Andy Coulson was Cameron’s conscience
He was not Cameron’s conscience in terms of personal morality: the Prime Minister has made it clear that he adheres to a ‘fairly classic Church of England faith, a faith that grows hotter and colder by moments’. So his conscience is well and truly seared by Anglican conviction.
But Mr Coulson possessed all the antennae of a modern political strategist of calibre, who was unafraid to tell his master exactly what he thought, in ways that Cabinet ministers may not or dare not.
This was the traditional role of the Court jester or fool.
Who was usually not, by any means, an idiot. He was frequently the personification of political truth and strategic reason. He served to show his master or mistress not only those who bring treachery and deceit, but also those who prefer loyalty and love. He was there to guide and advise, nudge and empathise.
One might have hoped that Mr Coulson would be at his master’s side for many years to come, if only to tell him that he is showing signs of insanity, of madness, of poor judgment and arrogant megalomania.
Margaret Thatcher did not suffer fools.
Even when they attempted to shield her from the inevitable.
And she paid the price.
But Mr Cameron has no intention of prematurely dividing in three his kingdom.
He does, however, display an alarming lack of sensitivity, decency and common humanity in dealing with Cordelia.
The Prime Minister does not need a mere journalist-savvy employee: he needs someone who will say to his face: "Then I prithee be merry. Thy will shalt not go slipshod.” Someone who will not only commentate, but intervene.
With precisely the same bluntness and familiarity which Mr Coulson doubtless exercised in his conversations with his master.
And be kicked like a dog, humiliated and treated with utter contempt, even by the one to whom all allegiance is due. It is the task of the Fool to ‘labour to outjest (the king's) heartstruck injuries’.
The role demands the combined skills of the strategist, journalist, psychologist, therapist, counsellor, playwright, actor and priest.
We in the audience or congregation underestimate the impossibility of the task and rarity of the character.
Lear’s Fool mysteriously vanishes from the stage after the storm scene.
The concern for Mr Cameron is that his fool has bowed out before the thunder and lightning of the imminent hurricane.
O nuncle, court holy-water in a dry
house is better than this rain-water out o' door.