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Andy Coulson’s GQ article is full of good advice for the PM – but not when it comes to Samantha Cameron

By Peter Hoskin
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Andy Coulson

You may have heard, Andy Coulson – that Andy Coulson – has written a “ten-point masterplan” for David Cameron in the latest issue of GQ. It was published today, so I’ve given it a quick read. Much of the advice it contains is sensible, be it on Mr Cameron’s relationship with his backbenchers (“David should be better at recognising and supporting the talent he has throughout the party”) or on the Eds Miliband and Balls (“The Tories must look for divisions and make the most of them”). But there’s one passage that stands out not just for what it suggests, but also for how hazardous that suggestion is. After an extended paean to Samantha Cameron, Mr Coulson writes:

“Sam might also take a more active part behind the scenes . With the absence of so many original advisors, she is one of the few people able to see straight to the heart of a matter and offer a clear, sensible view. This will naturally steer clear of policy discussion but it shouldn’t stop her joining select strategy meetings. There are few people in Number Ten with a better eye and she could play a key role in the winning back of female voters. As a small example Sam would, I think, agree that when her husband talks about the importance of family he should be careful to include the words ‘single’ and ‘parent’ each and every time.”

Mr Coulson’s enthusiasm for Mrs Cameron is easy to understand. She has, as he says, “maintained a benign and broadly positive press”. And she has also, “[used] her position sensibly with charities such as Save The Children and Tickets for Troops.” In this task, it’s worth noting, she is aided by a special adviser – the idea being to give her a limited amount of support for what is a carefully limited role.

Does Mrs Cameron sometimes go beyond this, and advise her husband on aspects of his job? Almost certainly, in a sort of informal, over-the-breakfast-table way. We already know, for instance, that she has a say in the construction of his major speeches, and that she deployed her creative talents in service of the last Conservative manifesto. But to formalise and expand on this, as Mr Coulson suggests, would be rather risky. After all, despite his casual separation of “select strategy meetings” and “policy discussion”, there’s a murkiness to all this. What about those instances when strategy directs policy, as happens so often? Where are the lines of accountability drawn in the case of the Prime Minister’s spouse? Such questions would arise if ever there was a strong sense that Mrs Cameron was influencing government, but one other would stand above them: who elected her? And the newspapers would scrutinise her all the more rigorously. Just remember how Cherie Blair was treated when it was thought she was interfering in matters governmental.

Such a set-up wouldn’t just be difficult and damaging for Mrs Cameron, but also for her husband. He is already accused of presiding over a “chumocracy” in No.10 – what would it say, to Tory MPs as well as to the public, if he didn’t just number friends among his advisers, but also his wife? No, far better that Mrs Cameron stick with what she’s doing, which is occupying a difficult, delicate position, and occupying it well. Strange that a man who is noted for his streetwise nous should recommend otherwise.


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