David Cameron outside 10 Downing Street on the day the Leveson report was published. Photograph: Getty Images.
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PMQs review: the shield of Leveson saves Cameron

The media inquiry and Miliband's pose with the Sun gifted victory to the PM.

If David Cameron regretted setting up the Leveson inquiry before today, he certainly doesn't now. Bombarded with a volley of questions on Andy Coulson by Ed Miliband, the PM deployed the judge's report as a shield (even wielding a physical copy), insisting that every concern raised by Miliband had already been addressed.

It was one of Cameron's most disingenuous moments. The inquiry took place while Coulson's case and others were ongoing, and so was strictly limited in the questions it could pursue. More to the point, it would never have even been established had Miliband not had Cameron "on the run" (in the words of the latter). But this did not stop it providing the PM with a means of deflecting every one of Miliband's questions.

The Labour leader reminded Cameron that he ignored successive warnings from the Guardian, Nick Clegg (sat awkwardly next to Cameron) and the New York Times over Coulson's involvement in phone-hacking. But Cameron dismissively replied that all of these issues had already been examined by Leveson - and resolved in his favour. It was a crude line of defence, but it was enough for him to hold his own in the chamber. 

Matters did not improve for Miliband when he turned to the issue of vetting. Cameron falsely claimed that Gus O'Donnell, the former cabinet secretary, was asked at the Leveson inquiry whether he raised concerns with him over Coulson's appointment, an error that Miliband was quick to pounce on. But Cameron had one trump card left to play. "I'll tell you what's weak," he declared, "Posing with a copy of the Sun only to apologise for it a few hours later." As the Tory benches cheered and their Labour counterparts grimaced, the wind left Miliband's sails. After this right hook, Miliband's technical queries on the civil service could not help sounding flat. Against expectations, Cameron ended the session on top.

The PM had had years to prepare for this moment - and it showed. It was a fluent and unwavering performance. Miliband will be widely accused of missing an "open goal", but his failure to land any memorable blows on Cameron today had more to do with the reality that much of the damage from the scandal has already been done. The line from No. 10 yesterday was that the affair has already been factored into the PM's share price. Nothing that occurred today suggests that they are wrong. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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Why isn't Labour putting forward Corbynite candidates?

Despite his successes as a candidate, the organisational victories have gone the way of Corbyn's opponents. 

The contest changes, but the result remains the same: Jeremy Corbyn’s preferred candidate defeated in a parliamentary selection. Afzhal Khan is Labour’s candidate in the Manchester Gorton by-election and the overwhelming favourite to be the seat’s next MP.

Although Khan, an MEP, was one of  the minority of Labour’s European MPs to dissent from a letter from the European parliamentary Labour party calling for Jeremy Corbyn to go in the summer of 2016, he backed Andy Burnham and Tom Watson in 2015, and it is widely believed, fairly or unfairly, that Khan had, as one local activist put it, “the brains to know which way the wind was blowing” rather than being a pukka Corbynite.

For the leader’s office, it was a double defeat;  their preferred candidate, Sam Wheeler, was kept off the longlist, when the party’s Corbynsceptics allied with the party’s BAME leadership to draw up an all ethnic minority shortlist, and Yasmine Dar, their back-up option, was narrowly defeated by Khan among members in Manchester Gorton.

But even when the leadership has got its preferred candidate to the contest, they have been defeated. That even happened in Copeland, where the shortlist was drawn up by Corbynites and designed to advantage Rachel Holliday, the leader’s office preferred candidate.

Why does the Labour left keep losing? Supporters combination of bad luck and bad decisions for the defeat.

In Oldham West, where Michael Meacher, a committed supporter of Jeremy Corbyn’s, was succeeded by Jim McMahon, who voted for Liz Kendall, McMahon was seen to be so far ahead that they had no credible chance of stopping him. Rosena Allin-Khan was a near-perfect candidate to hold the seat of Tooting: a doctor at the local hospital, the seat’s largest employer, with links to both the Polish and Pakistani communities that make up the seat’s biggest minority blocs.  Gillian Troughton, who won the Copeland selection, is a respected local councillor.

But the leadership has also made bad decisions, some claim.  The failure to get a candidate in Manchester Gorton was particularly egregious, as one trade unionist puts it: “We all knew that Gerald was not going to make it [until 2020], they had a local boy with good connections to the trade unions, that contest should have been theirs for the taking”. Instead, they lost control of the selection panel because Jeremy Corbyn missed an NEC meeting – the NEC is hung at present as the Corbynsceptics sacrificed their majority of one to retain the chair – and with it their best chance of taking the seat.

Others close to the leadership point out that for the first year of Corbyn’s leadership, the leader’s office was more preoccupied with the struggle for survival than it was with getting more of its people in. Decisions in by-elections were taken on the hop and often in a way that led to problems later down the line. It made sense to keep Mo Azam, from the party’s left, off the shortlist in Oldham West when Labour MPs were worried for their own seats and about the Ukip effect if Labour selected a minority candidate. But that enraged the party’s minority politicians and led directly to the all-ethnic-minority shortlist in Manchester Gorton.

They also point out that the party's councillor base, from where many candidates are drawn, is still largely Corbynsceptic, though they hope that this will change in the next round of local government selections. (Councillors must go through a reselection process at every election.)

But the biggest shift has very little to do with the Labour leadership. The big victories for the Labour left in internal battles under Ed Miliband were the result of Unite and the GMB working together. Now they are, for various reasons, at odds and the GMB has proven significantly better at working shortlists and campaigning for its members to become MPs.  That helps Corbynsceptics. “The reason why so many of the unions supported Jeremy the first time,” one senior Corbynite argues, “Is they wanted to move the Labour party a little bit to the left. They didn’t want a socialist transformation of the Labour party. And actually if you look at the people getting selected they are not Corbynites, but they are not Blairites either, and that’s what the unions wanted.”

Regardless of why, it means that, two years into Corbyn’s leadership, the Labour left finds itself smaller in parliament than it was at the beginning.  

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