Why did Cameron set up this damaging inquiry in the first place?
Louise Mensch, one of my favourite Tory MPs, has had a good morning watching Gordon Brown at the Leveson inquiry and wishing that he could be on all the time to remind people why they voted Conservative last time.
She won’t be so cheerful this afternoon when George Osborne goes in the box. By then, if she were not so loyal to the Tory leadership, she would be joining the conventionally wise in wondering why David Cameron ever set up this stupid inquiry.
Several commentators have recently remarked that the Prime Minister must be wishing that he had refrained from asking Sir Brian Leveson to conduct an inquiry “into the culture, practices and ethics of the press”.
What short memories people have. Cameron did not want to set up an inquiry. It was called for by Ed Miliband, whom I mocked for resorting to that standard bleat of opposition for opposition’s sake, the fipi (the “full and independent public inquiry”). Cameron brushed it aside.
Then Nick Clegg told him that there should be one.
This was the point at which Cameron should have shown some steel. He should have explained to the Deputy Prime Minister that the inquiry could only harm the Government as a whole, and that if the Liberal Democrats thought it would help with their differentiation strategy they were deluded.
Then what would Clegg have done? Asked the Lib Dems to vote with Labour against the Conservatives in the House of Commons, possibly ending the coalition, bringing the Government down and forcing a general election?* On the issue of an inquiry into phone hacking? I think not.
Update (I don’t know how to import Facebook comments into the blog without cutting and pasting, but here is one and my reply):
Steffan John You seem to be arguing that the inquiry shouldn’t have happened and Clegg shouldn’t have pushed for it, because it’s letting the public know how politics and power operates today, and they dont like it much.
John Rentoul The inquiry is doing no such thing. It is pointless and meandering. If it were needed at all, it should have concerned itself with simple problems: (1) the use of phone hacking and other illegal methods of news gathering; (2) the relationship between press and police.
*But what about the Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011, you might ask? Well, what about it? If the Conservatives refused to carry on in a minority government, Labour and Lib Dems could try to stitch together the alternative rainbow alliance that would have to include every single non-Conservative MP, but if that didn’t work there would have had to be an election after 14 days.Tagged in: david cameron, george osborne, leveson, nick clegg
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