David Cameron statement: live blog

Minute-by-minute coverage of the Prime Minister's statement on the media and the police.

Stay tuned for live coverage from 11:30am.

11:33: We're off. The Speaker begins with a short statement on the "wholly unacceptable" attack on Rupert Murdoch at yesterday's select committee hearing. He announces that he has set up an independent investigation into the security failure.

11:35 Cameron begins his statement. Until we sort this issue out, he says, we won't be able to get back to other issues such as the economy and welfare reform.

11:36 To groans, the PM praises the Commons for its role in forcing News Corp to abandon its bid for BSkyB.

11:36 Cameron promises to answer "all of the key questions about my role and that of my staff".

11:37 The PM is now announcing the membership of the judicial inquiry into the scandal. The inquiry will look at the behaviour of broadcast and social media as well as the press, Cameron says.

11:39 Cameron moves on to the police. His priority is to ensure that the role of the Met continues seamlessly, he says.

11:41 The whole affair raises questions about the ethics of our police, says Cameron.

11:43 Cameron says his staff behaved "entirely properly". He defends his chief of staff Ed Llewellyn's decision to reject John Yates's offer of a briefing on the investigation.

11:45 Former NoW deputy editor Neil Wallis provided Coulson with "informal advice", says Cameron. But he was never paid or contracted by the Conservative Party.

11:46 Cameron says he will offer a "profound apology" if it transpires that Coulson lied to him. But, "with hindsight", he adds, he would not have offered him a job. And Coulson, he suspects, would not have taken it.

11:48 The PM ends with a thinly-veiled attack on Ed Miliband for "political point scoring".

11:51 Miliband is speaking now. He asks Cameron whether he can assure the House that the BSkyB bid was not raised in any of his meetings with News International executives.

11:54 The Prime Minister was compromised by his relationship with Coulson, says Miliband. That's why he declined briefings from his staff.

11:55 This is punchy staff from Miliband. "Cameron made a deliberate attempt to hide from the facts about Mr Coulson," he says. The PM was caught in a "tragic conflict of loyalty".

11:58 It's not about hindsight, says Miliband. It's about all the information and warnings that Cameron ignored. He must provide a "full apology" for bringing Coulson into the heart of Downing Street.

12:00 Cameron is back on his feet, responding to Miliband. He offers his standard defence of Coulson, that no one has raised any questions about the job he did at No 10, and points out that only one party leader - Miliband - continues to employ a former News International journalist (Tom Baldwin).

12:02 The PM points out that Murdoch said the politician he was closest to was Gordon Brown, who Miliband was an adviser to.

Labour, he adds, ignored select committee reports, reports from the information commissioner and the failed police investigation. They were "the slumber party".

12:09 Tom Watson points out that he wrote to Cameron about Coulson's apparent knowledge of phone hacking and is yet to receive a reply. Cameron responds by paying "tribute" to Watson's work but emphasises that the complaint was not about his work at Downing Street.

12:11 We're going to wrap up the live blog now. Stay tuned for more comment and analysis on The Staggers.

Photo: Getty Images
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I'm far from convinced by Cameron's plans for Syria

The Prime Minister has a plan for when the bombs drop. But what about after?

In the House of Commons today, the Prime Minister set out a powerful case for Britain to join air strikes against Isil in Syria.  Isil, he argued, poses a direct threat to Britain and its people, and Britain should not be in the business of “outsourcing our security to our allies”. And while he conceded that further airstrikes alone would not be sufficient to beat Isil, he made the case for an “Isil first” strategy – attacking Isil now, while continuing to do what we can diplomatically to help secure a lasting settlement for Syria in which Assad (eventually) plays no part.

I agreed with much of David Cameron’s analysis. And no-one should doubt either the murderous barbarism of Isil in the region, or the barbarism they foment and inspire in others across the world.  But at the end of his lengthy Q&A session with MPs, I remained unconvinced that UK involvement in airstrikes in Syria was the right option. Because the case for action has to be a case for action that has a chance of succeeding.  And David Cameron’s case contained neither a plan for winning the war, nor a plan for winning the peace.

The Prime Minister, along with military experts and analysts across the world, concedes that air strikes alone will not defeat Isil, and that (as in Iraq) ground forces are essential if we want to rid Syria of Isil. But what is the plan to assemble these ground forces so necessary for a successful mission?  David Cameron’s answer today was more a hope than a plan. He referred to “70,000 Syrian opposition fighters - principally the Free Syrian Army (FSA) – with whom we can co-ordinate attacks on Isil”.

But it is an illusion to think that these fighters can provide the ground forces needed to complement aerial bombardment of Isil.  Many commentators have begun to doubt whether the FSA continues to exist as a coherent operational entity over the past few months. Coralling the myriad rebel groups into a disciplined force capable of fighting and occupying Isil territory is a heroic ambition, not a plan. And previous efforts to mobilize the rebels against Isil have been utter failures. Last month the Americans abandoned a $500m programme to train and turn 5,400 rebel fighters into a disciplined force to fight Isil. They succeeded in training just 60 fighters. And there have been incidents of American-trained fighters giving some of their US-provided equipment to the Nusra Front, an affiliate of Al Qaeda.

Why has it proven so hard to co-opt rebel forces in the fight against Isil? Because most of the various rebel groups are fighting a war against Assad, not against Isil.  Syria’s civil war is gruesome and complex, but it is fundamentally a Civil War between Assad’s forces and a variety of opponents of Assad’s regime. It would be a mistake for Britain to base a case for military action against Isil on the hope that thousands of disparate rebel forces can be persuaded to change their enemy – especially when the evidence so far is that they won’t.

This is a plan for military action that, at present, looks highly unlikely to succeed.  But what of the plan for peace? David Cameron today argued for the separation of the immediate task at hand - to strike against Isil in Syria – from the longer-term ambition of achieving a settlement in Syria and removing Assad.  But for Isil to be beaten, the two cannot be separated. Because it is only by making progress in developing a credible and internationally-backed plan for a post-Assad Syria that we will persuade Syrian Sunnis that fighting Isil will not end up helping Assad win the Civil War.  If we want not only to rely on rebel Sunnis to provide ground troops against Isil, but also provide stable governance in Isil-occupied areas when the bombing stops, progress on a settlement to Syria’s Civil War is more not less urgent.  Without it, the reluctance of Syrian Sunnis to think that our fight is their fight will undermine the chances of military efforts to beat Isil and bring basic order to the regions they control. 

This points us towards doubling down on the progress that has already been made in Vienna: working with the USA, France, Syria’s neighbours and the Gulf states, as well as Russia and Iran. We need not just a combined approach to ending the conflict, but the prospect of a post-war Syria that offers a place for those whose cooperation we seek to defeat Isil. No doubt this will strike some as insufficient in the face of the horrors perpetrated by Isil. But I fear that if we want not just to take action against Isil but to defeat them and prevent their return, it offers a better chance of succeeding than David Cameron’s proposal today. 

Stewart Wood is a former Shadow Cabinet minister and adviser to Ed Miliband. He tweets as @StewartWood.