Leveson inquiry: It’s not nice to watch a grown man squirm
THE day before, Alex Salmond had been garrulous, relaxed and seemingly rather amused by the whole thing.
Yesterday, David Cameron was at times halting and defensive. It is easy to imagine Mr Cameron’s inner thoughts on this inquiry.
He set the thing up; it was he who, with a statesman-like sense of leadership, decided to expose the whole media-political bubble to public scrutiny.
Yet – the unfairness of it – while political rivals like Ed Miliband, Tony Blair and Nick Clegg sail through, it is he who keeps on getting embarrassed. I mean, come on.
Once again, his nemesis was Rebekah Brooks, his neighbour in Chipping Norton, Oxfordshire, the former chief executive of News International and secret hoarder of text messages.
On her appearance at the inquiry, we had learned how Mr Cameron signed off his messages to her “LoL”.
Yesterday, she surpassed herself, as a truly cringe-making text – part reproachful, part sycophantic – to Mr Cameron on the eve of his conference speech in 2009 was read out to the inquiry.
She was disappointed he had not come to her party at his conference. But, lucky chap, she understood, she got it – and the future Prime Minister of the United Kingdom could still count on her support and a “country supper” when they were next at home.
This was not just because she was a “personal friend”. It was because “professionally we’re definitely in this together”.
“Speech of your life? Yes he Cam!” she concluded.
Perhaps Mr Cameron’s polling will be able to find out exactly how many people reading the text immediately felt the need last night to put two fingers down their throats and bring up their suppers, country or otherwise. Perhaps not. But Beaverbrook and Churchill it wasn’t.
Mr Cameron squirmed visibly. It got worse as he struggled to remember just how much the Camerons and Brookses hooked up.
“We probably did not see them more than once every six weeks,” he said, after SamCam had checked her [expensive] diary.
The torture carried on. Robert Jay, whose nagging voice and habit of asking questions that appear to be leading but then aren’t, was beginning to stretch his patience.
He kept asking Mr Cameron whether “you agree with Mr Miliband”.
It appeared Mr Miliband had become the inquiry’s darling. “I wouldn’t put it in quite the same way,” Mr Cameron replied, cheek muscles twitching.
Cheerfully, Mr Jay went on to muse how difficult it must be, both to make enormous decisions which are the subject of minute scrutiny, while satisfying the demands of a rabid 24-hour media.
Mr Cameron said that asking politicians about the media was “a bit like asking farmers about the weather, we are always going to complain”.
He wasn’t going to complain, he said. But, boy, it looked for all the world that he’d liked to have a right good moan.
Despite all this, however, Mr Cameron ended with dignity, pointing out that it was people like the Dowlers and McCanns who deserved redress from the media, not people like him.
There is a plucky honour about the way Mr Cameron attempts to go about his work. But, thanks to an inquiry he set up, his dignity keeps getting custard pies thrown at it.
Who’d be a politician?
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