The door opened and in he slipped so nervous even his quiff was quaking. He stared around the room in vain for his mates, but the only big boy who had turned up was Vince Cable, and you knew he was just there for the fun.
When he took the job of Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, he imagined backstage at the opera, lunches with the luvvies, and best seats at the Olympics. Nobody mentioned Monday afternoons on your own in the House of Commons.
The chamber is normally a desert this time of the day but the promise of a spit-roast packed them in. There isn’t that much flesh on Jeremy Hunt, but there was clearly going to be a lot less before MPs were finished with him.
It hadn’t been a good day from the start, but then again it hasn’t been a good week, or indeed a good fortnight for the man only recently described as a safe pair of hands. That safe pair was clearly shaking as he stood to defend the indefensible towards the end of yet another astonishing day in the life of “one rogue reporter”, who we have discovered had many brothers and even a few sisters.
Yesterday was a good day, though, for the man who had summoned Jeremy to the House to be ritually eviscerated. Many have written that this has not been Ed Miliband’s year, but even he could not have imagined getting down on his knees to thank Saint Rupert for riding to his rescue. “Murdoch makes Miliband” is a headline even the News of the World would have turned down.
But there he was, cheered on even by those who just last month would have swapped him for Jeremy. Ed spoke for England — and maybe even for the rest of the UK — as he demanded Rupert pack his bags and depart.
He’d kicked off this campaign earlier in the morning yesterday, as part of his successful strategy of keeping Dave and his boys on the run. In fact, so successful was it that by the time he turned up in the Commons, anybody worth anything on the Tory side had clearly found reasons to visit those parts of their departments yet to be axed.
Proceedings were slightly delayed by a rambling discourse on the “big society” by one of its inventors, Oliver Letwin, but the noises off finally persuaded even this most semi-detached of ministers that he was not the reason for a packed chamber, and that he was delaying the main bout.
It had been a day of speech and counter-speech. The government sent a series of coded messages to Rupert begging him to get them off the hook, while Rupert refused to concede that those who had spent all those years telling him how great he was had not meant it any more than he had.
Dave, by the way, had gone missing. As Ed prepared to present Jeremy with his own entrails, the Prime Minister had found a reason to be in Canary Wharf, trying to talk about something else. Ed invited Jeremy, who by now looked as it he needed a hankie, to further ruin whatever remains of his career by rubbishing his leader. He looked tempted.
As a Tory source had so succinctly put it earlier: “We had expected to eat a shit sandwich over this deal, but not a three course meal.”
Elsewhere, the main players were getting on with their day. The Guardian provided enough breaking news to give the Sky News strapline hiccoughs. This produced the wonderful vignette of Kay Burley and Adam Boulton discussing the revelation that Rupert, having realised that those who said he was popular had been lying all these years, was going to run for cover for a while, and that meant Sky News would still be owned by him.
This sneaky play was just enough to allow Jeremy to back away from Ed’s knife, but the Labour leader isn’t finished with it yet. This is the last week of Parliament, after which Ed will go and have his nose job. It now looks like Dave will need one too — if only to get Ed out of his patrician snout.
Peter McHugh is the former Director of Programmes at GMTV and Chief Executive Officer of Quiddity Productions.