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

Photo: Getty
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Every day, Theresa May's mask slips a little further

First the Human Rights Act, now Dfid. What's next, asks Jon Ashworth.

The news that the new International Development Secretary is about to slash development spending and channel Britain's aid budget into defence spending is yet another major slip of the new government's centrist mask.

Theresa May has tried to pitch her policy agenda as prioritising social justice and a “Britain that works for everyone” but the reality is that this announcement is the true right-wing colours of her government shining through.

The appointment of the most right-wing Cabinet for decades was a major warning sign, with figures such as David Davis, who said he was “very worried” about sexual discrimination legislation, and Liam Fox, who said equal marriage was “social engineering”, now at the highest level in government.

Those of us passionate about development were horrified when Priti Patel, who has previously called for the Department for International Development to be scrapped, was appointed as the department's new Secretary of State, but few of us would have imagined such a dramatic break with Britain's strong development legacy so soon.

Not only is what is reported very dubious in terms of the strict regulations placed on development spending- and Priti Patel has already come dangerously close to crossing that line by saying we could use the aid budget to leverage trade deals - it also betrays some of the very poorest in the world at a time when many regions are facing acute humanitarian crises.

It was Gordon Brown who put international development at the heart of 13 years of Labour government, massively increasing aid spending and focusing minds in Britain and abroad on the plight of those suffering from poverty, famine and the ravages of war. David Cameron followed Gordon’s lead, enshrining the 0.7 per cent aid budget in law, making Britain the first G7 country to do so. In light of these new revelations Theresa May must now restate her commitment to the target.

Sadly, it now seems that Theresa May and Priti Patel want to turn the clock back on all that progress, diminishing Britain's role in international development and subverting the original mission of the department by turning it into a subsidiary of the Ministry of Defence, focused on self-interest and security. Not only will this create the opposite of the "outward-looking and globally-minded country" Theresa May said just weeks ago she wanted Britain to be, it’s also a betrayal of some of the poorest people across the planet.

Other examples of the right-wing traits of this Government surfaced earlier this week too. On Friday it emerged that Gerard Lopez, a tax-haven based businessman with links to Russian State banks that have been sanctioned in the wake of the Ukrainian conflict, donated £400,000 to the Tory party just months ago. Theresa May needs to tell us what meetings and interactions she has had with Lopez.

Earlier in the week Liz Truss, the new Justice Secretary, brazenly insisted that the Government would proceed with scrapping the Human Rights Act, despite fierce opposition from politicians of all parties and the public.

With so many right-wing announcements trickling though when the government has hardly had time to change the name plaques above the doors you've got to wonder and worry about what else is set to come.

Jon Ashworth is Labour MP for Leicester South.