Commons sketch: PMQs

by Dan Hodges

It must have been a bit like this in Paris in 1793. The cruel expectation. Morbid anticipation. Come, witness the brutal righteousness of the mob.

For years MPs had lived in fear. Of the late night phone call, or knock on the door. “I’m calling from the News of the World. We’re running a story about you tomorrow, and I wondered whether you’d care to respond”.

Not today. The chamber was packed as MPs fought for the best position to view the spectacle. On the Labour front bench Harriet Harman took out her knitting. On the other side Ken Clarke was handing out souvenir postcards.

Then in walked David Cameron. Head of the Committee on Public Safety. Directly opposite sat Ed Miliband, his deputy. It’s an open secret the two men are bitter political rivals. But the Head of the Committee was confident that for now they would unite in the interest of the people against the common foe.

The prime minister pulled himself up to his full height. He looked sober and statesmanlike. Just as his former advisor, ex-News of the World editor Andy Coulson, had taught him.  Phone hacking was ‘absolutely disgusting’, he said. Everyone in the House and in the country would have been ‘revolted’ by what they’d seen and heard on the television screens.

It was a strong sound-bite, and Cameron sat back down confidently. His attack on the newspapers would read well in tomorrow’s newspapers.

Ed Miliband rose. The actions of the NOTW were, ‘immoral and a disgrace’. His delivery was strong and measured. His own senior media advisor, former News International journalist Tom Baldwin, had also prepared him well.

The prime minister’s assurances on a public and independent enquiry into the actions of the media were welcome. But what about other issues? Such as the impending BSkyB bid? He had argued it should be dealt with by the competition commission, not the new revolutionary council. It was what the people were demanding.

Cameron looked uneasy. It wasn’t supposed to be him on trial. As the crowd began to bay his face reddened. There were laws. They had to be followed. His rival was opportunistically playing to the gallery, ‘I note that the leader of the Labour party said yesterday that the issue of competition and plurality is a separate issue’.

Ed Miliband shook his head slowly. Weak. Very weak. The people do not like weakness. ‘The public see a major news organisation in this country where no-one appears prepared to take responsibility for what happened’, he said. There was no denial that Milly Dowler’s phone had been hacked. ‘Nobody is denying it happened on the watch of the current chief executive of News International, who was editor of the newspaper at the time. Will the prime minister, if he believes in people taking responsibility, join me in saying she should take responsibility and consider her position?’.

There was now fear in the prime minister’s eyes. What about due process. It had to be followed. We should let the police do their work.

It was useless. By now the mob was in full cry. And the mob belonged to Ed Miliband.

‘These events show a systematic set of abuses that demonstrate the use of power without responsibility in our country’, he said. It was in the interests of the public and democracy that these issues were sorted out. The Head of the Committee on Public Safety, ‘hasn’t shown the leadership necessary today. He hasn’t shown the leadership necessary on BSkyB. He hasn’t shown the leadership necessary on News International’.

David Cameron sat silently. Behind him, sunlight glinted upon cold steel.

Dan Hodges is contributing editor of Labour Uncut.

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4 Responses to “Commons sketch: PMQs”

  1. JohnB says:

    Hey, you forgot to say how crap Ed was – again!

  2. iain ker says:

    Is there a more grating noise than the (pretrendy) left shriekocracy in full howl.

    BB Cuts Corporation going 24/7 wall-to-wall on a telephone voicemail hacking. Nick Robinson yet again digs up the dried corpse of Andy Coulson and tries to fling it in front of the Prime Minister with a (rather hopeful) ‘this goes right to the top’.

    BBCC of course try and turn it into a stick to beat the Tories with and as a double it allows them a free run at the baby-eating ‘Right-wing Murdoch Press’. And BBCC detest BSkyB who manage to run a television company by providing a product that people willingly pay for and without ripping an annual £3.2 billion from the television owner

    ‘Boring Ben’ Bradshaw describes the (alleged) story of Millie Dowling’s voicemail being hacked as ‘indescribably wicked’. Calm down dearie; accessing Millie Dowling’s voicemail was a pretty unpleasant thing to do (if it were done). But it was her murder that was ‘indescribably wicked’ not the hacking of her voicemail.

    And which shining beacon of purity and truth do the BBCC ship in to front up their coverage? Alistair Campbell. Hacking voicemails vs inventing a prospectus with which to sell a war to the British public – no contest.

    So the shriekocracy in full howl – in its own way the fauxtrage against the Millie Dowling or 7/7 or Kate McCann alleged hackings is nearly as detestable as the actions of Mulcaire. You care not a fig for who got hacked, much as you might pretend otherwise. What you care about is who did the hacking and who he was working on behalf of. Despite three-quarters of you subscribing to Sky, you would crawl over broken glass to attack News International.

    How I love the smell of rank hypocrisy in the evening.

  3. BenM says:

    You can tell it’s bad for Cameron when CCHQ shills like Iain Ker hilariously self combust like that!

  4. Real Chris says:


    “Is there a more grating noise than the (pretrendy) left shriekocracy in full howl.”

    Yes, actually, it’s the noise of a tory troll’s teeth gnashing as he pukes up a rather vile diatribe into the comment box.

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