So the prime minister’s time in front of Lord Justice Leveson is over, and although there were no Watergate-style revelations for the media to sink their teeth into, there was enough exposed to make the Tory leader squirm awkwardly and go a bit pink in the face.
The main highlight was a lengthy text message from Rebekah Brooks that sent newsrooms tittering.
“But seriously I do understand the issue with the Times. Let’s discuss over country supper soon. On the party it was because I had asked a number of NI people to Manchester post-endorsement and they were disappointed not to see you.
“But as always Sam was wonderful – (and I thought it was OE’s that were charm personified!). I am so rooting for you tomorrow not just as a proud friend but because professionally we’re definitely in this together! Speech of your life! Yes he Cam!”
Paul Goodman has done a fantastic fisk over at Conservative Home. He concluded that:
Its real message is: “We want to own you.” Mr Cameron wasn’t embarrassed by any reply he may have sent Ms Brooks being read out in court, but whatever its words may have said, its meaning would have been: “I know.”
As comical as it was hearing Brooks offer a country supper and attempt a bad pun, it was the ‘professionally we’re definitely in this together’ statement that put Cameron in hot water. The truth is, they shouldn’t have been in ‘it’ together, because Cameron’s ‘it’ was policy making and running the country whereas NI’s role should have been significantly distanced from that.
“I think that [text is] about… the Sun had made this decision to back the Conservatives, to part company with Labour, and so the Sun wanted to make sure it was helping the Conservatives put the best foot forward, with the policies we were announcing, the speech I was going to make and all the rest of it… That’s what that means.”
• Salmond at Leveson: Was that it? 14 Jun 2012
• The hackgate questions Cameron must answer 20 Jul 2011
Over at the Guardian, Michael White has opined that “the diary details sounded as if he’d been conducting an affair with the entire Murdoch family and their inner circle“. He wrote:
Talking of which, what happened to Raisa, the police horse? It was not mentioned once in the five hours of questions the PM faced from Robert Jay QC, much of it repetitive and only marginally informative. Cameron must have cursed himself for setting up the inquiry – and for the string of bad judgments that led to that necessity.
Many news outlets have taken great joy in counting the number of times Cameron used the phrase, “I don’t recall” as a response, coining the term ‘Camnesia!’. In one story, the Telegraph haven’t written any full sentences, instead resorting to publishing every incidence of Cameron’s exchange with Robert Jay QC where he fails to remember the details requested.
The Independent, claiming that Cameron suffered 22 incidences of memory lapse, reported:
During more than five hours of questioning at the Leveson judicial inquiry, Mr Cameron repeatedly said he couldn’t remember or recall discussions he had had over phone hacking, the BSkyB takeover or the appointment of Andy Coulson as his communications chief.
This is hardly a reassurance for the rest of the country considering our head of government seems to have a problem remembering things. Will he do something silly like forget what quasi-judicial means? Or perhaps hire a former tabloid news editor, forgetting that his favoured candidate was quite publicly forced to resign over illegal activity at his newspaper? Let’s hope not!
Time Magazine, concluding their piece on the prime minister’s appearance at the inquiry, said:
It took the remorseless detail of the Leveson Inquiry, with its freedom from editorial judgment, to shred, finally, the last vestiges of Cameron’s efforts to present himself as the people’s prime minister.
His time at Leveson may be over, but questioning for Cameron doesn’t end there. Details released today show the inquiry has already cost the taxpayer £3.2 million and is set to total £5.6 million. No major consequences have occurred as a result of the inquiry (except the resignation of one, poor dispensable SpAd) and Cameron could soon face criticism over the continuation of the inquiry.