The biggest story after Libya this morning on the BBC news website is the allegation that News International was secretly funding Andy Coulson for several months after the ex-NOTW editor became David Cameron’s press chief in 2007.
It’s said that the newspaper group was covertly making payments to it ex-employee and Tom Watson MP has called on the Electoral Commission to hold an inquiry.
On the face of it this does sound serious but there might be a simpler explanation which is actually in Robert Peston’s original report. He wrote:-
“..These payments were part of his severance package, under what is known as a “compromise agreement”. According to sources, Mr Coulson’s contractual leaving pay was given to him in instalments until the end of 2007 – which means he continued to be financially linked to News International for several months of his tenure as David Cameron’s main media adviser…”
Compromise agreements like this are very common and from my experience this sounds pretty standard.
The trouble is that in the current atmosphere any development that has the phrases “Andy Coulson” and “payment from News International” sounds like a good news story.
If the arrangement went beyond a normal compromise agreement then there might be an issue. At the moment we do not know if that is the case.