The public is not, I suspect, nearly as bothered by or interested in the Leveson Inquiry as some editors think. Nevertheless it is not just a Guardianesque enthusiasm. And even if voters dn’t much care for it, Leveson inevitably colours how the professional press views the government. With Andy Coulsen giving evidence tomorrow and Rebekah Brooks appearing on Friday you could argue that this was a bad week to try and have a government relaunch.
Worse still, it looks as though the Prime Minister is going to be humiliated. This is not good. Then again, nor is this:
David Cameron privately sent Rebekah Brooks a message of support as his government was publicly condemning her newspaper group for hacking Milly Dowler’s phone, it emerged last night.
In the week before she resigned as chief executive of News International over the targeting of the missing schoolgirl, the Prime Minister texted Mrs Brooks last July to tell her to keep her head up and that she would "get through" her difficulties, according to a new biography of the Conservative leader.
Days later the Prime Minister sent an emissary to explain to Mrs Brooks that he could not back her publicly because of the political pressure caused by the scandal, according to authors Francis Elliot of The Times and James Hanning, deputy editor of The Independent on Sunday.
The public isn’t always stupid. Vters know politicians want to be on good terms with powerful editors and publishers. Nevertheless there is a limit. The public also want the Prime Minister to seem strong, commanding, in control. I don’t think they want to have a Prime Minister who appears to spend quite this much time sucking-up to press figures of whom, when all is said and done, the public hold in pretty low regard.
I dare say it was very nice of David Cameron to send a chin-up text message to his chum. Decent fellow. Didn’t want to desert a friend. Which is fine or would be if David Cameron weren’t also the Prime Minister and expected, ex officio, to have some decent measure of nous and ruthlessness. If all these stories are true – and, gallingly, there’s little reason to doubt them – the Prime Minister appears seriously deficient in both nous and ruthlessness.
The more details emerge of Cameron’s contacts with Brooks and the rest of the News International set the worse it looks like beign for the PM. I mean, all this is pretty humiliating:
Referring to the regular visits between the two, the authors write in the book, serialised in The Times today: "The wider public might have liked to know too of the text message that [Mrs Brooks’s husband] Charlie Brooks told friends Cameron sent to Brooks at the beginning of the week in which she resigned, telling her to keep her head up and she’d get through her difficulties. Such contact came to an abrupt halt soon afterwards, with Brooks not wanting to embarrass Cameron and he wanting to be able to say, hand on heart, that they had not been in touch.
"But it was claimed that Cameron did send an emissary to Brooks to mitigate his sudden coldness towards her. The gist of the message was, ‘Sorry I couldn’t have been as loyal to you as you have been to me, but Ed Miliband had me on the run’."
Of Mrs Brooks – who was later arrested on suspicion of phone hacking, corruption and conspiracy to pervert the course of justice – the Conservative frontbencher Oliver Letwin said: "If you are on the same side as her, you have to see her every week. This was how it worked. It was what was demanded if you wanted them on your side."
Oh dear. Weak, weak, weak as another Prime Minister once said. Granted, Tony Blair desired a friendly relationship with the Sun too but that was then and it won’t do the present Prime Minister much good to say that his predecessors were just as craven and prepared to abase themselves before the editors of a mere newspaper. Who runs Britain? Quite. The shine is off this government and all the polishing and spinning in the world can’t bring it back.
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