Monday, July 25, 2011

Miliband’s “Staggering” Hyperbole

When Downing Street rushed out their list of media meetings as part of Dave’s fight back at the height of the phone-hacking storm, they missed a couple off. It was typical of the unnecessary communications errors that so often blight this government. With the fact that Miliband hadn’t missed an open goal, a headstrong Labour put the boot in, briefing the Telegraph that a social meeting with Brooks was  a “staggering omission”. “He has got to get a grip on all this and come clean” screamed Ed…

But what’s this from Team Miliband? An updated list this morning. At first glance not much has changed from the first edition, except for, oh yes, previously undisclosed meetings with Screws editor Colin Myler, and one with Rebekah Brooks for good measure. Is this a “staggering omission” as well? Get a grip on this Ed, and come clean et cetera…

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Two Questions That Won’t Go Away

While Dave clearly came out of the blocks hard and seems to have shifted up are gear, the albatross is still there. While he cleared up some of the mess in the House, there are still chinks in his armour that won’t go away. The hysteria will die down as Westminster picks up the bucket and spade, but there were two key points that Cameron was clearly avoiding.

  • Is “no inappropriate conversations” about the BSkyB deal the same thing as “no conversations”? Obviously not by the way he dodged the question half a dozen times.
  • Secondly, and perhaps more damaging, is the fact that Dave said very clearly that he received no specific warnings about Coulson while he was working at No. 10. Enter stage left Tom Watson who was able to immediately cite a letter he sent in 2010. He received no reply.

Later on in the debate Cameron stated that he sees all letters that are sent to him by MPs. Except this one it seems. The Prime Minister told Miliband to stop “stop hunting feeble conspiracy theories”, yet he hardly shut them down today…

UPDATE: This evening Downing Street have released a letter which was sent in reply to Tom Watson on October 20,2010.

Buckingham Palace Is Not On Dave’s Side, This Time

The story goes that when a young Oxford graduate, with all the right connections, applied for a job at the Conservative Party Research Department in the early nineties, a mysterious phone-call was received that was traced back to Buckingham Palace:

‘I understand you are to see David Cameron, I’ve tried everything I can to dissuade him from wasting his time on politics but I have failed. I am ringing to tell you that you are about to meet a truly remarkable young man.”

The rest they say his history…

Fast forward twenty years and someone in the Palace has dipped in a less welcome oar into Cameron’s darkest hour. Though denied officially by both the Royal household and Downing Street, Palace sources are letting it be known that they were “gobsmacked” when Coulson was taken into the Tory fold and ultimately into government. Not least because it was Prince William’s phone messages that triggered this entire mess. There would be a certain, though still highly unlikely, irony if the someone in the Palace was to both make and break Dave…

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The Hunt is On

The correct technical term for what’s currently going on in Number 10 is “a flap”. Sir Paul Stephenson claimed early in his evidence that a “senior Number 10 official” advised, or even asked, the Met not to reveal information about  former News of the World deputy editor turned spinner Neil Wallis, due to the fact it would embarrass the David Cameron and Andy Coulson. The hunt is on and Downing Street is being bombarded with calls. The hunger for a political scalp that Guido mentioned earlier has shot up. Sir Paul Stephenson suggested the committee asked Mr Yates who it was. We wait with baited breath…

About That “Little Local Difficulty”

It’s not just the left that are putting the squeeze on Cameron. Yesterday Guido noted the dearth of Tory MPs coming out to support the PM, and though Nick Boles was put on Newsnight, he didn’t exactly cover himself in glory by describing the government’s current problems as a “little local difficulty”, though he did give Harman as good as he got. This morning ConservativeHome launched a tirade against the Tory leadership, slamming their handling of the crisis:

“The Downing Street team isn’t hanging together to push the Prime Minister’s case.  And they don’t hang together, they’re in danger of hanging separately.”

The Telegraph’s leader this morning said Cameron “has not been frank with the public”. Though there is no love lost between the Cameroons and the paper, their allegation has not gone down well. It’s ironic that the PM  has had to cut short his trip to Nigeria, of all places, to come back and fight corruption allegations back home. Tories are openly questioning whether jetting off was the wisest move in the first place. It’s hard to find anyone enamoured at Craig Oliver’s attempts to put out the flames licking the No.10 door and suggestions are floating around that he is a little out of his depth in the current crisis. It is so bad that some of his former detractors are joking that they wish Andy Coulson was back. Oh wait…

Given the fact heads have rolled in the media and the police already, there is a growing hunger to see a political scalp. Cameron’s Chief of Staff Ed “I didn’t tell the boss” Llewellyn is looking increasingly vulnerable, but surely Steve Hilton’s reputation is forever tarnished if he didn’t see the need to tell Cameron directly what he had heard about Coulson. As he claims. Knowledge is power in politics, and thus it seems a little odd that these two were so muted…

Monday, July 18, 2011

Tory MPs Run to the Hills

One thing that has been extremely noticeable today is the complete lack of Tory MPs coming out to bat for Cameron. Boris kicked him below the belt earlier and the rolling news channels, that have discussed nothing else today, have been void of any friendly blue faces. Even Nick Clegg had to be put out to say that the Prime Minister had no need to resign. Talk about scraping the barrel.

