The looming shadow of Leveson

Lord Justice Leveson Image copyright PA

At any time the news that Andy Coulson and Rebekah Brooks were facing yet another set of serious criminal charges would have been difficult for David Cameron. This, though, is not just any time.

It is little more than a week before the Leveson report into the culture, standards and ethics of the press is due to be published.

Lord Justice Leveson is expected to spell out - perhaps in politically painful detail - the story of the web of connections between journalists, politicians and the police.

He may raise questions about the wisdom of Mr Cameron's decision to hire the editor who resigned from the News of the World when phone hacking was first revealed and to befriend Rupert Murdoch's right-hand woman.

What's more, Leveson will make recommendations for a new system of press regulation which look likely to be the subject of a bitter political debate.

If Leveson recommends any form of new law to regulate the press the prime minister will face an unpalatable choice. Say yes and he will face an angry backlash from most national newspapers and most Conservatives including close allies in the Cabinet.

Say no and he will be confronted by a coalition of the victims of phone hacking, Labour, the Liberal Democrats and some Tory MPs.