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Phone hacking: Neil Wallis ‘advised Andy Coulson before election’

David Cameron was dragged further into the phone hacking scandal last night after it emerged that Neil Wallis, the former deputy editor of the News of the World, acted as an adviser to the Conservative Party in the run-up to the general election.


Mr Wallis, whose close ties to the Metropolitan Police have already forced the resignations of its Commissioner, Sir Paul Stephenson, and Assistant Commissioner John Yates, was asked for help by Andy Coulson, Mr Cameron’s former communications director, in 2009 while Mr Wallis was working as an adviser to the Metropolitan Police. Both Mr Wallis and Mr Coulson have been arrested in connection with the scandal.

The Conservative Party insisted last night that Mr Wallis’s guidance had nothing to do with phone hacking, but the disclosure piled more pressure on the Prime Minister as he flew home from Africa to make an emergency Commons statement today.

In a separate development, Mr Yates told MPs that he had offered to brief Mr Cameron’s chief of staff, Ed Llewellyn, on aspects of the phone hacking inquiry, but that Mr Llewellyn turned him down. Downing Street then released an exchange of emails between the two men to prove that Mr Cameron’s right-hand man had not sought any inside information from the police.

Mr Wallis, known as The Wolfman in Fleet Street, is understood to have worked on a “short-term project” lasting around a week in which he gave Mr Coulson, his former editor, guidance on how to get the best tabloid coverage of a Tory policy idea.

Neither he nor his public relations firm were paid and he did not meet Mr Cameron, the Tory party said. His role was discovered after a newspaper asked Downing Street whether Mr Wallis had ever been paid by the Tories. It is understood that party workers contacted Mr Coulson, who disclosed the one-off arrangement, which happened before the formal general election campaign began.

A Conservative spokesman said: “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.”

The party has not yet established whether Mr Wallis visited Tory party HQ to meet Mr Coulson.

The Labour MP Ivan Lewis said Mr Wallis’s role “raises further serious concerns about David Cameron’s judgment in appointing Andy Coulson” after he had resigned as editor of the News of the World because of the scandal.

Mr Cameron faces the biggest crisis of his premiership today when he addresses Parliament, which has delayed its summer recess to debate the hacking fiasco.

He will also have a testing time tonight when he addresses the 1922 Committee of back-bench Conservative MPs, some of whom have become increasingly angry that his decision to hire Mr Coulson is tarnishing the reputation of the entire party.

Mr Cameron will today announce the terms of reference for a judicial-led inquiry into the phone hacking scandal. The inquiry, which will begin work within weeks, will focus on media ethics, and the relationship between the press, politicians and the police.

Filed in: World News

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