James Forsyth has also picked up on the silence and notes that the phones are extremely quiet too. The PM’s TV man Craig Oliver is in Africa with Cameron, but that is not an excuse for allowing the narrative that the PM walking is actually a possibility to gain traction. The Guardian are even suggesting that the PM should be knifed by the LibDems in order to save their electoral fortunes. Guido isn’t so sure that making, and then breaking Cameron, would do the yellows any favours. It is very telling that people are not willing to put their heads above the parapet though, this could be worse than it looks for the Prime Minister. Where’s George? Hague? Hammond?

While the PM’s Away…

If it was ever possible to get excited about an Ed Miliband speech, today’s might just come close. Not for his droning on about responsibility and the failures of those in power, nor for his pitiful attempt to play the father of the nation, linking three problems that boiled over while he was in government, but for the fact he made things a whole lot worse for Cameron.

Miliband went about as close as a Leader of the Opposition can come to calling for the Prime Minister to resign without actually saying it. Observant Ed said this is a time for leadership, but Cameron is “unable to provide the leadership this country needs” on account of being  “hamstrung by his own decisions” concerning Coulson. Given Ed’s track record in calling for resignations, such as with Cable and Ken Clarke, Cameron won’t be phoning the Palace just yet. There is no denying though that the Miliband just stepped things up a gear…

Monday, July 11, 2011

Miliband Twists the Hilton Knife

Asked if he was accusing the Prime Minister of lying about what he knew regarding the information passed to Steve Hilton, the increasingly confident Labour leader said “I’m not going to throw around allegations, but… what I’m saying is the Prime Minister has a whole series of unanswered questions on this issue.” And he’s right…

If they want this angle to die down, Number 10 need to get their line on this clear today. The longer they leave the speculation of who knew what, and when, the longer it looks like they cannot, or are not willing to, provide an accurate narrative. It’s very simple – did Steve Hilton discuss the two Guardian contacts with his boss. Yes or no?

Friday, July 8, 2011

Cameron Presser – “No Stone Left Unturned”
“Would Have Accepted Brooks’ Resignation”

  • This scandal about more than one paper and goes to the heart of our media, police and politics. He said police investigations can only go so far, so there will be a full judge-led inquiry into the last police investigation. Apparently “no stone will be left unturned”.
  • Second inquiry this summer led by  independent industry figures looking at the culture, practices and ethics of the British press. PCC “ineffective and lacking in rigour  – need a new system that is independent of the press.
  • “We’ve all been in this together” – parties and papers have been in bed and this is a wake up call. “it’s on my watch that the music has stopped”.
  • No apology for hiring Coulson, said no one seriously questioned his ability to do the job “but the second chance didn’t work out”. Said he would have accepted Brooks resignation…

On the ropes during questioning:

  • Said he “commissioned a company to do a basic background check.”
  • Clearly dodged specific questions on what he had asked Coulson.
  • Repeated over and over that “he gave Coulson a second chance.”
  • Still “friends” with Coulson but conceded he didn’t ask what else there was to come.
  • Brought prospect of James Murdoch being questioned by the police “the statement yesterday leads to all sorts of questions that need to be answered”
  • Dismissed Guardian suggestion that he was warned with any “actual information”

No apology, even when pushed hard.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Only 7% Believe That Brooks Did Not Know

A poll by Survation for Channel 4 News has found 72% of the public do not believe that executives at News International were unaware of the new hacking allegations. As the nation wakes up to the confusion that the newspaper that most ardently supports our armed services was snooping on our dead servicemen, things aren’t looking good for anyone.

The country seems split on the BSkyB deal, with 48% now thinking News Corp are unfit to proceed with the deal, but that could the least of the worries. The magnificent Peter Oborne has given Cameron two barrels in the Telegraph:

“Until now it has been easy to argue that Mr Cameron was properly grounded with a decent set of values. Unfortunately, it is impossible to make that assertion any longer. He has made not one, but a long succession of chronic personal misjudgments…

So the Prime Minister is in a mess. To put the matter rather more graphically, he is in a sewer.”

Things are starting to turn for Cameron very rapidly and we’re yet to reach the bottom…


Seen Elsewhere

Commons Should Reject Aussie Rules | Telegraph
Galloway Interviewed By Police | Standard
Bribes, Lies and Curry in Tower Hamlets | Standard
Tory MP Breaks Cover on Canberra Crisis | BBC
Labour MP: Wimmin’ Stop Us Bombing ISIS | Speccie
Peace Envoy Arrives on Italian Coast | Mail
Golden Age of Trusting Politicians is a Myth | Irish Times
More Ed Criticism | Damian McBride
Hague to Weigh into Bercow’s Canberra Crisis | Times
Shadow Cabinet: Who’ll Johnson & Darling Replace? | Labour Uncut
Damian McBride’s Spinning Against Ed Miliband | John Rentoul


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Labour MP Austin Mitchell discusses female MPs on Newsnight:

“Are they more leadable? I don’t know, I think they probably are.”



Owen Jones says:

We also need Zil lanes.


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