The Leveson Inquiry risks damaging democracy if it erects more barriers between politicians and the press, according to former News of the World editor Andy Coulson.
David Cameron’s former communications chief used his closing remarks at the inquiry to warn that restricting the relationship between politicians and the media could increase voter apathy.
While Coulson conceded it was now ‘perfectly clear’relationships with the media had ‘got in the way of the message”, he added: ‘I would hate to think… that any more barriers would be erected between politics or politicians and the press.”
He cited the low turnout at last week’s local council elections and suggested people were ‘disengaging’with politics.
‘If you make it more difficult for the media to report on politics, if you make it more difficult for journalists to try to understand what you do, that’s going to get an awful lot worse,’said Coulson.
‘Some people may say that turnout is low because of this inquiry or because of people’s general reaction to what’s been reported over the last months.
‘I’m not sure I buy that theory. I come from the perspective of someone that’s worked on both sides of the fence, and I just sincerely hope that the result of this part of the inquiry does not erect yet more barriers to what is already a pretty difficult process.’
He also challenged the ‘conspiracy’theory that David Cameron’s Conservatives cut a deal with Rupert Murdoch in which his newspapers would switch allegiance to the party in return for support in its BSkyB bid.
‘If there was a deal and there was a conspiracy as people are suggesting, why was Vince Cable given the job[of deciding on the deal]?’said Coulson.
‘It was the Prime Minister’s gift to decide who held which brief in his cabinet. So if there was this conspiracy that David Cameron was going to somehow or the other return the favour to News International, why on earth did he give it to – and I’ll choose my words carefully – a combative member of the Liberal Democrat party?”