FORMER Cabinet minister Jonathan Aitken has given disgraced No 10 spin doctor Andy Coulson advice on how to cope with life behind bars.
Like Coulson, Aitken suffered a humiliating downfall, taking him from the Whitehall corridors of power to a prison cell after being jailed for perjury and perverting the course of justice in 1999.
Aitken has revealed he spoke to Coulson just before he was sentenced to 18 months for his involvement in the phone hacking plot at the News Of The World.
The former Conservative MP writes: “As for doing good while you are inside, I hope you won’t mind me revealing that in our telephone conversation a few hours before your sentencing, you told me that you were ‘determined to make the best of prison’. Then we discussed your options for being of service to your fellow inmates.
“You were immediately interested in becoming a “listener” (prison Samaritans); or working for the Shannon Trust’s Toe by Toe programme, which enables young illiterate offenders to be taught reading and writing skills by other prisoners (just the job for an ex-editor).”
Like Coulson, Aitken started his prison sentence in 1999 at the high-security Belmarsh Prison in south- east London before being transferred elsewhere.
In the world of convicts 18 months is seen as “easy gravy”, but as a high-profile prisoner he is likely to be seen as an object of curiosity rather than hostility.
Aitken advises Coulson that “all men are equal in a prison uniform” and that despite his powerful posts as Prime Minister David Cameron’s director of communications and News Of The World editor, he needs to humble himself.
Aitken said: “You would be extraordinarily unlucky if anything truly unpleasant happened to you. One or two rough verbals maybe, but nothing worse.”