Cameron warns child abuse scandal could become a "witch-hunt" against gay people

How the PM responded to being shown a list of three Tories accused of involvement.

David Cameron was visibly unsettled when Phillip Schofield handed him a list of three Conservatives accused of involvement in the child abuse scandal during his appearance on This Morning, and he may come to regret his response. "There is a danger that this could turn into a sort of witch-hunt, particularly against people who are gay," Cameron said.

By suggesting that some on the list "are gay", the Prime Minister has inadvertently encouraged further speculation over their identity. But it is with Schofield, who showed gross irresponsibility by asking Cameron to comment on a list based on internet rumour, that the blame must rest. After warning against a "witch-hunt", Cameron added: "I'm worried about the sort of thing you're doing right now, giving me a list of names that you've taken off the internet".

Earlier this week, Labour MP Susan Elan Jones asked the government to assure her that any member of the House of Lords found guilty of child abuse would be "stripped of their peerage" in what many saw as a deliberate attempt to hint at the identity of one of the alleged abusers. Theresa May has warned MPs that using parliamentary privilege to name those accused of involvement could jeopardise any future trial.

David Cameron made his remarks during an appearance on ITV show This Morning. Photograph: Getty Images.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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The Lib Dems' troubled start doesn't bode well for them

Rows over homosexuality and anti-Semitism are obscuring the party's anti-Brexit stance.

Tim Farron has broken his silence on the question of whether or not gay sex is a sin. (He doesn't.)

Frankly, this isn't the start to the general election campaign that the Liberal Democrats would have wanted. Time that they hoped would be spent talking about how their man was the only one standing up to Brexit has instead been devoted to what Farron thinks about homosexuality.

Now another row may be opening up, this time about anti-Semitism in the Liberal Democrats after David Ward, the controversial former MP who among other things once wrote that "the Jews" were "within a few years of liberation from the death camps...inflicting atrocities on Palestinians" has been re-selected as their candidate in Bradford East. That action, for many, makes a mockery of Farron's promise that his party would be a "warm home" for the community.

Politically, my hunch is that people will largely vote for the Liberal Democrats at this election because of who they're not: a Conservative party that has moved to the right on social issues and is gleefully implementing Brexit, a riven Labour party led by Jeremy Corbyn, etc. But both rows have hobbled Farron's dream that his party would use this election.

More importantly, they've revealed something about the Liberal Democrats and their ability to cope under fire. There's a fierce debate ongoing about whether or not what Farron's beliefs should matter at all. However you come down on that subject, it's been well-known within the Liberal Democrats that there were questions around not only Farron's beliefs but his habit of going missing for votes concerning homosexuality and abortion. It was even an issue, albeit one not covered overmuch by the press, in the 2015 Liberal Democrat leadership election. The leadership really ought to have worked out a line that would hold long ago, just as David Cameron did in opposition over drugs. (Readers with long memories will remember that Cameron had a much more liberal outlook on drugs policy as an MP than he did after he became Conservative leader.)

It's still my expectation that the Liberal Democrats will have a very good set of local elections. At that point, expect the full force of the Conservative machine and their allies in the press to turn its fire on Farron and his party. We've had an early stress test of the Liberal Democrats' strength under fire. It doesn't bode well for what's to come.

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to British politics.

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