Commons Sketch: Cameron’s escape

by Dan Hodges

And with a single bound, he was free. Well, at least that was the plan.

David Cameron had been cornered. After a week on the run he had finally been tracked down to the Southern-most tip of the Dark Continent.

“The world has changed”, we are told. Well it may have, or it may not. But when a Conservative prime minister runs half way round the globe to find political solace in the arms of the ANC, you know something is up.

Yet while he could run, he could not hide. And hounded by a vengeful head of the metropolitan police, a rejuvenated Labour leader, and an increasingly worried and fractious Tory party, he was forced to turn and face his pursuers.

They met at the despatch box of the house of commons. There is a myth that our prime minister is a natural performer in the chamber. In reality he often appears poorly briefed, distracted and easily provoked.

But credit where credit is due. Where many men would have been cowed, David Cameron came out fighting. “A torrent”, of allegations had burst forth, he said. He would confront them all. He apologised to the speaker, but his response would be lengthy and fulsome. It was what the country demanded, and deserved.

He announced a panel of inquiry to look into the allegations that brought the British establishment to its knees. The greatest political scandal for a generation would be investigated by Shami Chakrabarti, Elinor Goodman and George Jones. A grateful nation let out an audible sigh. Shami, Elinor and George. There would be no whitewash in Whitehall.

Then it was time to deal with the personal allegations that had been made against him. Or rather those made against his chief of staff. Ed Llewellyn had been asked by the metropolitan police whether the prime minister wanted a briefing on possible corruption and law breaking that penetrated to the heart of Downing Street. Not on your nellie, Ed had replied. Quite right too, said the PM. There would have been “justifiable outrage” had he attempted to investigate this cancer at the heart of his government.

There had also been allegations made against a man called Neil Wallis, a former police officer who had done a brief stint of consultancy as deputy editor of the News of the World. Somewhere in between his busy schedule he’d managed to slip in the odd bit of work for the Tory party. “To the best of my knowledge”, said the prime minister, “I did not know anything about this until Sunday night”. The fact that the leader of the Conservative party hadn’t a clue who’d been working for him had the Tory back benches roaring in delight.

There was one final point he needed to address. Andy Coulson. Serious allegations had been made against him, said the prime minister. If they were proven he would be arrested, charged, incarcerated, hung, drawn and quartered and have his entrails scattered to the winds. It would be fitting. He would have lied to him, the police, a select committee and court of law. It was a terrible mistake to have ever employed this cad. With hindsight, he should never have touched him with a barge pole. “But”, he said, “I have an old fashioned belief that you are innocent until proven guilty”. Andy Coulson would no doubt have been delighted to hear it.

Ed Miliband rose. You can always tell if Ed is going to be a little off his game. He starts to speak with an exaggerated precision. So when his first words sounded like the leader of the Labour party had been kidnapped and replaced by a slightly nasal speak your weight machine, we feared the worst. In fairness, there were a couple of moments when it looked like he was starting to pin Cameron down. But just as he did, smack, he’d run right into an answer the prime minister had just given.

“He’s clearly written his questions before listening to my answers”, taunted Cameron. You could see the relief flowing from him. Behind him it was cascading down the government benches like a wave.

He’d done it. He was free.

Then a figure in a dirty raincoat rose from the Labour benches. “Er…prime minister. Before you go. I forgot. Just one more thing”. It was Tom Watson. The prime minister claimed he hadn’t been warned about Coulson. But that wasn’t true. And he, Tom Watson, had the letter to prove it.

Cameron attempted to brush him aside.

“Not so fast”. It was Dennis Skinner. The prime minister has been asked twice if he had discussed the BSKyB merger. He hadn’t answered the question. So had he discussed it? Or hadn’t he?

The prime minister again tried to dodge his inquisitor. But the spring had gone from his step.

David Cameron had escaped. But he was still not free.

Dan Hodges is contributing editor of Labour Uncut.

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One Response to “Commons Sketch: Cameron’s escape”

  1. Richard T says:

    “But that wasn’t true. And he, Tom Watson, had the letter to prove it.”


    The letter referred to the C4 Despatches programme transmitted a day or two earlier, in which an anonymous voice-over’d actor alleged that Coulson knew about &/or authorised hacking. It’s possible that nobody at No10 had seen the prog, but unlikely.

    And it got a reply a few days later.

    As for Skinner and the dozen or so others who asked the same question, it’s hard to know what the point of the question was. Maybe he hoped Camo would cough to a plot with NI to get Vince kicked off the merger gig by mouthing off to a couple of undercover Telegraph floozies.

    If there’s a smoking gun there, it won’t be unearthed by leadenly repetitive fishing. You’d think an old stager like Skinner would realise this.

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