his company has ever been contracted by the Conservative Party, nor has the Conservative Party made payments to either of them.
It has been drawn to our attention that he may have provided Andy Coulson with some informal advice on a voluntary basis before the election. We are currently finding out the exact nature of any advice.
We can confirm that apart from Andy Coulson, neither David Cameron nor any senior member of the campaign team were aware of this until this week.
Earlier today the Outgoing Assistant Commissioner John Yates told MPs that The Prime Minister’s Chief of Staff, Ed Llewellyn, was offered a briefing on the background to Neil Wallis’ employment at the Met, and that was offer was refused.
Yates told MPs, “It was a very brief email exchange and Ed, for whatever reason, and I completely understand it, didn’t think it was appropriate for him, the prime minister or anyone else at Number 10 to discuss this issue… Very simple, I can understand it in some sense.”
Later Downing Street released the emails relating to this exchange.
On the 10th of September last year John Yates sent this email to Ed Llewellyn:
Ed, Hope all well. I am coming over to see the PM at 12.30 today regarding [redacted: national security] matters. I am very happy to have a conversation in the margins around the other matters that have caught my attention this week if you thought it would be useful.
Ed Llewellyn responded:
John - Thanks - all well. On the other matters that have caught your attention this week, assuming we are thinking of the same thing, I am sure you will understand that we will want to be able to be entirely clear, for your sake and ours, that we have not been in contact with you about this subject.
So I don't think it would really be appropriate for the PM, or anyone else at No 10, to discuss this issue with you, and would be grateful if it were not raised please.
But the PM looks forward to seeing you, with Peter Ricketts and Jonathan Evans, purely on [redacted: national security] matters at 1230.
With best wishes,
David Cameron has flown back to London this evening, ostensibly to brief MPs tomorrow about the latest developments in the phone hacking saga.
This evening Labour have released a statement saying:
“This revelation raises further serious concerns about David Cameron’s judgement in appointing Andy Coulson. He must now come clean about Neil Wallis’ role and activities in supporting Andy Coulson, both in his capacity as Director of Communications for the Tory Party, and then the Prime Minister.”
This evening Ladbrokes cut their odds of David Cameron standing down as PM before the next election to 2/1.