Political sketch: "Yes he Cam!"

PM dons his best PR survival suit for Leveson.

 

It was just as well that Harry Redknapp was given the boot by Spurs late on Wednesday night or there would have been nothing to think about during David Cameron’s appearance at the Leveson inquiry.

So much drama had been promised from the appearance by the Prime Minister at the Royal Courts of Justice, just down the road from the Palace of Varieties where he usually treads the boards.

Dave had got up early and the Skycopter even earlier as befitted the day when the PM would tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth from the dock which has featured everybody who is anybody - and more than several nobodys - since Leveson emerged onto the political stage seven months ago.

So dramatic was the event that the PM had apparently spent hours being prepared by his best friend and silent partner in the chairmanship of the Conservative Party, Andrew Feldman.

The aptly enobled Baron Feldman of Elstree, home of the Muppet Show and Eastenders, played the part of chief interrogator Robert Jay as Dave learned his lines and practiced his truths.

Jay’s technique has been to invite those unlucky enough to raise his eyebrows to dig a large hole, lie down in it and have buckets of smelly stuff poured on their heads.

In anticipation of a great day out tricoteuse had been booked, tumbrils polished and blades sharpened for the appearance and  evisceration of Jay’s latest and most important target.

And indeed the PM looked suitably nervous as he took his place in the dock where so many have faltered before.

Having set up this public inquiry into the press he was quick to outline his first main theme which was that newspapers weren’t that important anyway and it was TV, conveniently not on trial, where the main power lay.

Mr Jay took us on a tour of the myriad of documents which have marked most of the last seven months and it was an hour before he got to the B word and a further 55 minutes before the C one.

Yes, he was pally with Rebekah Brooks, he confirmed to an already indifferent audience who cheered up only briefly with the revelation of a previously undisclosed text from the chief executive of News International to the Prime Minister so wonderful in its awfulness that it must be quoted in full.

I am so rooting for you tomorrow not just as proud friend but because professional we're definitely in this together!

said Mrs Brooks, new wife of another Cameron school BF Charlie, sent on the eve of his speech to the Tory Party Conference and a week after the Sun had declared itself for him.

"Speech of your life? Yes he Cam!" she ended.

As Dave slightly squirmed over this revelation Jay moved on to his relations with the Murdochs but now the OM seemed to be settling more comfortably into the well-oiled PR survival suit he wears on these occasions.

Yes, he’d met the Murdochs senior and junior but it was all above board and anyway Rupert was more interested in Dave’s views on world economic matters than little businesses like BSkyB.

It was 11.55 when the C word Coulson finally came up and the audience sat up - in some cases woke up - as a surprisingly unenthusiastic Jay questioned him on how he got the job of Tory spin doctor.

I did ask him about phone hacking, said Dave, and he told me he knew nothing about it. Indeed, said the PM, Coulson told him more than once - not to mention Commons committees, Cameron aides and the Press Complaints Commission, that he knew nothing about it.

“This has come back to haunt both him and me," said the PM, adding a phrase to political history.

By now he was beginning to realise he was off the hook and took time out to crack a few jokes with Lord Leveson clearly happy to chat with the man who gave him the gig in the first place.

“I’m sorry I’ve given you this hot potato," he told Lord L with as much sincerity as he had remembered to bring with him.

“I don’t think you sound sorry for giving it to me at all," said the jovial judge.

By now Dave was positively buoyant and Jay positively bored as if even he realized the best days of his inquiry life were now over.

A few disinterested inquiries into the PM’s thoughts for the future followed before Dave and Lord L swapped a few more funnies and the PM went home for his tea.

 

 
David Cameron at Leveson: another jolly at the Courts. Photo: Getty Images

Peter McHugh is the former Director of Programmes at GMTV and Chief Executive Officer of Quiddity Productions

Dan Kitwood/Getty
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I believe only Yvette Cooper has the breadth of support to beat Jeremy Corbyn

All the recent polling suggests Andy Burnham is losing more votes than anyone else to Jeremy Corbyn, says Diana Johnson MP.

Tom Blenkinsop MP on the New Statesman website today says he is giving his second preference to Andy Burnham as he thinks that Andy has the best chance of beating Jeremy.

This is on the basis that if Yvette goes out first all her second preferences will swing behind Andy, whereas if Andy goes out first then his second preferences, due to the broad alliance he has created behind his campaign, will all or largely switch to the other male candidate, Jeremy.

Let's take a deep breath and try and think through what will be the effect of preferential voting in the Labour leadership.

First of all, it is very difficult to know how second preferences will switch. From my telephone canvassing there is some rather interesting voting going on, but I don't accept that Tom’s analysis is correct. I have certainly picked up growing support for Yvette in recent weeks.

In fact you can argue the reverse of Tom’s analysis is true – Andy has moved further away from the centre and, as a result, his pitch to those like Tom who are supporting Liz first is now narrower. As a result, Yvette is more likely to pick up those second preferences.

Stats from the Yvette For Labour team show Yvette picking up the majority of second preferences from all candidates – from the Progress wing supporting Liz to the softer left fans of Jeremy – and Andy's supporters too. Their figures show many undecideds opting for Yvette as their first preference, as well as others choosing to switch their first preference to Yvette from one of the other candidates. It's for this reason I still believe only Yvette has the breadth of support to beat Jeremy and then to go on to win in 2020.

It's interesting that Andy has not been willing to make it clear that second preferences should go to Yvette or Liz. Yvette has been very clear that she would encourage second preferences to be for Andy or Liz.

Having watched Andy on Sky's Murnaghan show this morning, he categorically states that Labour will not get beyond first base with the electorate at a general election if we are not economically credible and that fundamentally Jeremy's economic plans do not add up. So, I am unsure why Andy is so unwilling to be clear on second preferences.

All the recent polling suggests Andy is losing more votes than anyone else to Jeremy. He trails fourth in London – where a huge proportion of our electorate is based.

So I would urge Tom to reflect more widely on who is best placed to provide the strongest opposition to the Tories, appeal to the widest group of voters and reach out to the communities we need to win back. I believe that this has to be Yvette.

The Newsnight focus group a few days ago showed that Yvette is best placed to win back those former Labour voters we will need in 2020.

Labour will pay a massive price if we ignore this.

Diana Johnson is the Labour MP for Hull North.